Seven “White Lies” Mediocre Salespeople Say In Interviews. How Many Are You Catching?

Seven “White Lies” Mediocre Salespeople Say In Interviews. How Many Are You Catching?

A commonality of mediocre salespeople? They embellish the hell out of their resumes and interviews. Here are 7 white lies they tell (and how to catch them).
Sales Hiring
Chris Orlob
October 5, 2022

Want to know something crazy?

The average mis-hire rate in B2B sales is 40%.

40% of reps don’t make it to 12 months.

I talk to a lot of sales leaders.

Most annual models have a 25-30% attrition rate. Counting good attrition.

That’s a big GAP between model and reality.

Especially when you consider the devastating revenue impact of mis-hiring.

There are several issues that cause mis-hiring.

Here’s a BIG one:

It’s easy to “lie without lying” in sales interviews.

It’s easy to tell the truth… but NOT the WHOLE truth.

Here are seven white lies mediocre salespeople tell.

Plus, how to catch them with great interviewing techniques.

Watch the Youtube version of this post above.

Read the post below.

Here’s the deal.

If someone has something like this on their resume…

You shouldn’t hold it against them!

If it’s the truth, they might be a star.

BUT… you should ask SEVERAL follow up questions.

(in fact, here’s a master list of 91 interview questions to snag).

Here's the problem:

It may be a partial truth.

When some reps say they “hit 300% of annual quota,” here’s what REALLY happened:

They started their job HALFWAY through the fiscal year.

So their first year’s “annual” quota was only half of a year…

And it was a RAMP quota!

So while an annual quota may be $1M, their “annual quota” may have been as little as $100k - $200k.

If that were the case…

They may have only closed $300k total.

That’s nothing to hold against them.

But that tells a different story than “achieved 300% of annual quota.”

Most sales managers would assume they closed $3M against a $1M quota.

Easy to miss if you’re not well-trained in sales hiring techniques.

It’s a mis-hire WAITING to happen.

And here’s what happens so often:

The REST of their performance isn’t very good.

That’s WHY they highlight their ramp attainment on their resume.

They have nothing else to show off.

So when you see sky-high attainment numbers, ask about:

  • The duration they held that quota
  • The total dollar amount of the quota
  • The total dollar amount they closed
  • How many deals they closed.

Let me tell you a story of a rep I worked with.

I was looking at his LinkedIn profile today.

It says that while at Gong, he closed [big name logo].

I’m sure he’s gotten A TON of recruiter interest with that highlight.

Here’s what actually happened:

9 months into the job, he was yet to close a deal.

At the tail-end of his performance improvement plan (PIP), he closed a whopper:

A $10k startup…

That startup was a subsidiary of the big company.

The lesson?

If a rep highlights a single deal as a major selling point…

Dig into the details of that deal with great interview questions.

Here’s another “white lie” reps tell about BIG DEALS:

I interviewed a rep who claimed he closed the biggest deal in his company’s history.

He impressed me, and I wanted to hire him.

As luck would have it, I knew several people at the company he used to work at.

Their unanimous advice?

“Steer clear at all costs.”

Here’s what actually happened with that deal, according to them:

Resume: "Closed biggest deal in company history."

Reality: WORKED the biggest deal in company history with lots of internal eyes on it.

Upper management realized the deal was badly mismanaged and took over.

Someone else closed it while managing the rep out of the business due to weak performance.

Bullet dodged.

Here’s the truth serum:

Dig into the details of the deal. Ask them HOW they closed it.

The chronological interview is a POWERFUL technique for this.

Watch a free training video on that here.

You’re not looking for a lone wolf who did everything herself.

But avoid those who take credit when they actually DESTROYED value in the deal.

Backchannels are worth their weight in gold.


I’m not saying hold it against someone if they say this.

Dig deeper. It’s easy to “fudge” this one.

Here’s an example:

I once interviewed a rep who had this on his resume.:

“Consistently one of the top producers in the organization.”

Seemed impressive.

But then I asked,

“How many people were in that organization, doing your same job?”

Answer: Three.

He used the word “organization” to describe the three people.

He’s not wrong.

But it’s commonality of weak sales candidates:

Resume embellishments are easy to miss.

So here’s what I asked next:

“Okay, and you were consistently the top producer. How consistently?”

Answer: Two out of four quarters.

. . . okay . . .

“And where did you wind up the other two quarters?”

Answer: Number two and number three.

See how digging into details reveals the REAL story behind the numbers?

The story went from “consistent top producer” to “a mixed bag on a team of three.“

The lesson:

First, always get the full picture of the stack rank.

