Sales Hiring Tips: 4 Questions for Sales Guru Jeff Hoffman

Smart managers are making stupid hiring mistakes and today we’re asking why.

We’ve chased down Sales Guru Jeff Hoffman for his take on one of sales’ most expensive topics: sales hiring. 20+ years of sales experience whittled down into 500 words of wisdom, thanks Jeff!

  1. Everyone thinks they know the key to finding top salespeople, yet successful hiring rates are hovering around 50%. Where does this gap come from?
    Salespeople are often terrific interviewers. They arrive well prepped, energetic, and enthusiastic. Their persuasive skills can frequently cloud our judgment and sometimes, hide potential red flags. We often hire salespeople based on how they engage us during the interview, using the experience as proof that they are outgoing, go-getters who can get the job done. It’s important to peel back the layers and dig deeper to avoid an unsuccessful hire.
  2. SalesHiringMistakesTipsWe see smart sales professionals making stupid hiring mistakes for their teams all too often, what causes this?
    Overvaluing industry or vertical experience in a candidate. For example, if they come from a competitor, did your sales team ever lose deals to this candidate? If not, this could be a terrible hire. And just because they’ve spent years upselling existing accounts within a particular industry doesn’t mean they are well suited for a smile-and-dial, cold calling position for your company. Asking for examples where the candidate demonstrated success using the skills required for the job is one way to get beyond this particular challenge.
  3. In an article for BizJournals you discussed losing $100,000 because of several failed sales hires in 2003 (closer to $120,000 today). Many sales managers may be shocked by this number… can you explain the hidden costs that make sales hiring so expensive?
    Time is a finite resource in sales. Every hour spent on one opportunity can’t be spent on another. Poor sales hires take longer to onboard and tend to burn cycles on unqualified deals. Plus, managers generally spend a disproportionate amount of time with struggling salespeople. These wasted hours can have a devastating effect on revenue.
  4. What did this experience teach you about finding the perfect salesperson?
    I learned the importance of giving new hires immediate goals as soon as they start. Allowing new hires to “listen-in” or “shadow” other reps can be an important tool. But using that tactic for too long can delay both their ability to get up to speed and my ability to assess their performance. The best way to see what they’ve got is to put them into action. I demand that all new hires close their first deal within 30 days of hiring and achieve 75% of quota by their 90th day. I communicate these expectations during the interview process as well. Good reps will want to get their hands dirty early, learn from their mistakes and start working towards quota achievement. If a new hire is hesitant to dig right in, it could be an early indicator that they aren’t the right fit for the job.

How do you battle the beast that is sales recruiting? Any tips (or horror stories) to share?


Jeff Hoffman is the creator of the award-winning Your SalesMBA™ program and “Why You? Why You Now?™” sales technique used by thousands of sales professionals and top business schools for over a decade. Corporate clients like Google, Symantec, and Akamai Technologies continue to use his sales and sales management techniques to consistently beat their competitors. Jeff serves on several advisory boards for Boston based businesses, providing strategic sales guidance and teaches his program to future entrepreneurs at Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan and The Johnson School of Management at Cornell University.

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Kayla Kozan

Kayla Kozan

Director of Marketing at Ideal
Kayla spent the last few years studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship on 3 different continents. Now covering the latest in predictive analytics, workplace diversity and big data. She has a keen interest in tech and discovering underrated brunch spots.
Kayla Kozan


  • mica nkusi

    ” I demand that all new hires close their first deal within 30 days of hiring” Obviously this advice is being tailored for the low-ticket/transactional salesrep. Expectations for an enterprise sales rep selling big ticket items would be totally different.

    $120,000 loss from bad hires in just one year- its a good thing you own the company and don’t have to report to anyone.