Making a Difference: 5 Critical Hiring Mistakes Small Business Owners Make (and How YOU Can Help Them Avoid Hiring the Wrong Salesperson)


If you’ve been in a sales management or leadership position for a large or mid-sized corporation, it might surprise you to learn just how different the challenges for smaller businesses can be. With smaller staffs and a broader range of responsibilities and accountability for each team member, it is essential that the small business owner make the right hiring decisions, particularly when hiring a salesperson. And because a single salesperson is often the entire sales team, a hiring mistake in this area can cost a small business owner tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars. At Sales Xceleration, we’ve uncovered 5 particularly common mistakes small business owners make when it comes to hiring a salesperson:

1. Hiring a Salesperson Too Much Like the Owner

Many small business owners are entrepreneurs and have a technical or operational background. However, these are not the primary skills necessary for success as a salesperson. Instead, the owner should look to hire someone with keen interpersonal skills and other essential sales-oriented traits. In other words, instead of hiring a “mini me”, the business owner should hire an “anti-me”.

2. Feeling Compelled to Hire from Inside the Industry

Small business owners often look only within their industry when seeking sales talent. On the surface, this might make sense; after all, industry and client knowledge can be a plus. However, this approach can be a mistake for two reasons:

  • “Recycled” salespeople from competitors might be experts on the competitive product/service, but not necessarily experts in selling.
  • The industry insider salesperson might feel they can lure existing clients to follow them to their new company. Clients, however, rarely follow a salesperson to a new company, no matter how good the salesperson/client relationship might be. Remember: change is difficult; people resist it.

3. Having Unrealistic Expectations Beyond the Hiring Budget

Naturally, business owners want a stellar salesperson with a proven track record, a “hunter” who is adept at bringing in the big game. But often, what the smaller business needs is a series of smaller sales that are more easily attainable. These can quickly generate cash flow and often lead to sustainable growth for long-term success. And because the small business typically does not have a large budget for hiring a top-notch salesperson, the business owner might be better off hiring a really good inside sales team or two moderately priced salespeople, instead of opting for one expensive outside salesperson.

4. Not Having an Attractive Sales Compensation Plan in Place

The best possible candidate for the salesperson role in a smaller business doesn’t have to be out of reach if the compensation plan is attractive enough. But what if a top-level salary just isn’t possible? The best person for the job can still be reeled in if the sales compensation plan is crafted creatively and with performance-based incentives.

5. Not Having a Detailed Job Description

What does success look like for the small business? What sales goals are needed to achieve this? What responsibilities will the salesperson be accountable for? The owner – who is often inclined to operate from the “gut” – must be able to articulate and document these things to make sure the salesperson they hire meets all the required criteria.

The Bottom Line

Using Sales Xceleration’s proven sales system, we’ve been able to help small business owners avoid making these critical hiring mistakes. And by helping them make the right hire, we’ve also helped eliminate obstacles to their success. But in the long run, this isn’t really about what we’ve done using Sales Xceleration’s proven sales success systems; it’s about what you can do with them.

If you are ready to learn more about how you can serve the huge and highly lucrative small business market as an outsourced VP of Sales, contact Sales Xceleration today at317.849.7163.