The Top 10 Hiring & Managing Mistakes of Sales Managers

After this article, don’t miss The Top 10 Skills Great Salespeople Must Possess.


Hiring and managing salespeople are the most important things you will do as a sales manager; yet, they are also the most difficult. Finding effective salespeople can feel like a never-ending cycle of hiring, training, and inevitable disappointment. Even worse, this revolving door costs your company thousands with every turn. The big problem, says Dr. Chris Croner, is that traditional hiring techniques are terrible at identifying the most crucial quality a salesperson can possess.

“Less than 20 percent of the population has Drive, the non-teachable personality characteristic that enables a salesperson to succeed,” says Dr. Croner, the psychologist, sales retention, and recruitment expert and principal at SalesDrive, a content-rich resource center overflowing with educational articles, podcasts, Masterclasses, science-based sales psychology strategies, and other tools and techniques aimed at helping companies maximize their sales teams’ performance. “And you can’t depend on interview performance or past job history to reveal these rare birds.”

sales manager mistakesDr. Croner—who is also coauthor along with Richard Abraham of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again: Selecting Candidates Who Are Absolutely Driven to Succeed—says it is possible to identify and retain Driven salespeople. The first step is realizing that the industry’s so-called “best practices” are, more often than not, sales management misconceptions.

“Traditional hiring practices have not been refined and tailored to suit sales, so the managers who employ them are often faced with disappointment,” says Dr. Croner, who developed the DriveTest®, an assessment based on 90 years of research on the subject as well as his company’s own work, to help businesses identify Drive in candidates before they hire one.

Here are ten sales management mistakes and misconceptions and how you can avoid them.

1. Thinking “I have a golden gut.”

A sales candidate is typically on their best behavior during the interview, and someone who is likeable for a short period of time can deceive your gut instinct. This brief interaction won’t tell you if your candidate can sustain high performance in the tough world of sales. So, it is critical to implement a scientific hiring process that consists of a sales assessment and a well conducted behavioral interview to get past the initial impression and at what is really under the surface.

2. A sales presentation during an interview predicts success.

A sales presentation during the interview can tell you if your candidate did their homework, is able to put together and deliver a presentation, and how well they communicate. What it will not tell you is if the candidate will be able to consistently bring in new business. A sales presentation will show you if the candidate can sell, not if they will sell. It’s important to know the difference.

3. Salespeople from big companies are better.

Small to medium-sized companies and/or managers hiring their first salesperson may think that if they just hire a salesperson from a large company, surely they’ll be successful. This is not always true. Sometimes, a well-known brand brings in its own customers, rather than requiring salespeople to go out and source new business. Instead, look for sales people who have:

  • Two to three years of sales experience, to ensure they know the selling basics.
  • Experience selling for a company that is similar in size to your company.

“A highly Driven individual with two to three years’ experience at a similarly sized company is much more likely to sell successfully for you than one from a large company,” says Dr. Croner.

4. Churn and burn is the best approach to hiring.

As a hiring manager, you may have been disappointed one too many times and concluded that churning and burning through salespeople is the best approach. Unfortunately, a bad salesperson has a ripple effect. Their presence and lack of performance could negatively affect your client relationships, company culture, and bottom line. So, while it takes a little bit more time up-front to develop and implement a strategic hiring process, the payoff is far greater than the risk.

5. Anyone can be trained to hunt.

To be a successful “Hunter,” aka new business developer, your candidate needs Drive, which consists of three traits that cannot be taught or changed past the age of 21-22: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness, and Optimism. Unfortunately, research shows that only about 20 percent of the population is high in Drive. The difference between a salesperson who can sell and a salesperson who absolutely will sell is Drive.

6. Money is every salesperson’s top need.

A common belief among sales managers is, “I need to hire a salesperson who is motivated by money.” But external financial pressures like mortgages and student loan debt are temporary. A salesperson motivated only by money will flat line once those motivations are gone. This is why you should hire salespeople based on their core personality traits and not their current motivations. High Drive salespeople look at sales as points on the score board, so they will never be okay with hitting a certain number and quitting.

7. A motivational speaker can increase my team’s Drive.

Remember, Drive is the non-teachable personality trait shared among successful Hunter salespeople. Hiring a motivational speaker to increase your team’s Drive is wishful thinking. They may boost performance for a day or two, but over time, salespeople will resort back to normal behavior.

“Consider bringing in a skills trainer instead,” advises Dr. Croner. “This person can assess the team’s current skills and help them improve from there.”

8. A great salesperson will make a great sales manager.

Many sales execs want to give their high-performing salespeople a sense of career progression, so they promote them to sales managers. This can be hazardous as these top performers who are used to bringing in their own business are now reliant on the success of others. No longer being in control of their success can make them miserable, and it may even mean a pay cut due to lack of commissions. So, before promoting one of your best salespeople to a sales management position, know that this role requires an entirely different skill set and personality.

9. Generalized personality tests are sufficiently predictive of sales performance.

Measuring someone’s overall personality can be important and is OK to look at when hiring in other roles. But when hiring Hunters, you need to be using a sales-specific assessment that is calibrated to measure personality traits that will impact sales performance. Instead of asking, “How personable are you?” with a one to ten answer, a sales assessment will produce an in-depth sales personality profile.

10. A cheap assessment is good enough.

One common misconception about assessments is how much they should really cost. In doing research, you will find that assessment prices vary drastically, with generalized personality tests starting as low as 20 dollars. When shopping for an assessment, it is just like buying anything else—you get what you pay for. Safeguard your company from wasting thousands on an under-performing salesperson by taking the initial steps in the beginning of the hiring process to implement a sales-specific assessment.

Hiring effective salespeople can be a frustrating task, but you can stick a stopper into the revolving door by learning to successfully identify candidates with Drive.

“Identifying Driven candidates will save time and money while relieving managers from the headaches of constant hiring and training,” says Dr. Croner. “Once you start taking a strategic approach, it’s a huge relief. Your life will definitely improve, and obviously, so will your sales.”

Dr. Christopher Croner is principal at SalesDrive and coauthor (along with Richard Abraham) of the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, which details his research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. Dr. Croner received his BA in psychology from DePaul University and his master’s and PhD in clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He developed the proprietary DriveTest® online sales test and The Drive Interview®, both used for hiring “Hunter” salespeople. Using this methodology, he has helped over 1,200 companies worldwide to hire and develop top-performing salespeople.