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Sep 2016

Do we always have to hire sales people who have experience of our sector?

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Human resources officer select employee or team leader (CEO). Individual customer marketing and personalization concept.

First of all, thanks to sales specialist, Rocky LaGrone for inspiring this posting. The content is based on the content in his original posting.

When we speak to prospects and existing clients about recruiting sales people, the one thing that they always focus on is the fact that they must have “industry experience”. So is it absolutely essential that the sales people that your business is looking to recruit have worked in your sector. Why is that other departments in your company are able to successfully recruit people into professional positions, such as finance, HR, operations who have no experience of your sector? Yet sales insist on following a well-worn path and keep on making the same mistakes. If you want a different result, then you need to do something different.

The question I always ask is would you rather recruit an “A” player who has an outstanding sales DNA and excellent consultative selling skills, who hasn’t worked in your sector than a sales person with average sales skills, yet has worked in your sector. Despite wanting outstanding sales professionals, most sales directors and sales managers want to recruit people who have worked in their sector.

So maybe a change in mindset is needed. How about if you took a different approach and considered the following: –

· Is it not more important to recruit a sales person who has experience on dealing with similar clients, in similar markets, to similar positions in the company, with similar sale cycles, with similar management pressure, with similar price points, with similar competition, with similar resistance and more? These are surely the factors that you should be considering.

· If you actually take the time to define the ‘ideal’ salesperson, you will actually learn that it’s not necessary to have industry experience. What is necessary it to attract candidates that have experience calling on similar clients, in similar markets, to similar positions in the company, with similar sale cycles, with similar management pressure, with similar price points, with similar competition, with similar resistance and more.

Most people would not think that a sales person selling Office Business Machines would have anything in common with a sales person selling office furniture. However, when you look at the ideal profiles for both they are almost identical.

Both have a similar sales cycle. Both sell to the ‘Office Manager’ but not to the C-Suite. Both typically have fairly tight management. Both sell products and services that have a similar average sale value. Both sectors have strong industry product training and both usually face huge competition.

Industry experience is not necessary. Sales experience is! It is much easier to train and teach product knowledge than to train and teach selling skills, attitudes, techniques and behaviour. Not to mention the baggage for the “industry salesperson” is the same as everyone else in the industry. A new sales person who comes from a different sector brings new ideas, new concepts, cross market experience that will raise the bar for the current team.

The idea that the candidate MUST have industry experience points to two things:

1. A poor on-boarding and training program.

2. The Illusion of Reality.

1. On-boarding is critical for any position but more so with sales. It should take no more than 30 days for any new sales hire to be able to have an intelligent conversation with a prospect. If it is taking longer than that you need to revamp your on-boarding plan and spend more time teaching your business to your new hires. Also, raise your expectations. The first 30 days should be nothing more than education, training, coaching and practicing for the new sales hire. If they can’t cut it, then maybe you have made a poor recruitment decision.

2. The Illusion of Reality. If we all think the same then how can we have any new experience and grow. We need diversity in our thinking. For fresh ideas that launch your sales, it may be time for a check-up and a deep dive on what you are not doing that you don’t know you are not doing.

So the next time you are wanting to recruit a sales person to your business, consider whether they have the right sales skills rather than focusing on whether they have worked in your sector.

Pete Evans

Managing Director


Pete Evans, Managing Director of Momentum Sales Solutions Ltd, has a passion for developing sales professionals and working with teams and individuals to enhance performance. He is a professional speaker trained by Michael Port and Bob Burg, Accredited Go-Giver coach, regular speaker at Leeds Business Week, member of Yorkshire Mafia, supporter of Leeds Rugby Foundation and Forget Me Not local children’s hospice and a keen follower of sports looking at how businesses can learn from sports philosophies.
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