Who would you rather hire for your inside sales team – an experienced inside sales rep with experience selling different products or services across several companies, or someone new to sales, say a college graduate, or how about a waiter or bar tender or someone one else new to sales? The proper answer here, of course, is it depends on the individual circumstance. But as we’ll see, if the proper systems are in place, it’s usually a wiser choice to go with someone new to sales. Let’s find out why.
While conventional wisdom would lean towards hiring someone with specific inside sales experience, what common experience tells us is that that choice is rarely a guarantee of good performance. In fact, after hiring or being involved in the hiring of thousands of experienced inside sales reps, I can tell you from personal experience that it is very rare to hire an experienced sales rep who turns into someone truly exceptional. It’s more common to find mediocre sales reps who continue to produce down to their level of past production. There are many reasons for this.
To start with, most sales reps have never received the kind of sales training that leads to consistently good results. Sales training, and its constant reinforcement, is an area that is either under developed or an effective extension of product training. After initial orientation and training, most inside sales reps are left to either figure it out on their own, or to sink or swim. This leads to a lot of sales reps who develop poor sales skills that they repeat over and over again as they ad lib their way through their jobs. It’s these very same unsuccessful reps that are looking for work when they answer your job posting.
This has been my experience, and I’m not alone. In fact, in their book, “How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer” by Greenberg, Weinstein and Sweeney, the authors compared results from hundreds of thousands of assessments that were conducted over several decades with actual sales performance measurements and found:
55 percent of the people earning their living in sales should be doing something else.
Another 20 to 25 percent (of salespeople) have what it takes to sell, but they should be selling something else.
They concluded that based on these statistics, the practice of hiring experienced sales candidates will produce an unsatisfactory result as much as 80 percent of the time! That may seem a pretty dire pronouncement, but it once again rings true in my experience and, I’m willing to bet, in the experience of many of you reading this article as well.
Now before you throw your hands up in the air and decide to abandon your sales efforts completely, the good news is that there is a solution. The solution is to invest the time, money and effort in defining your sales process, developing a solid training program that teaches the best practices of your sales process, and then to give your front line managers the tools to manage your rep’s adherence to these defined sales processes. You can see a video of me describing this process on my website.
Once you build these processes, you will be in the unique position of being able to hire and successfully on board new talent into your sales team. The great thing about hiring someone new to sales is that they are a blank slate without any poor sales skills and habits. Rather than trying to undo years of poor performance and attitude, you can spend your time actually training someone the right way from the beginning. After that, your time can be spent reinforcing and measuring adherence to your best practices. The major benefit here is that you can shorten the time it takes to evaluate whether or not the person you’ve just hired has the ability and desire to succeed in your sales environment.
Another benefit of using this method is that since you are hiring people who are new to sales, you can now recruit from almost anywhere. Rather than being handcuffed to running the same old ads and attracting the same old suspects, suddenly you will be free to find and recruit new talent anywhere you go. When I was actively managing and growing a financial service team, I would carry my business cards with me everywhere and would constantly be on the lookout for people who were bright and had winning personalities. I’d chat up people working in department stores, waiters, bar tenders, and anywhere else I found engaging and motivated people. In fact, some of my top producers where found in this way.
Now, let’s get back to the question at the beginning of this article. Is it better to hire an experienced inside sales rep or someone new to sales? Again, it depends on the circumstance because you obviously don’t want to hire someone new who doesn’t have the temperament or desire, and you don’t want to not hire an experienced sales rep who might do well in your environment. The way to be successful with both of these hires is to have a solid training program and follow up mentoring and measuring system to evaluate them. Only in this way will you be able to successfully hire and develop the right candidate.