Who Should You Hire for Your Open Sales Position?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Should you hire an inexperienced but recent college grad for your open sales position? Or would you have better success trying to recruit a rep with significant experience? Sales managers are faced with this dilemma regularly. Some managers are convinced they have better luck when they bring in team members who haven’t developed any bad habits. Other managers are certain that hiring experienced reps is the secret to their success. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and you’ll likely have better results when you use a comprehensive sales skills assessment test.

Experienced Sales Candidates

Research from Willy Bolander and his associates at Florida State University shows there are benefits to both approaches. When sales managers select an experienced sales rep over a candidate who has studied sales, but hasn’t yet applied that knowledge in the professional world, they generally see a faster ramp-​up. The experienced sales rep, after all, has been around the block a few times. They’ve encountered rejection and success and they’ve developed their own responses to the unsuccessful situations.

The researchers also found that experienced sales professionals may resist a manager’s attempts to coach them. In fact, they may feel insulted that the managers are finding fault with their approach. However, C. Lee Smith, CEO and president of SalesFuel, points out that some sales job candidates are more likely to be coachable than others. And hiring managers can learn which of their candidates have good coachability after they review the results of a sales skills assessment test.

Inexperienced Sales Candidates

Bolander’s research indicates that inexperienced sales professionals often perform at the same level as their more experienced counterparts within 18 months of coming into an open sales position. Fast skill development suggests that new sales professionals, especially those who studied the subject in college, come from an environment where they are accustomed to professors delivering harsh feedback. As a result, they could be more open to corrective suggestions from their managers.

Your Open Sales Position

Sales managers often face tough decisions, and the results of this research suggest that hiring choices are nuanced, and optimal decisions might need to account for factors such as expected turnover and other firm-​specific needs,’ according to one summary of Bolander’s research. It’s certainly true that hiring managers should account for firm-​specific needs when hiring. They should also pay attention to the fit a candidate will have with their immediate manager and with the open sales position they’re filling. The results of a sales assessment test will inform managers about a candidate’s fit. These results will also reveal which candidate is coachable and that aspect may prove more predictive of success than simply relying on years of experience in the profession as a hiring factor.