How many people were on their team (doing the same job)?

Where did they rank?

Against what metric?

How often?


What does “consistently” mean?

Every quarter?

Or only 50% of the time?

Don’t let people get away with vague language.

Ask how they define the terms they're using.

Last month I interviewed a rep for an enterprise new business role.

On the surface, she was a seasoned enterprise seller.

Exactly what I was looking for.

She bragged that she closed more seven figure deals than anyone in her company.

When I dug in further…

Those “seven figure deals” were all renewals.

Again… nothing wrong with that.

But I was looking for someone who could close seven figure new logos.

Different skill set.

Here’s one of the big lessons to take:

Words matter.

As Socrates would put it:

Words are easy to fudge to LOOK impressive.

But that BEGS for you to make a mis-hire.

Dig into what words mean in resume highlights.

Words like “revenue.”

What kind of revenue did you close?

None of those are better than the others.

But different types of revenue matter for different sales roles.

If you’re interviewing for a new business AE…

Someone who hunts new logos and new revenue…

And you interview someone who says “Closed more revenue than anyone in the company…”

You’d better dig in.

What if all they did was close $5M in flat renewals every year for five years straight?

There’s nothing wrong with that…

You should hire that rep for an account management role.

But that’s different than saying “closed more NEW BUSINESS than anyone.”

Did you know some companies are SO HOT that NO ONE misses quota?

Gong had a phase like that.

100% of our SMB reps hit quota in 2021.

Do you think EVERY rep was GREAT?

No way.

I interviewed a rep from Box in the heyday of their hypergrowth.

He made it a point to tell me he never fell below 110% of his number.


I continued to dig:

“How many reps were on your team at the time?”

He answered 50.

“Where did you stack rank?”

Usually around 25 out of 50, or so.

WTF! Usually people making 120% of quota are the top quartile!

What was going on!?

Turns out, they were on a HOT streak as a company.

Their product was selling like hot cakes. Few people missed their numbers.

Now, I actually still HIRED that rep!

But I KNEW he wasn’t going to be an A-Player.

A solid B-Player that I can plug and play into a well-oiled machine. That's all I needed at the time.

But if I NEEDED an A-Player… that would have been an EASY mis-hire.

Here's the deal:

I bet you’re asking candidates about their quota attainment numbers.

Here's what to know about that:

They're meaningless. Until you have context.

It's not that they don’t matter (they do). But by themselves, they don’t tell the full story.

  • At some companies, “average” reps are hitting 120%.
  • At other companies, hitting 100% might be a herculean feat.

In fact… The best rep I ever hired "only" hit 96% at her last job.

These 6 questions help you reveal the STORY behind the numbers:

Download the six questions free here:

They tell the story behind the numbers.

And if you’re hiring quota-carriers…

They will likely DOUBLE your odds of making a strong hire.

I still can’t believe this has happened to me more than once:

Last summer, I interviewed a rep who looked GREAT on paper.

It was the middle of the fiscal year, so I asked him how his year was going.

“It’s going AMAZING! I’m pacing for 150%.”

“That’s awesome!” I said back.

“What kind of number are you up against this year?”

Him: $1.5M.

Me: Nice. That’s a big number. So we’re halfway through the year and you’re pacing for 150% of that. So you’ve closed around $1.125M then. Does that sound right?


It seemed like an innocent question to me.

After all, he SAID he was pacing for 150% of his annual number.

His number was $1.5M.

And we were halfway through the year.

So HALF of his number is $750k. 150% of that is $1.125M.

You with me?

Here’s the reality:

He hadn’t closed a SINGLE dollar yet!

I pressed further.

Here was his definition of "pacing":

He had enough PIPELINE to hit 150% of his number. Based on the company’s historical close rates.


But hey!

Maybe that’s true.

Maybe he went on to CRUSH it that year!

But he told me he was pacing for 150%...

When in reality he was forecasting 150%!



I cannot believe this has happened to me more than once.

But it has.

Here’s Exactly What To Do Next

Do you want to learn an interview technique that helps you hire reps that sell like CRAZY?

This technique REVEALS these “white lies.”

It’s a 6-step sales interview process, and it reveals PATTERNS like you wouldn’t believe.

Here’s a free 17 min training video that teaches it step by step.

Watch it FREE here.

By the way, I’ve got an extra BONUS for you if you watch it…

If you watch the video…

I’ll send you three hiring BONUS tips…

They’ll help you hit daunting hiring targets WITHOUT the mis-hires.

So sign up (free) to watch the training video.

And I’ll send you the bonus tips via email.

Watch it FREE here.