You don’t need psychological superpowers to scan potential candidates for sales-resistant behaviors. 

Young business woman passed on a job interview shaking hands wit

For sales managers, recruiters and hiring agents, finding the right candidates to fill a sales team can seem like an insurmountable task. Hiring someone with sales-resistant behaviors, such as fear of rejection, excessive preparation and role shaming, can cost organizations time and money, not to mention added frustration with the hiring process. Being able to spot these negative behaviors in new-hire prospects doesn’t have to be a herculean feat and may be the difference-maker for your organization’s success.

Here are nine helpful tips you can use right now to make sure you are hiring the right people for the job:

Don’t be fooled by the billboard effect.

Don’t be fooled by the expensive suits, high-end accessories or impressive vocabulary. Candidates who invest too much energy into looking good may not have a lot left over for building a book of business, which they may find humiliating and demeaning.

Avoid virtual success.

Is your energetic new prospective agent “empowered”? “Grounded”? “Enabled”? Do they arch their eyebrows and boast of being “values-driven”? If so, stop, squint and look closer. Overuse of semi-psychological buzzwords could point to someone who is a self-help junkie, searching, never finding and leaving no time left over to build a book of business. Visualizing new business is not the same as getting it.

Demo for dollars.

Trainers, how your new sales representative see you manage your own sales-resistant behaviors is the best predictor of how they will manage theirs—for the rest of their sales career. Do you emphasize relationships and leave out the part about closing new business? Do you inadvertently imply that sales are wrong by suggesting that they consider themselves a “consultant” or “advisor”?

All light, no heat?

Listen for rigid, unrealistic optimism throughout the interview. Contrary to popular belief, frozen optimism is not always characteristic of high self-esteem. When it comes to sales selection, this type of behavior can also indicate an entrenched emotional denial about being in a sales role.

High potential, higher cost?

Listen carefully when interviewing experienced salespeople. Count the number of times you hear complimentary statements about colleagues and management vs, the number of criticisms. An exceptionally high number of criticisms can be a huge red flag. People who exhibit this behavior won’t leave their criticisms behind, they’ll just bring them along to your organization.

Alphabet soup.

Examine business cards and letterheads—especially of experienced salespeople—for the number of letters, degrees, awards and affiliations appended to their name. Some can be instrumental. Too many can be trouble, particularly when experienced salespeople combine them with euphemisms for sales, such as “Cosmic Advisor.” That toxic mixture can indicate discomfort associated with prospecting, offset by the “don’t look at me, look at the Harley Davidson I rode in on” syndrome.


It’s cheaper to prevent bad habits than to correct them. Determine your new salesperson’s areas of strength. Then aim their initial client engagement efforts toward the markets where they show the least emotional resistance, while simultaneously fortifying them with training so they can eventually work all their markets without discomfort.

Don’t play trivia.

Don’t be too quick to be impressed by the prospective salespeople who ask an impressive number of probing questions. True, they have the motivation to spend hours memorizing your company’s annual report so they can recite sections back to you verbatim. It is impressive. The trouble is that it is all they may do once hired. Acquiring knowledge, crafting shiny proposals and elegant charts is an end in itself. They may squander their career getting ready to contact their first prospect. Someday.

Political Intrigue.

During your interview, does your new prospective salesperson “share” sensitive information about one of your competitors? Is this information you had to promise on the peril of your soul not to repeat? Don’t act on it yet. One type of coping found in salespeople leads them to leak information on corporate intrigues every day. This behavior makes them feel e and in control, quite possibly something they never really feel inside. Driven by an appetite for approval and a fear of confrontation, they spend their time trading in the currency of rumor and gossip.

How many sales are you losing to sales-resistance behaviors?

Sign up now for our Power-Up Your Sales Workshop.

Eliminate excuses and maximize prospecting and/or engagement activity.

Eradicate negative sales-defeating behaviors.

Clear “head trash” that is more dangerous than the current market conditions.

Find out more about BSRP’s thought-leading practices and procedures for managing call reluctance and explore our range of assessments, sales training, and our latest research. Take our 10-question survey and find out your risk for call reluctance. To learn more contact us today!

Suzanne C. Dudley, CPA,

Suzanne C. Dudley, CPA, is president and CEO of Behavioral Sciences Research Press. She is also the co-author of BSRP’s latest book Relentless: the Science of Barrier-Busting Sales. For more than four decades, BSRP has been helping organizations and individuals create sustained sales improvements through real science with real results.

Trelitha Bryant

Trelitha R. Bryant, is the EVP at Behavioral Sciences Research Press. Known worldwide as the original source of ground-breaking discoveries about how fear inhibits individuals’ abilities to make themselves visible, or “Call Reluctance®” in salespeople, BSRP has developed a variety of behaviorally anchored assessments and training interventions to assist in the hiring process and to help today’s professional “Earn What They’re Worth.”