With many companies desperately in the hunt for sales revenue, it might surprise you to learn that their predicaments are often self-imposed.

Why? They hire the wrong sales employees. Such hiring insights are confirmed in an academic study.

Whether intentional or not, companies are settling for mediocrity or they’re using the wrong metrics in hiring. Often, bosses are hiring the people they like – people with whom they want to spend time – not people who could make them money.

Seemingly, unbelievable but it’s true.

Just because someone looks like a heartthrob actor or a bombshell actress doesn’t mean they have the right instincts, talent, drive and image to be a great salesperson.

“Of course, employers are looking for people who have the baseline of skills to effectively do the job,” study author Lauren A. Rivera of Northwestern University said in a press release.

“But, beyond that, employers really want people who they will bond with, who they will feel good around, who will be their friend and maybe even their romantic partner,” she added. “As a result, employers don’t necessarily hire the most skilled candidates.”

Ironically, such errors are made by professionals you would think know better.

She interviewed 120 respondents at banks, investment banks, law firms and management consulting firms. Her study was published in the December 2012 issue of the American Sociological Review.

The professor reports the respondents hire the applicants who appear to be a cultural fit in their organizations.

My sense is that ordinarily, that would be a profitable idea – if they had been hiring right in the first place.

“It is important to note that this does not mean employers are hiring unqualified people,” Professor Rivera wrote in the study. “But, my findings demonstrate that – in many respects – employers hire in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how one might expect employers to select new workers.”

Often, bosses are hiring the people they like – people with whom they want to spend time – not people who could make them money.

Hiring solutions

It’s true there are differences in environments – between inside and outside sales work – so think in conceptual terms about recruiting and hiring.

Certainly, you need to have a list of the sales job’s prerequisites.  For each candidate, create a balance sheet – a list of the pros and cons. Never rush into hiring someone.

Don’t mistakenly hire salespeople who talk a lot and who appear to have sparkling personalities. You want someone who pays close attention in conversations – so not to overlook opportunities that might be missed.

A salesperson who talks too much can’t keep an open mind. In such cases, the term salesperson is an oxymoron.

For bigger sales, hire for the recommended attributes:

1. Listening – the best salespeople listen to you and customers in 80 to 90 percent of conversations: talks only 10 to 20 percent

2. Heart – has tenacity; does not give up on prospects too soon

3. Character – someone who always does the right thing (for you and customers)

4. Discernment – able to see the big picture; knowS what to do and when to act; displays self awareness; and can read between the proverbial lines

5. Intelligence – distinguish between education and wisdom; not all college graduates have common-sense wisdom

6. Flexibility – trainable with an ability to adapt quickly; and will be empathetic to you, team members and customers

7. Communication skills – writes and speaks with good grammar and persuasiveness

8. Balance – overlook someone recently divorced or physically unable to perform adroitly

9. Organization – exhibits good work habits and recordkeeping of leads and customers

10. Track record – has a pattern of success; great salespeople can sell anything if they have the other attributes; they don’t necessarily need skill sets or experience in your sector in order to perform well for you

11. Promotable – think ahead long-term; for the person’s potential in your succession plans

Good luck!

P.S. Your next step – evaluate your current sales staff. Along with the 11 recommended attributes, be mindful of the 12 errors to avoid in evaluations.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more sales insights:

The Six Secrets of Becoming a Winning Sales Organization — Companies with optimal revenue naturally have great sales organizations. Why? Such companies share six common traits that are critical for their sales success.

Write Better Job Descriptions to Attract Best Talent – 16 Tips — To inspire the best applicants to apply at your company, there are at least 16 strategies to incorporate in your job descriptions.

Diversity: Political Correctness or the Right Thing for Your Business? — Whenever you hire a new employee, you surely want a return on your investment of time, energy and money in your recruitment and hiring process. But in affirmative action plans you face obstacles — primarily, from your culture. Here’s what to do.

To Sell to Executives B2B in Digital-Age, Upgrade Sales Skills — E-commerce is increasingly popular. But in B2B sales, research shows a salesperson’s skills are paramount when the buyer is an executive. So to maximize your revenue, make sure your salespeople are prepared with advanced sales training.

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.”
-W. Clement Stone


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.