Sales Strategy: Should You Hire Salespeople From Your Competitor?

steal-employeesHiring a salesperson from a competitor makes sense. Your gut feeling tells you this person has the experience, connections and industry knowledge to hit the ground running and close more deals. But is that really what happens in practice?

I just read a thought provoking article by Norm Brodsky, who shed some light on the subject based on his personal experience and he said it’s a terrible idea. So what’s the right answer?

Norm brings up a few reasons why you would think to hire a salesperson from a competitor:

1. Saving time and money on training If you are hiring someone from a competitor, you would think their sales ramp up time would be much shorter— shorter ramp up equals lower training costs and more time actually selling early on.

2. They come with leads Salespeople from competitors have customers and leads that they can bring in. Theoretically, this makes them more valuable since they can close deals faster and have already built customer relationships.

Following this, Norm discusses what makes these ideas dangerous in practice:

1. They bring their bad habits with them, not their leads His experience has shown that salespeople from competitors come with bad habits including not listening and trying to go for a quick sale.

2. They may just not be best salesperson for the situation Norm found salespeople he stole from his competitors simply did not improve sales performance. Remember: Just because your competitor has them, that doesn’t mean they’ll be good for your company, or even good at all.

I think Norm brings up some great points, but remember, his opinion is based on a small set of data (his personal experience) and a lot of gut feel. I tend to look at things a different way. I really don’t believe there are bad salespeople, just salespeople who are not in the right role and right company. It’s not as simple as stating unequivocally that taking a salesperson from a competitor is a bad idea. In many cases, the culture and the profile of a sales superstar at one company is very unique, even between two companies in the same industry.

So what’s the verdict? To poach or not to poach? The safest answer is to objectively measure three things: the candidates from your competitors, other possible substitutes (candidates not from competitors) and your top performing salespeople today.

Ignore the fact that the person comes from a competitor and use data and past success to figure out if that person is a cultural and psychometric fit for your company. 

But don’t take my word for it! An interesting piece also came out of the Harvard Business Review this week, showing the flaws in following your gut in hiring, whether they’re from your competitor or not.


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Somen Mondal

CEO at Ideal
Somen is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ideal. Prior to Ideal, Somen served as Co-Founder & CEO of Field ID until it was successfully acquired by Master Lock LLC (a subsidiary of NYSE:FBHS) in December 2012. Somen’s leadership has helped earn Field ID a spot on the Profit Hot 50 and Deloitte Fast 50 Companies-to-Watch lists. In 2012, Somen was named winner of the Ontario Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in the “Emerging Entrepreneur” category.