Four Ways NOT to Hire a Business Developer

Your company needs sales and you need people to bring in those sales.  If you’re head of business development, how do you make decisions on whom to hire?  In smaller companies it’s all up to you to figure it out.  In larger companies you may have to contend with the HR labyrinth.  In either case, the final decision is yours.  To avoid making very costly and time-consuming mistakes in your decision making process, be aware of these four potential pitfalls:

  1. Gut Feel Instinct

A lot of great business development professionals have great intuition.  Many times they can “feel” when a deal lines up or is falling apart.  But success in this singular dimension can be a blind spot, as well.  If your first instinct is “I really like this person,” try to curb your enthusiasm.  I come from the Air Force, which teaches pilots to trust their instruments, as erroneous inputs from their bodily senses can lead to disaster.  The old saying is: Truly superior pilots are those who use their superior judgment to avoid those situations where they might have to use their superior skills.

  1. Glittering Resume

During your review of candidates, there’s likely at least one resume that pops out.  The description may be so compelling that you may overlook someone more suited for the job (you’ve scrubbed the job requirements, right?).  Maybe some healthy skepticism is called for.  If the candidate is so great, why is there a job search?  Can there be over-qualification that will lead to unhappiness in doing all the annoying things you’ll be asking them to do?  Did that person really develop a community non-profit to entertain French bulldogs while their parents were working?

  1. Friend of the Family

You very well could receive a glowing recommendation to hire someone’s child, sibling, or cousin.  In certain company cultures this might work out okay for some jobs, but probably not business development.  If you’re a business developer, by definition you have to produce.  You’re only as good as your last sale.  A good many people love this challenge, but just as many don’t.  If you’re head of business development and the family friend is not producing, you have a difficult decision to make.  And if you don’t make that tough decision to let Wally go, your new hire becomes a boat anchor on your top line.

  1. Career Broadening

Your company has been growing and there’s need to groom people for upper management.  The finance guys are going into operations and the operations guys are going into business development.  You get a recommendation to turn a star program manager into a business developer.  Makes sense, right?  That would be a good combination of experiences for a future vice president.  But is every promising program manager (or technical expert or financial whiz) a good fit for prospecting for new business?  Are the skills that brought them success in one field transferable to another?  And what happens when they’re set up to fail?  Be especially careful with this situation.  You might do more harm than good.

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