Over the past 30 years we have helped companies of all sizes, industries and markets Identify, Attract, Screen Interview, Hire, On-board, and Keep Stronger Sales staff. One of the common demands from our client’s is: They MUST have industry Experience.
Well, not really. As part of our process, we take time to define the ‘ideal’ salesperson and through this in-depth process what we learn is 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 salesperson selling Office Business Machines (that’s code for copiers) would have anything in common with a salesperson selling Uniforms, Rugs, and maintenance programs for those type of items. However, when you look at the ideal profiles for, they are almost identical.
Both have a typical 3-month window to displace the competition of renew the current client. Both sell a typical 3-year agreement with heavy cancelation clauses. Both sell to the ‘Office Manager’ but not to the C-Suite. Both typically have fairly tight management. Both sell products and services that range from $300-$1000 a month for the average sale. Both industries have strong industry product training, and both usually have three to five competitors.
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 behavior. Not to mention the baggage for the “industry salesperson” is the same as everyone else in the industry. A new salesperson for a parallel industry 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.
- On-boarding is critical for any position but more so with sales. I don’t care what products or services are sold or how complicated it can be. 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, fire them, and start over. Maybe you made a poor selection. If you want to abolish your hiring mistakes we can help.
- 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 checkup and a deep dive on what you are not doing that you don’t know you are not doing.