Hiring Salespeople is Like Signing Free Agent Baseball Players

Being in Boston, I get to see the ups and downs experienced by the Red Sox first hand. One of the things that they’ve proven is that when it comes to bringing talent to Boston, if the player has succeeded elsewhere, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will succeed in Boston.  Their three most recent shortstops, all certified busts in Boston, are good examples of that.  Two years ago it was Edgar Renteria, who is hitting over .330 for the Braves this year.  Last year it was Alex Gonzalez, who has hit 12 home runs for the Reds this year.  And this year it is Julio Lugo, who hit .308 for Tampa Bay last year.

Being a sales force development expert, I get to see the good and bad for companies that recruit salespeople.  The results are very similar to those in Baseball.  Just because a salesperson has had success in the past, it has little to do with whether they will succeed in a different company, industry or selling environment. Yes, selling is selling is selling.  However, if you have the highest prices and your new salesperson has only had success selling the low cost leader, chances are he will fail when he joins your firm.

There are many factors that contribute to a salesperson’s potential struggles and you must be able to identify all of the factors and the sales candidate’s ability to succeed when facing those factors.

In Boston, it’s the pressure that prevents many good ball players from succeeding.  In your company it may be a one call close, the need to call on the CEO, the amount of money your salespeople must ask for, the number of competitors, or a host of other factors. A strong candidate has already had success selling with those challenges.