Does Every Sales Candidate need to have Experience?

Does every sales person need to have experience

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Successful salespeople are often thin on the ground – experience, knowledge of the industry, and the ability to hit the ground running are all desirable qualities for hiring managers.

And of course these are the ones that every business wants to hire, if they could only find them in such a tight employment market (or manage to headhunt them from the competition).

But the truth is, even some ‘experienced’ salespeople fail to launch, so obviously they aren’t always a guarantee – however there is some security in knowing job history and that there is evidence of knowledge for the right marketplace and/or industry.

So the question remains – is it ever okay to ‘settle’ for someone who hasn’t got a lot of job history behind them?

Yes, it is okay

There are some sales roles that won’t likely appeal to those with experience, so it is up to the newbies to fill the spaces. But this doesn’t mean hiring any green salesperson will make sense – you should still do your due diligence to bring on those with the best chance of succeeding.

Through using the right pre-hire assessment, you can predict the performance of sales candidates, and this is really the only way inexperienced people should be considered for a role.

Everyone does have to start somewhere, however there are key characteristics that those with the potential to succeed will already possess – things like desire, commitment, responsibility and the right mindset.  

But recruiting based on using a scientifically-proven method must be also backed up with the right on boarding process – this is critical for any new hire, but particularly so for those with a lack of knowledge or skills in sales.

If you aren’t able to support them through their ramping-up stage, and provide the right training to them, then there is a very minimal chance of success for them, which in turn is a fail for your business.  

No, it’s not okay

Every sales role is unique. Some are about selling low priced consumer goods to a large target audience, and others involve a long sales cycle with management-level decision-makers. And if a salesperson doesn’t have proven experience selling in these different environments, then it is going to be a very long road to success – if it happens at all.

So there really is a huge risk in hiring someone who hasn’t spent time in a similar role, particularly for those positions requiring communicating with CEOs, Directors and other senior business leaders.

You are also guaranteed of a very long ramp-up time, and a lot of businesses simply don’t have the capability to support an inexperienced salesperson through their time of growth and development – especially New Zealand SMEs.

Dave Kurlan from the Objective Management Group has a formula for calculating ramp-up time for new salespeople in a business.

  • Add your sale cycle in months to your learning curve in months and then add an additional 30 days. (So, if you have a six-month sale cycle and a three-month learning curve, your baseline ramp-up time will be 10 months.) 
  • Complicating the matter even more is the fact that some salespeople will not ramp up exactly as the formula suggests, based on three additional factors:
  1. Years of sales experience – fewer years = longer ramp up.
  2. Years in the industry – fewer years = longer ramp up.
  3. Compatibility (found here on Objective Management Group’s Sales Candidate Assessment) – lower compatibility = longer ramp up.

So modify the formula like this: Add 2 more months if sales experience is less than five years, add 2 more months if industry experience is less than 2 years, and add 3 more months if compatibility is less than 75%. 

Depending on these 3 factors, ramp-up could take as much as an additional 7 months!

There are definitely pros and cons to both options, but make sure that whatever decision you make is based on the right facts and information – and not a knee-jerk reaction to having to hire someone right now.

Download a SAMPLE Sales Candidate Assessment and see for yourself the incredible insight that you can gain when assessing your next candidates.


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