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Hello, I am Steve Suggs, sales recruiting expert and author of the book, Can They Sell. Welcome to my sales recruitment video blog. 5 minutes of learning to hire the best salespeople.

We’ve all heard stories of managers who have hired successful athletes, even Olympic athletes, for sales positions, who have failed miserably. You may have even hired a former sales manager who failed in their attempt to successfully return to a career in sales. I’ve seen salespeople who were highly successful in one industry who made the move to another industry and have very little success selling the new product.

Here are 3 reasons why people who are successful in one area struggle with being successful as a salesperson

1. Personality Profile

The first reason relates to their personality profile. In a recent conversation with a sales manager, he described a candidate who was highly successful selling medical devices to doctors and was hoping he could recruit this top salesperson to be on his team. So, I asked him to describe the current product, sales process, and ideal customer of this candidate. He said,

“The product is a high ticket item that requires a large budget of a hospital. There are typically 8 – 10 decision makers in three different departments, and it typically take 3 – 6 months to make a decision. The salesperson will make 10 – 12 sales per year.”

I then asked him to describe the situation under which the candidate would be selling for his company. He said,

“There’s typically 1 – 2 decision makers who usually take 1 – 3 weeks to make their decision to buy. The cost of our product is substantially lower than what he was selling in the past, and he’ll need to make 4 – 6 sales each month in order to reach his income goal.”

The manager said,

“I see no reason why this candidate would not be successful working for me as he was in his previous job. He had all the right answers to the interview questions, and all of his references love him. And, I really like him too.”

After agreeing to run a personality assessment on the candidate, here’s what we found.


The reason he was successful in his previous job was because he had a “trotter” personality vs. a “race-horse” personality. He was patient enough to navigate the complex sales process and multiple decision makers in his previous job in order to successfully sell 10 – 12 contracts per year. It was obvious from the personality assessment that this candidate’s moderate sense of urgency was a perfect fit for the long sales cycle, but it would be a huge challenge in the new position, because in order to make 4 – 6 sales per month, he would need to work at a much faster pace to find enough people to call and execute the sales process much quicker.

The manager eventually agreed that he felt that this candidate could not adapt to the new sales environment and the risk was too great.

This is a perfect example of a salesperson who was highly successful selling a product with a long-term sales cycle but would not be nearly as successful selling a product that required much higher activity in a much shorter sales cycle.

Hiring former athletes to be salespeople is another good example of the importance of making sure they have the right personality for the sales position. Many managers are impressed by the strong work ethic and discipline of athletes, and they tend to think that their level of success as an athlete is transferable into being a salesperson. Many times they’re correct; however, many times they’re disappointed. There are a multitude of reasons as to why athletes can’t sell. Most of the time they simply do not have the right personality combinations needed to be successful in sales.

2. Attitudes and Motivations

The second reason why past performance is not a good predictor of future performance as a salesperson is related to an individual’s attitudes and motivations.

Top salespeople have 2 important attitudes:

  1. Passion for solving customers problems using your company’s products, and a positive image of one’s self as a salesperson.
  2. Highly motivated to bring about significant change in their life.

This change can be in the form of

  • paying off debt
  • purchasing a house
  • improving their lifestyle

In other words, they are motivated to work hard to earn money that can be used to bring about these changes.

You may know of people who have successfully sold tangible products like office equipment, who have failed at selling intangible financial service products. They simply did not have a passion for solving customers’ problems using a different product.

There are also many examples of people who have been financially successful for many years in a job that did not involve selling, and they attempt to work the last 5 or so years prior to retirement in a sales position, and they are unsuccessful. They simply did not have the financial pressure to help them push through the extreme rejection and difficult job of selling.

3. Sales Competencies

The third reason many previously successful people are not successful in sales is related to sales competencies.  Obviously, salespeople must be smart enough to master product knowledge. Additionally, sales success requires mastering a best practice sales process that includes everything from

  • Finding enough prospects to call
  • Holding enough first appointments
  • Diagnosing needs
  • Making an effective presentation
  • Handling objections
  • Getting the sale
  • Gaining referrals.

The degree to which a person has the right attitudes, motivations, character traits, and personality traits will determine the level at which they will master these sales competencies.

These 5 dimensions are a difficult combination to find.

The dimensions necessary to be successful in another occupation, or an athletic competition, or any other endeavor, may be totally different then the 5 dimensions necessary to be successful as a salesperson. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that we are comparing apples to apples when making the important decision of hiring sales people.

Just because they’ve been successful in one situation doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful in another situation.

Thank you for joining me. See you next time on the Can They Sell video blog for more sales job recruitment training. As always, please leave your comments below and forward this video to anyone who will benefit. Now go enjoy recruiting the best, and have fun in the sales interview.


Learn more about the following:

 Where to find sales people, where to find sale reps

• What to look for while recruiting salespeople – 5 Dimensions of the Best Salesperson Profile Hiring sales, hire salespeople, hire sales people, hiring sales people, hiring sales reps, IT sales recruitment, recruiting sales people, sales job recruitment
• How to look for the 5 Dimensions – get questionnaires – interview questions for sales, interview questions for salespeople, sales interview, interview questions for sales people


To YOUR Success,

Steve Suggs




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