With the New Year just around the corner, many sales managers are thinking about what they can do to improve team performance in 2017. And for many, the answer lies in hiring new people.

Every experienced sales manager knows that a bad hiring decision is costly in many ways. If you hire the wrong person, you’ve wasted time and attention that could have been spent elsewhere and you’re carrying an employee who is not contributing. And there’s no way to truly measure the cost of missing out on a good candidate. (I once passed over a candidate that within five years became a top producer at another branch office of the company I was working for.)

To avoid the mistake I made, and to do a better job of hiring the best people, here are three tips.

Interview Questions

First, have a standard set of interview questions or topics that probe the three most important attributes you are looking for: skill, will and company fit, meaning would they be a good fit with the culture of your company?

A skill question could be: “What skill do you need to get better at, and what are you doing about that?”

Will: “Tell me about a sales goal you missed, and how you responded.”

Company fit: “What criteria do you consider important in selecting your next employer?

Obviously when I was interviewing the “good one that got away,” I failed to detect that passion that he had to succeed in the sales profession. In retrospect, I was too focused on asking the next question and not focused enough on the quality of his answers. A standard set of interview questions will solve this problem.

Gauge Coachability

Second, use the interview to measure the person’s coachability. Hiring someone who is coachable is very important because these are people who are open to learning and improving. To evaluate whether or not a candidate is coachable, run a short role-play scenario during the interview where the candidate plays a salesperson. At the conclusion, have them self-evaluate, and then you offer them a few suggestions. Then immediately run the role play again, and see if they try to implement the suggestions you just gave them. If yes, that is someone who will listen to you and make a noticeable effort to implement your sales coaching.

Under-Qualifications

Third, a strategy that has worked for me many times is to hire someone who is slightly under-qualified for your position. What I mean by this is that you want the job you’re offering to be, from the candidate’s perspective, a step up in their career path: more responsibility, more income potential, et cetera. When a candidate sees the job you’re offering as an advancement in their career path – not just a lateral move – it helps create the all-important “fire-in-the-belly” quality that provides the motivation to learn and succeed.

If you want to go in this direction, it’s important to talk with your human resources department first. You need to make sure that their “minimum standards” for the job application are not so high that they end up eliminating the slightly under-qualified candidates. When that happens, you lose.

If you pay more attention to what you’re looking for, evaluate coachability, and open up your mind to the idea of accepting somebody who is slightly under-qualified, you can build a winning team. Now, as the comedian Larry the Cable guy would say, Let’s get ‘er done!

Kevin F. Davis is the author of the forthcoming book, “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness” which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com at the following link:

The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness