This week's blog is about the criteria you use to evaluate a sales candidate. As you begin to look at the right criteria, you'll want to consider which is more important…industry experience or relevant sales experience. This is a tough one but I would encourage you to suspend your disbelief for the moment. Of course, in an ideal world, every qualified candidate would hit the bull's-eye. Their resume would run the gamut: Proven sales background; A strong, well-developed sales skill set; and to top it all off, Experience in your industry selling to the same customers as you. While it's not impossible to find this person, it can be time consuming and not always the answer to your prayers. If you're like most companies, you probably don't have the time to wait for this perfect person to walk through the door. In fact, you may already know that the perfect person doesn't exist. The more likely scenario is that most of the candidates you meet will have some combination of the qualifications you're looking for, and you will need to decide which criteria are most important to a candidate's success in your individual company and industry. Sales Skill vs. Industry Experience Deciding which matters most, sales skill vs. industry experience can be a challenging decision. The good news is that if you look at your business objectively, you'll find that it may not be as critical as you think to find someone from your industry. I've counseled many business owners about how the attribute of strong selling skills can enable a talented sales person to overcome most obstacles. An instinct for sales and a well-honed selling skill set – having the hunger and drive to consistently hunt, prospect, and close – is the most important factor for success. Ask yourself, if your candidate possesses the following skills can they make it in your particular industry? Has the candidate lived in an industry that is similar to yours? Are they calling on and selling to the same people as you do? In our company, is it generally harder to find a client to do business with or harder to find someone who can do a technical presentation about our products? Is our product/service too complicated for anyone to learn? Is this candidate teachable? It is an often-overlooked fact that, for most industries, you can teach the technical skills, but the desire to sell has to come from within. It can't be taught. Either you want to be a salesperson or you don't. For many companies, finding and connecting with the customer is more challenging than presenting solutions to their problems. If you find a candidate who has experience selling to the same role/level of person as your company does (for example, directly to the CEO, or the office manager), that could be an automatic link to new customers. Remember: people – especially salespeople – bring relationships with them. If they have experience selling a complementary or similar product to the same customers you are targeting, that means they already know how to get in front of those customers and how to meet the needs of those customers. And in addition, you'll get a fresh set of eyes with enthusiasm and a motivation to learn. Stay tuned next week for solutions to Reason #2...your strategy around what you should be looking for and some things you should consider when hiring outside of your industry.
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