Proven sales recruiters adopt strategies that solve basic problems…even ones that have existed for years…regardless of the industry.

There are certain unique characteristics to look for when hiring salespeople vs. other employees. First of all, salespeople are a direct profit source for a company – nothing happens until a sale is made. If salespeople do not perform, a business loses customers and eventually goes out of business. Secondly, salespeople, unlike other employees, are measured at the end of each month by the quantity of sales that they generate.

Sales recruiting is a difficult task because salespeople have to overcome a lot of daily rejection and adversity to win new sales.  Competition sometimes is fierce.  Because of the difficult task of selling, sales as a profession has one of the highest turnover rates of any profession.  One study indicates that the average turnover rate for salespeople for all industries is approximately 20%.

Hiring the wrong salesperson is an expensive process.  Your company can potentially lose in three different ways – lost salary, lost training time, and lost selling time.  Depending on the company, these losses can range from $50,000 to over $100,000 or more. The key, of course, is to recruit salespeople using a specific proven technique.

Experience vs. Sales Talent

Unfortunately, the vast majority of hiring managers use the experience factor in making hiring decisions and really ignore the prime qualities of sales success.  In general, they fail to analyze the key factors and focus on someone who has “five years of experience in selling widgets.”

There are two reasons for this. First, most of these companies are looking for a “quick fix”—a person who is already trained who can hit the ground running and who already has a “book of business.”  This can be similar to recruiting a baseball player who has been to baseball camp for five years in a row but really lacks natural athletic ability to hit and field.  Or this is similar to a professional artist who has gone to the best art schools in the country, but lacks the natural ability to be artistically creative.  Neither the baseball player nor the artist will excel in their careers because they simply don’t have the God-given “right stuff” to be successful.

The second reason managers use the experience factor in hiring salespeople is that they do not want to train or they may not have the resources to train new salespeople.  So the easy solution is to hire a salesperson who already has experience in their industry.  This system of thinking has two core weaknesses:

  • First, there is a good chance that the industry experience the person has is not good industry experience but represents many bad selling habits. After they are hired, these bad selling habits will be almost impossible to change. This is similar to a marriage where the wife says, “I knew he had some really bad habits but I thought I could change them after we were married.” It never works.
  • The second weakness in hiring industry experience is that they are confusing product knowledge with true sales ability. In other words, they are making their hiring decisions on things that are “relatively easy to change” and ignoring those that are “very difficult to change”— the true drivers for real sales success…energy, enthusiasm, ambition and tenacity. These key qualities are about behavior, not related to industry experience or product knowledge. With very few exceptions, raw sales talent will always win over industry “experience.” In the professional world of sales these are the principal ingredients that create the top 10%–the “A” players. These are the people that all companies need to find, attract, and recruit.  This is the stuff from which the true sales winners are made.
“Old Think”"New Think"
Hire industry experienceHire the “athletes”—teach them the “sport”
Rely on your “gut” feelingUse a proven assessment to measure true “Sales DNA”
Hire a “book” of businessGenerally, a “smoke screen” just to get hired
No formal training programImplement a customized sales training program with a metrics system

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