A Sales Reference.

"Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company."
~ George Washington

Have you ever been asked about a previous sales employee who is now looking for a job? You know - some manager or HR person calls to ask you for a reference evaluation. Whether they were good, or not so good, legal considerations have made the " So how was their performance?" question not so easy to answer these days. Many companies default their response to the dates of employment only.

Some even ask for a written request rather than being held to account over the telephone. But what are sales managers and executives really saying when they utter what sounds like harmless platitudes and faint praise to the potential new employer?  What are the secret codes in the phrases they use? So here we go ~ For your amusement only...  

I humbly submit here is what they are really saying:

"He was a nice guy, very friendly, and got along with everyone."

"He couldn't close a door. He was nice enough talking to existing clients but never consistently prospected or drove higher revenues. He's not going to hurt your business if you hire him but isn't going to help your top line much either. Everyone will like him but your best sales people and your competition won't consider him much of a threat. Hire or don't hire him - Your call. He will process incoming orders just fine but isn't going to change your bottom line much."

"He worked here between (date) and (date). Seems like he was ok - I can't remember anything in particular I would mention. "

"Stay away from this guy like the plague. There are issues that I would rather not address. I kind of wish this guy would go to work for my competition - it would only hurt them and help us."

"She Makes A Difference"

"I wish she had never left. Don't wait - hire this girl now ! She will get done whatever you need done. She is a dependable go-getter."

Naturally most of us would expand on this third category of candidate. He, or she, sticks out in our mind as a difference maker. Someone we would hire back in a minute. Which brings me to the real question that people should ask first. "Would you hire them back?" If a supervisor waffles on this one or says something soft and non commital like -
" I would certainly interview them if a position became available" then you have your answer. They didn't really make a difference.

Great Salespeople - Make A Difference.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great article! I rely more on a 90 day review after hiring than references anymore. If there's no "spark" in 90 days I let them go.

    Chris Lott