While it is true that taking a short cut when hiring any position is a mistake, taking a short cut when hiring a sales person is a bigmistake. Given sales keeps a business alive, having the right people on your sales team is critical and can make a world of difference in your success.
I know of a company that recently hired a seasoned sales person. They found this sales person through their business network, had some interviews/discussions with the candidate and on the surface it seemed like it would be a good fit for both. However, it turned out it was not the right fit and the sales executive stayed only a few short months before moving on.
What went wrong? The company took a short cut and they did not launch a formal search for the best candidate. They did not define for the candidate, and probably for themselves, the specific characteristics they were looking for. Had they done this, the two parties would have known they were not meant for each other from the get-go. Was the candidate qualified? Absolutely – the candidate had years of relevant industry success and experience in the specific field. Yes, each did what they felt was the appropriate due diligence, but clearly neither party went hard on what I believe is the most important point: cultural fit.
When hiring for any position, employers need to spend the time to really identify the characteristics of the ideal candidate. Aside from the obvious (relevant experience), there should be a clear definition of what characteristics the winning candidate needs in order to fit with the business culture. If this is not done and the hired candidate does not fit the culture, it is sure to be a lose/lose.
Short cuts often lead to disappointment including lost time and lost opportunity. It is not worth the risk. When hiring for a senior position, one that you are relying on to help secure and grow your business, launch a formal search. Whether you use a search firm or not is not important. What is important is that you follow all of the required steps to ensure success.