6 reasons not to hire more salespeople

Posted by on Apr 16, 2013

6 reasons not to hire more salespeople

The subject of revenue growth and sales people is high on the senior management agenda right now. One recently asked me why can’t we ever seem to hire successful sales people.  Another, that sales people we  hire never seem to work out as expected. One CEO even said that he will now only look to hire sales people ‘who are exact clones of me’. This made me think, is it really all about the salespeople or is there something else going on?

I asked all of them a few simple questions and it immediately became apparent to me of what the issue may be.

It is simply this; that failure to deliver revenue growth may not be anything to do with the sales people themselves or their abilities – but the hiring organisation itself.

This is because in any (B2B focused) organisation, successful sales people are dependant on the maturity level of the sales and marketing function and the management that supports it. Any organisation that is too immature and so unable to prepare itself  to grow simply won’t, and so hiring sales people too soon will more than likely just end up being an expensive mistake.

The key point being, is that if an organisation does not understand its own business, what good looks like, is clear on what it wants to achieve and understands what is needed to support growth, how will any new sales hires be expected to know these things?

What do I mean by not understanding its own business? Well, here are six fundamental questions that any organisation should be able to answer before hiring more sales people and it seems to me that some, like those I met recently simply cannot:

1. Benefits - Can we describe what real benefits our customers get from using our products and services?

2. Markets – Are we clear on the market segments that our products and services are targeting?

3. Sales Process – Can we describe and measure the sales process for our products and services?

4. Sales Productivity – Do we know what our sales productivity is and do we know we are at least as effective as our competition?

5. Support - Are we sure that sales support, sales management and marketing are ready and capable of scaling up their activity?

6. Plan – Do we have a growth plan that includes sales headcount assumptions that are supported by evidence?

So there it is simple right, answer all the questions and new sales people will succeed, well not exactly, this just gets you to first base, but you have already increased your chances of success.

After that it is all about appropriate hiring, having pay plans that drive the right behaviours, professional selling, good customer management and good sales management practices.

What about the CRM I hear you say, well important though this is for capturing key data for reporting and planning purposes, a CRM system is a support tool and it also will only work effectively if the organisation is mature enough to have configured it appropriately.

For immature organisations or those that don’t think it is important to do the groundwork and who go hire sales people,they might find that a few of them are able to fill the gaps but of course at best this will likely extend the time it will take them to be productive. Unfortunately, most sales people can’t, or won’t compensate for an organisations immaturity and so will simply fail due to a lack of clarity, direction or support.

It’s no wonder then that organisations like this often ask the question, why can’t we ever seem to hire successful sales people?