Sue Barrett: “Sales Recruiting is Broken, But It Can Be Fixed”

It seems we hear it all too often – successful hiring rates are less than chance, 40.25 hours spent in pursuit of one sales hire, and failed sales hires coming with a $114,957.00 price tag. Is sales recruiting really a lost cause? We asked expert Sue Barrett if it is actually that bad, and if so, how can we fix it?

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule is the first thing that comes to mind when Sue Barrett, Sales Guru and CEO of Barrett Consulting Group tells me of her years of sales experience. “I like to say I’ve got an unofficial PhD in Sales Recruiting,” she laughs. Barrett estimates she’s interviewed over 8000 sales hopefuls over the length of her career and with an average interview time of 1 hour, even Gladwell would consider her an expert.

While I’d love to grab tea with Sue we’re actually connecting via Skype as I wrap up my day in Toronto, Canada and she begins hers in Melbourne, Australia. Sue cringes as she begins to explain the issues of sales recruiting and it’s immediately apparent that sales recruiting woes know no boarders or time zones.

Having seen the good, bad and ugly over her years in the industry, Sue now works to help organizations large and small improve their sales recruiting.

She shared with us the 3 most common industry mistakes and how to reverse them:

  1. No defined sales approach. The first step to successful hiring is knowing what you’re hiring for. Yet, many organizations fail to define their ideal salesperson pre-hire, resulting in troublesome problems down the road. Sue recommends creating clear, defined sales roles before you hit the marketplace. Identify the specific tasks you will require from this hire. For example, do you need them to bring in new accounts or manage existing relationships, will they be selling commodities or luxury services, inside sales or outside sales? These types of questions will help you identify the sales approach you’re hiring for.     
  2. Lack of structured recruitment process. Without a structured process your success rates can fluctuate enormously. Too many organizations hire and fire without any idea of what works and what fails at their organization. Implementing structure is likely the single most reliable way to improve your hiring success rates. Choose a structured recruitment process that allows you to compare and contrast applicants pre-hire and post-hire in an objective and consistent manner.
  3. Only recruiting within your own industry. This common practice comes back to bite organizations in the long run. When you exclusively recruit from your own industry, you’re recycling the same old people with the same old ideas (so don’t be surprised if you get the same old results). Actively look outside your industry to refresh the gene pool with new talent.

So keep your head up, Sue assures there’s light at the end of the tunnel for those who commit to fixing their practices! Sales leaders willing to work with their hiring procedures and embrace new tools can gain a significant head start on their competition. Read more about the benefits of recruiting outside your industry, sales recruiting tips and Sue’s insights on her blog, the Barrett Sales Blog.

What’s plaguing your process? Have you started taking the steps to improve?


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Founder & CEO of Barrett and, Sue Barrett partners with clients to improve their sales operations and lives by the philosophy that ‘everybody lives by selling something.’ A business leader, adviser, speaker, writer, facilitator and sales coach who regularly features in mainstream business media, Sue is also the author of 21 books and 500+ articles on the world of 21st Century Selling. In addition, Sue was the first person in Australia to get the profession of Selling a University Qualification. To learn more about Sue’s work visit and


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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