Two reasons accomplished salespeople fail to land their next big gig.

Being in recruiting, I hear from a lot of people on daily basis about the struggles they have finding a new role in sales. I get it… there are a lot of moving parts in the courtship process that is the job search, and it’s tricky to get them all going in the right direction.


In fact, that’s exactly why I founded ATP in the first place – to help companies and candidates align themselves and set each other up for success!


That said, I’ve seen some troubling trends on the candidate side that are killing a lot of people’s chances for big opportunities and I want to help. It hurts to see some seriously talented people shoot themselves in the foot when it’s pretty simple to get right if you put in the right work ahead of the interview.


So here are the two main things I see salespeople fail to do that kill their chances for landing their next big gig.


1. They don’t know how to articulate their “why”.


Let’s be honest… NOBODY is impressed by your resume alone anymore, especially with so many self-proclaimed “experts” around these days. So when it comes to finding a new gig, salespeople need to take some lessons from their marketing brothers and sisters across the cube farm.


Startups (or any growing company for that matter) want salespeople with vision (or a reason “why” they do what they do). And more importantly, they want salespeople who’s vision aligns with theirs and the results to back it up.


I can’t think of any better resource on the topic of vision than Simon Sinek. As he states at 5:39 in his TED talk, this is something of biological importance:



That’s why you need to have vision if you want a chance to land the best gigs. And, it’s why you need to be able to articulate it at a moment’s notice in an interview too. The best companies ARE looking for this, because they know it’s a marker of how you’ll sell their products or services too.


That said, the question isn’t always going to be as straightforward as “tell me your why.” So you need to know yours well enough that you can tie it into more indirect questions and angles. Think of it as a foundation that everything you do needs to be built on top of (and should be apparent with every question you answer in some shape or form).


It’s also a great place to start when someone asks you, “tell me about yourself.”

2. They fail to answer questions with specificity.


While I’m 100% believer that sales is both an art and a science, you need to be able to clearly articulate your methodologies and results. Quite frankly, failing to do this is the kiss of death in sales recruiting.


If you can’t tell me exactly what, when, how, and why when asked a direct question about your experience, your chances to move forward in the interview process with the best companies are going to start dwindling quickly.


That’s because specificity is one of the most important pieces of credibility. So if you can’t speak with it about the things that you do in sales, how credible do you think you’re going to sound? I mean, could you imagine being evasive with a customer when they ask you a direct question?


Jake Reni summed up the critical things you need to be able to articulate and talk about with clarity recently in a post on LinkedIn and I’m 100% on board (hint: these are the things you’ll likely be asked about). I’ll summarize them below:


  1. Know your numbers – be able to tell me deal sizes, where you are in relation to quota, your ranking on the team, growth % on your accounts, customer retention, and more.
  2. Know how to attain your quota – what activities and in what quantities get you there?
  3. Know what a great buyer looks like for your company – how do you prioritize your time on accounts?
  4. Know how to articulate why you are successful – if you can’t differentiate yourself, will you be able to differentiate our product? 


Quick point: this is not just about numbers… it’s about ability to answer a question without fluff or skirting the issue. The mark of a person who knows their stuff is someone who can articulate their thoughts in a clear and compelling way. Dancing around the issue isn’t going to fool smart people.

Bottom line – know your numbers, process, deals, customers, and marketplace like the back of your hand. If you can’t answer simple questions like “who is your buyer” and “how have you exceeded quota” with specificity and clarity, you will immediately turn a hiring manager off.


A final thought…


Yes, there are plenty of instances where you can get away without these things because no one will ask you about them. But I would counter this with the point that these are also critical to your own personal satisfaction in your next sales gig as well.


After all, this is your career… wouldn’t you rather spend it in a place whose vision aligns with yours and it’s not a struggle to get motivated to show up everyday? A place where you’re even better paid for being the expert that you are because you know how to increase your own value in the eyes of your employer?


I think the answer to both of those questions is “YES!” for just about everyone.


Remember, searching for a job is like building a deal with a buyer… it takes two people together to create success, and this is no different.  You’d never cut these corners in your sales process, so why would you with your career?


I want to offer some assistance if you found this helpful. If you have questions about what it takes to land a great sales gig, send me an email at and I’ll help you answer them.


Thanks for reading!


What to read next: How to search for a sales gig you’ll love (and rock at)


-Amy Volas