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Can a 90 Day Business Plan Ruin a Sales Interview Process?

Recently,  a client of ours was struggling to decide between two finalists for a critical sales role. To break this tie, they asked each candidate to put together a 90-day business plan as their last step in the interview process. Only time will tell if this process produced a favorable result.  Personally, I’ve never been a fan of using business plans as criteria in sales hiring. Today, I’ll give you 2 reasons why a 90-day business plan may help you make the wrong sales hire.

Biased Results.

There’s an unwanted bias when using business plans as criteria in your sales interview process. The sales professional that has low engagement with their current sales job or is currently unemployed has almost unlimited time to craft and perfect their business plan. In addition, they have a very powerful but temporary external motivator. They need a new job (perhaps even desperately). Now consider the currently employed and top performing sales professional’s situation.

Most top sales performers work above and beyond normal business hours in their quest to exceed sales expectations. This leaves them with very little time to interview, let alone time to put together a strong business plan. If they’re not totally sold on your opportunity, there’s a good chance that they will decide to opt out of your interview process. If they do continue with the process, their motivation and available time to pour hours into a 90-day business plan is certainly less than their unemployed competition.

Who do you think stands the better odds of producing the best plan?

What Does a Business Plan Measure?

This brings me to problem #2 with business plans. What, exactly, are you hoping to learn or assess by analyzing a sales professional’s 90-day business plan? Their strategic skills? Their written communication? The amount of effort they’re willing to put into the plan?

To be fair, a business plan is not totally without merit. Does a poorly written business plan suggest the potential for a bad hire? Absolutely. Does an amazingly well-written business plan suggest that the author will be an amazing sales hire? I think not.


“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Sir Winston Churchill


Many 50th percentile sales performers understand how to sell (the mechanics) as well or better than their counterparts that consistently finish in the top 10%. The biggest difference between the two? Execution.

Getting it Right.

Selecting the right sales professionals for your company consistently is a bigger challenge than a business plan can hope to solve. It’s also a much bigger topic than I can cover in a solitary blog post. A hint I can provide is to focus on assessing a sales professional’s ability to execute. You can learn more about building an effective sales interview process in our eBook on Sales Hiring.

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. We post a new blog once a quarter on the 3rd Thursday of every January, April, July and Oct. These posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

You can find Chris Carlson on LinkedIn or contact him directly at: