Industry experience is the #1 criteria requested by most companies when hiring sales professionals. Yet, industry experience may also be the #1 reason why companies fail in their quest for finding qualified sales people. Many of our clients start their sales hiring search with strict industry and related product knowledge criteria that severely restricts the candidate pool. Their reasoning is that it takes too long to get people up to speed on their product and industry.
In a recent article, “Why Hiring a Salesperson from Inside Your Industry Can Destroy Sales,” Mark Thacker outlines several reasons that debunk the belief that industry experience is king. As an outsource sales management advisor, Mark says, “Hire the best sales person you can find. Period.”
Here are Mark’s five reasons why industry experience may be detrimental to sales along with my abridged interpretation.
1. The Recycled Salesperson: You may hire your competitor’s sales dud.
2. The Pied Piper Doesn’t Exist: Book of business rarely transfers.
3. Same Old, Same Old: Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
4. Not as Different as You Think: Sales skills transfer from industry to industry.
5. Industry Knowledge Is Quicker to Learn Than Sales Acumen: Sales is tough to learn; industry is not.
When we consult with our clients about a sales search, we advise that they look for successful sales people who have the 3Ds . . . Drive, Determination, and Discipline. If a sales person has these three attributes, they will figure out a way to be successful in any environment, regardless of industry.
We also advise clients to target candidates that sell in the same way that their company goes to market. For instance, if a company sells technical business services, hire someone who has been successful selling services to business owners. If you sell industrial equipment, hire someone who has been successful selling equipment to manufacturers. The key is that they know how to sell into your target market. Not that they know how to sell your specific industry product or service.
Learn more about how to recruit sales professionals that can successful sell to your target market.
I couldn’t agree more! Just because someone has been in your industry, went to the same university, etc. is absolutely no predictor or correlation to whether they will be able to succeed in your job.