* The #1 Hiring Mistake In Sales…

Over the years, I’ve learned an extremely valuable lesson that has served me well in my recruiting efforts as a sales management professional. Specifically, as a sales leader, I’ve personally been part of the hiring process for over 200 sales and sales management professionals throughout my 22 year career. Therefore, I know about which I speak! I’m going to share this lesson with you because much to my amazement, myriad hiring managers still mistakenly fall into this trap when they recruit sales and sales management talent. I often smile in amusement when I see hiring managers write an advertisement for a job search, and the first thing they put at the top of the ad is something along the lines of “Must have five years medical device sales experience to be considered” as an example.

The #1 mistake hiring managers make when recruiting sales and sales management talent is putting too much emphasis on product knowledge and industry experience (things you can teach), but they do not focus enough of their efforts on what I call the intangibles or better defined (the things you CAN’T teach) when it comes to hiring sales and management talent.

Based on my experience, I have found there are 15 intangibles or traits and attributes top performing sales and sales management professionals possess that I specifically focus on when interviewing potential candidates. These are things you can’t teach!

By intangibles, I’m referring to traits and attributes like:


Work ethic








Track Record







These 15 traits and attributes are imperative because you can’t teach them. Too often, hiring managers make the mistake of only hiring people with specific industry experience or a certain # of years industry experience or product knowledge, but they do not focus enough on hiring candidates who possess the traits and attributes you can’t teach. Simply stated, these intangibles dictate a person’s success.

Product knowledge and industry experience or the size of your Rolodex has nothing to do with a person’s success.

Let me repeat…nothing! At best, I call them “nice to haves,” but in the grand scheme of things they really won’t matter, and far too much importance is placed upon them because many hiring managers simply do not understand sales or sales management.

The intangibles are the key!

I can teach someone about eCommerce or medical devices or staffing or enterprise software, but I can’t teach the intangibles absolutely critical for a person to become successful in sales or sales management. By far, this is the #1 mistake CEOs, VPs of Sales and Sales Managers make in their hiring endeavors.

Frustration often sets in when someone you hired is failing, but as a sales manager you can’t do anything about it because the reason they are failing has more to do with what you can’t teach than it has to do with what you can teach.

Focus on the intangibles to increase your hiring success rate and sales productivity!


Tom Mangini / Founder / The Sales Advisory Board

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