7 months ago
February 21, 2017

Sales Experience: How Much is Enough?

Here are some key things to consider when determining whether a candidate’s sales experience meets your needs.

Claire McConnachie

Few factors carry as much weight as experience when considering a candidate for a position, be it in sales or any other part of your workforce. Understanding the value of sales experience and how to evaluate a candidate’s professional history in the context of a position will help you acquire the best staff possible-and knowing how to present your own sales experience will help you get the job if you’re on the other side of the equation. Either way, it is important to remember that sales experience alone does not make for a superior sales agent. Here are some key things to consider when determining whether a candidate’s sales experience meets your needs:

How Much of Their Experience Fits?

Not all experience is created equal-and an obviously superior work pedigree isn’t always better for your business. In other words, ten years in a top IBM sales team may be impressive and suggest truly impressive skills, but not necessarily the skills you want in the sales team of a fresh startup. Selling with a steady supply of inbound leads for years and building your own pipeline have little to do with each other-so if you’re the juggernaut, you shouldn’t put as much stock in years with smaller operations, and if you’re the little guy, don’t get ahead of yourself-a potential with an impressive resume and a potential with an ideal resume are not the same thing.

What They Can Bring vs. What They Can Learn

If your business needs a certain skill in play or task handled as soon as possible, you need someone with sales experience involving that specific skill-not something tangential. But the other side of that plays a big role as well

Even if a hire with a particular subset of skills sounds nice, consider what that experience brings to the table immediately. If you have the time and resources to teach a different candidate for the same position to do that part of the job, value that skill as a convenience, not a necessity, and you’ll find yourself with the candidate who bring you the most value in the short AND long term.

The Flip Side of Experienced Hires

When considering sales experience in a potential hire, employers should remember that experience doesn’t bring skills and ability alone-there are other things that years at a company impart on an employee. It’s worth considering how much you want to imprint your own companies methods and culture upon a new hire, as the more experienced the worker the less flexible and moldable he or she will be. Even a freshly graduated candidate with zero sales experience might be your ideal worker, if you have the resources to train them and value the fresh perspective and impressionability inherent to such a person.

In the end, the amount of sales experience you need in a role depends heavily on the specifics of your situation. Not a useful answer in and of itself, but it pays to remember that more workers with more years with bigger companies does not equate to a superior workforce.

Claire McConnachie

Claire is a Western University graduate with a background in recruiting, sales and customer service. As a Recruitment Consultant, her goals are to place the best people in the right roles resulting in satisfaction for both the candidate and client.