5 Reasons Why New Sales Hires Underperform


Every sales team wants to hire sales reps who have a track record of success — people who have delivered extraordinary results at other organizations. We often assume that just because someone has performed well at one organization, it will translate to our organization. However, this is not always the case. Despite sales teams having a high bar for what they look for in sales reps during the hiring process, performance gaps between sellers continue to exist on most sales teams.

Why is it that more than half of the sales reps that are hired underperform? Below we provide 5 reasons why new sales hires don’t meet performance expectations and what you can do to avoid these performance issues.

1. Incorrect Behavioral Profile & Traits

Sales organizations have general idea of what behavioral traits make a great seller, but they rarely know what behavioral traits make a great seller at their organization. We know that generally speaking more social and competitive behavioral traits make better salespeople, but that’s a commonality across sales in general. What we’ve found is that its other behavioral traits that really differentiate good from disappointing sales hires that you make. For example, a sales rep might be successful because they have strong adaptability traits, but in your organization, adaptability isn’t necessarily a valuable skill to have for your sales process and strategy.

By using behavioral data, you can understand what behavioral traits and profiles differentiate top performers at your organization from others. Behavioral data eliminates hiring bias and helps you understand the behavioral traits of your best performers and lower performers. Knowing this difference can prevent you from hiring sales reps that might look good on paper, but aren’t ideal fits for your team. 

2. Differences in Productivity Habits

Another reason why new sales hires might underperform is due to their productivity habits. In some organizations, we’ve seen direct correlations between sales performance and Linkedin usage, while in others we’ve seen emails volume as a direct indicator of high-performance. During the hiring process, sales leaders often pay more attention to the results that sellers have on paper (quota attainment, revenue, etc.) and less about the inputs they used to get there. 

By using productvity data, you can understand what inputs lead to the best outputs at your organization and leverage this information during the hiring process. You should be asking more questions about their productivity habits, and understand what tools they use to get the most deals. This can eliminate issues where a top performer from one organization underperforms because they are not aligning with the productivity habits that leads to success at your organization.

3. Not A Culture Fit

Similar to sports, a lot of great players join new teams and underperform because they end up not being a great culture fit. The same happens in sales. Employees who do not align with their company culture underperform those that do. This makes sense as employee motivation doesn’t just stem from their own internal drive, but if they buy into the culture around them. 

By leveraging your employee experience data, you can get an idea of what cultural factors lead to better performance on your sales team. For some organizations, employees who value a culture of independence instead of collaboration perform better while in others its vice versa. This is another data point that you can use during the interview process to weed out candidates who are great on paper and during their performance interview, but not ideal for the performance drivers of your company culture.

4. Core Competency Misalignment

Every organization should have a list of core competencies that they believe make a great sales rep. The problem is organizations either don’t have core competencies set at all or they are weighed incorrectly. This leads to surprises when hiring top performers as it possible that the core competencies they possess may not perfectly match with your organization. This is where leveraging your sales enablement practices comes a long in providing insight into what core competencies are most critical for success at your organization.

By using training and coaching data, you can gain insight into what competencies drive revenue performance at your organization. So if objection handling is the biggest differentiator between top and middle performers, you can use this information during the interview process to hire sales reps who are naturally good at objection handling.

5. Manager-Seller Relationship Challenges

The relationship between manager and and the sales rep can greatly impact the performance of the seller. This is consistent in any department, as how employees feel about their manager can greatly impact how they perform. The problem is it usually too late to reverse a potential manager-selling relationship problem which can lead to underperformance and quicker than expected turnover.

By using a combination of employee engagement and behavioral data, we can predict what employees behavior works best for certain managers. So if we know that certain behaviors and employee engagement scores for certain managers align with certain personality traits, you can use this to weed out top performers who may not align with your management style.