How To Hire The Best Salespeople Every Time


(By Spike Santee) In 2003, Michael Lewis released the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The central premise of Moneyball is that the collective wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century has been subjective and often flawed. Lewis describes how Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s introduced a more sophisticated analysis of baseball statistics. By using statistics instead of subjective opinion to pick players, the A’s could field a competitive team on a small budget — a team that had a 20-game winning streak in 2002, and made it to the playoffs.

The real lesson of Moneyball is that decisionmaking is risky and expensive. Decisionmaking is often flawed by unrecognized bias that tricks us into thinking we’re right when we are very wrong. To make better decisions, you need to reduce your reliance on emotional factors.

In our need for new salespeople, we unrealistically start to see each new hire as the solution to our problems. We allow our bias to emotionally influence our decisionmaking, leading us to subjective decisions instead of decisions based on fact.

Think about all the challenges radio salespeople encounter when they try to sell advertising. You want to recruit people who can overcome those challenges. Here is a screening technique to help identify the applicable skills required for radio sales.

When you receive a call from a job seeker, answer like this: “Thanks for calling. I’m glad to hear from you. We’re hiring right now. I’d love to talk to you, but you’ve caught me at a bad time. Can you call me back on Thursday? We’ll set something up then, OK?”

If they just say “OK” and hang up, that’s not someone who is going to be able to deal with the everyday life of a radio salesperson. Listen for this kind of answer: “I have my calendar right here. Could we set a time to meet now? Could I just come on over on Thursday? What time would be convenient for you? When would you like me to call back?”

Smart people ask a lot of questions. That is how they learn. You want to hire salespeople who can ask a lot of pertinent questions and follow where the answers lead. You want salespeople who can think on their feet and ask questions that identify customer needs.

When the interview begins, start with, “OK, I’m the sales manager. I’m the person that will be making the hiring decision. What would you like to learn about today?” Then sit back and wait for the first question. Don’t talk. Wait for a question, and don’t speak until you’re answering one.

Imagine if you went in to meet a new prospect and they said, “Ask me anything, I’ll answer any question. I’ll tell you the truth. Go ahead, ask me your first questions.”

If the person you’re interviewing just starts talking, let them talk. Don’t say a word! Just listen. After they stop talking, don’t start talking. You have already asked, “What would you like to learn today?” Wait for them to ask you a question. Just sit there. If they don’t ask a question, stand up and say, “Well, thanks for coming in. I don’t think you’re quite what we’re looking for. We appreciate your interest.”

I know that sounds rude, but you just threw the doors wide open and the job seeker didn’t even take a step to come in — by asking questions. Why would you want to waste any more time on this interview?

If the job seeker protests or wants to know why you’re cutting the interview short, just tell them, “We’re looking for people who can ask good questions. I asked you if you had any questions, and you didn’t ask a single one, so I don’t think we’d be interested at this time.”

This is an important test. These people have a chance to ask you questions with answers that that can affect their own lives. If they don’t ask you any questions when the answer could impact their life, that’s not a good indication they will be any good at asking a business owner about their business.

This may be the most important interview of this person’s life. If they are successful, they will get hired and start making money. And if they don’t get hired, they’ll just go back to doing whatever they were doing before they came knocking.

Spike Santee is the author of “The Four Keys to Advertising Success” and the president of Contact Spike at (785) 230-5350.


  1. Spike – one of the more thought-provoking hiring articles I’ve read. A wonderful complement to the Caliper personality testing I’ve used to acquire long-term, outstanding sales performers.

  2. I don’t think it’s a good idea to play “mind games” with anyone including possible new employees. Radio sales, an intangible, requires a unique skill-set including empathy with others.


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