Hiring Mistakes: Hiring Those Who Haven’t Embraced Sales

I know when a sales manager has made a serious hiring mistake. It’s a hindsight thing, but there are sometimes signs. When a salesperson leaves their job and sales to pursue a job that is not in sales, you know that you made a serious hiring mistake.

The sign you are looking for so that you don’t make this mistake is not identifying the pattern of the person taking sales positions and then leaving them to pursue something else.

What It Means When They Leave

Most of the time, when someone leaves a sales job to become something like, say, a teacher, it means that they never really embraced becoming a salesperson. If the salesperson dreams of being something else, particularly something that has nothing to do with sales or nothing to do with business, they haven’t embraced sales.

To succeed in sales, you have to first embrace that you are a salesperson.

I know that some of you will protest, and a few of you reading this will email me to tell me that one of the best salespeople you ever knew was in sales before they left to become a zoo keeper. The truth of the matter is, that if they were a salesperson and had fully embraced it, they would not have left. I have known dozens of super people who had all of the necessary skills and attributes to succeed in sales—but none of the willingness; they just never embraced it.

Greatness Is More Than Doing Your Job

Being something more than average means that you have to do something more than just come to work and do your job. You have to have a level of passionate engagement that gives you the internal fire and motivation to play hard, to spend your time developing yourself to be even better, and to drive yourself to higher and higher levels of achievement and success.

Dabbling, playing around the edges, and just coming to work isn’t enough to help you be wildly successful. That’s why the group of people who are salespeople in name only never succeeds in sales. That’s also why when they leave a sales position, they often move into something wholly unrelated to sales.

But they don’t always stay gone.

Why They Come Back

These people who have not—and will not—embrace sales come back to sales from time to time because they need work. They have all of the attributes that would allow them to succeed in sales, and they are highly competent salespeople. They are great during the interview, they know exactly what to say, and they sell hard to get the job. But that is when their selling stops.

If they were to sell anywhere as passionately and aggressively outside of the interview, they would make the top 20% in most companies. But after they close the sale and get the job, their selling comes to complete and total stop; they aren’t really salespeople.


What does it mean to be a salesperson? What does it mean to embrace sales and selling?

What do you have to believe about selling and sales to truly be successful?

Why do some fail to embrace sales? What prevents them from giving themselves over to this role?

When great salespeople leave a position in sales, what do they normally do next? When people who haven’t really embraced sales leave a position in sales, what do they normally do next?



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  • Mike Peates

    I’m not quite sure what you are getting at here, are you saying the employers need to look a little deeper at interview, or are you saying people who leave sales never embraced the selling?

    Good salespeople can still make career changes but generally those who leave to do something else have a desire to do so. This is not unique to sales people, many people undertake a role just to earn some money, or whilst they find what they really want to do. Nobody should be discouraged from developing themselves in other areas especially if they find that the role they are in is not for them.

    I agree, if a person has passion for a role they will undertake with more energy but that again is not unique to Sales, that is the same for any job. If the environment is right and you are doing something you enjoy you are less likely to leave.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for the comments, Mike.

      I am suggesting both that managers should look deeper during the interview process and that many who leave sales took it as a job, but were never really salespeople.

      I agree that development is important, but development presupposes that one goes into the endeavor with the idea that are going to be an active participant, to learn, and to do the job–it doesn’t indicate that wish to gain a familiarity and dabble around the edges.

      Too many that take sales jobs really aren’t salespeople because they refuse to think of themselves as salespeople. They aren’t willing to ask for the commitments that they need, and they are extremely uncomfortable in the role (but for the exception of selling themselves). They fail, and they cause their employer to miss their goals. Both parties would be better taking another course of action.

      I agree with you that good salespeople can make a career change when they have a desire to do something else (usually it’s upward in sales or general management), but that group isn’t my focus here.


  • Laura J

    As a follow up to this article and the “SINO” post I would be interested to read your answers to two of the above questions to hear your opinion on whether it is primarily that negative connotations about sales create hurdles to success, or if the root promblem is simply a poorly chosen career/lack of success attributes?

    What does it mean to embrace sales and selling?

    What do you have to believe about selling and sales to truly be successful?

    • Anonymous

      Asked and answered in today’s post!

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