Super star graphicTop 5 Reasons Why Your Sales Superstar Might Fail

What’s in this blog?  

Five tips for hiring your next sales superstar, and three onboarding checklists to make it easier.

When a sales candidate is recommended using our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine or S.T.A.R. the sales star has been thoroughly vetted, should you expect this salesperson to succeed?  

Most business owners do expect the candidate to succeed. However, there are a few hidden problems that business owners miss during the sales hiring process. 

Many salespeople who have had success in the past believe they can sell anything.  The fact remains their belief is true some of the time. I want to share 5 reasons why your sales superstar might fail in their new role. 

  1. Product vs. Services.  The salesperson was amazing at selling automobile components to OEMs, but now they work for a company where they are selling a conceptual service.  Not having a tangible product to demonstrate their solution is causing the new rep to struggle. 
  2. Local vs. Remote. The rep was best at business development for a local territory where they could manage the prospects and customers in-person.  Now they have to sell to a national market from their home office with little in-person time with prospects, customers or management. 
  3. Account Management vs. Business Development. The salesperson was killing it at their previous company in the same industry, growing the share of wallet within 20 accounts by expanding who they knew in an existing company through introductions and referrals. The new role is a pure business development role where they must hunt for brand new business.
  4. Accountability vs. Weak Sales Manager. The new sales guy came from a company where they were the top salesperson 3 years in a row and the sales manager consistently coached the salesperson, and held them accountable to KPIs that mattered.  The new role the sales manager carries a sales quota, and does not coach the sales team. 
  5. Brand vs Unknown. The salesperson was a super star at selling for a company that was well known in the industry – prospects opened their doors to her.  The new role is working for an established company with superior products, but the firm is not a market leader nor do they have name recognition, and the new rep cannot get prospects’ attention.


2 people working at a desk with laptops and a big piece of paper that says skills on it


In all of these examples, the salesperson had great sales skills, and experience.  Their references checked out great, but track records can be misleading.  This is why structured interviews with strategic questions are important to get a hire correct. 

For example, #1 is a common problem when hiring salespeople who want to step up in their career, and sell a professional service that is a higher ticket. Higher ticket sales equals great income to the salesperson. 

The salesperson’s confidence and track record is inviting. However, selling a service like marketing or digital services is significantly different from product sales.  The salesperson’s ability to show the “widget” is gone. They must rely on great discovery, their ability to create urgency and find compelling reasons the buyer will change. 

Selling the idea is very lucrative, and attractive to salespeople. However, the ability to be consultative, listen, and be patient to find the compelling reasons a prospect will make a large investment are significant issues for a rep to understand and master. 


Business casual man sitting on a park bench looking frustrated


As the business owner, you must ensure the right questions are asked during the interview process to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the sales candidate. 

Here are a few questions that can be asked during an interview that open up a deeper conversation to understand how a sales candidate thinks about sales: 

  • At your current position, you are selling a [insert description of product].  We sell a service.  The service must be sold in relation to the outcomes the prospect needs.  Can you share an approach that would demonstrate your ability to pivot from product to service? 
  • Currently, you are selling for [big brand, market leader]. We believe our product has distinct advantages, but we are not known as well in the market yet.  How would you approach this issue when meeting with a new prospect who fits our ideal customer profile? 
  • You are a successful account manager growing the share of the wallet of your accounts.  This is awesome.  The role we are discussing is one where you must hunt for new business without any existing relationships.  Does that match up with your skills, and what different tactics would you need to employ? 
  • It appears your current sales manager was very active and supportive of your success in your current role.  Our sales team is small, and as the owner of the business my time is limited with the team.  How would you adjust to a sink or swim environment?


Yellow background with the words effective onboarding on small pieces of wood

There are many critical steps to attracting, hiring and retaining sales superstars.  It starts with a job posting that stands out to the individual you desire.  The job posting should describe what the salesperson is good at doing.  

The next four or five steps in the process are to make the candidate feel welcome, but to keep them on their heels in the screening and interviews. 

You must treat everyone the same, and remove as much bias from the process as possible. This requires diligence, and a process like S.T.A.R. It also requires a different mindset from the team hiring.  You want the best candidates, not a lot of candidates. 

You can find a sales superstar, and still fail with a weak or non-existent on-boarding program.  Onboarding is critical. To help you out, you can access three of the tools we use to help companies onboard sales reps better.  

The first onboarding checklist is here.  The second onboarding checklist is here.   

The third onboarding checklist is here. 

In the next few weeks, I will be announcing a Sales Superstar Hiring Challenge that will be at no cost to those accepting the challenge, and will give you everything a business owner needs to go hire sales superstars!  

Stay tuned.