Sometimes, hiring managers discount great candidates and elevate mediocre ones thanks to their biases.
Here are three of these:
- Experience is essential.
- A college degree is a must.
- If people can sell one thing, they can sell our thing.
These beliefs, held by many sales executives, produce tremendous glare in the hiring process. This glare compromises their candidate hiring and screening processes, making it nearly impossible for managers to accurately assess potential and fit.
Studies of hundreds of sales forces confirm that high performance in sales is strongly linked to innate abilities, those characteristics that develop early in life and are difficult to teach or acquire later.
I don’t mean to say that experience isn’t important. It can help a salesperson feel more confident, develop a rich repertoire for client interactions, and know how to navigate corporate politics and processes. However, once they’ve learned the basics, inexperienced reps with a lot of talent will consistently outshine their less-talented but highly-experienced peers.
Moreover, holding out for experience rather than talent shrinks your potential applicant pool and raises the cost of hire because experience comes at a price.
Well, what about education? While a non-sales related degree might not help seal many deals, in professions like law, medicine, or jobs in which domain expertise is critical such as in finance the right degree is essential.
What about experience? For example, the candidate you just interviewed had great success selling in another industry. Should you take a chance that those talents and experience will be a ticket for success with you?
Maybe. Think about the motivations of your best sellers. Do some of the same things motivate that candidate?
If a candidate has been selling with a good sense of mission around of the product, chances are they have been feeding off the immediate gratification of transactional sales. If you’re moving products where the sense of mission is not as readily apparent, making the selling process highly consultative and much longer, that experience might not translate well.
Beyond role fit, team fit is just as important. Your highly-competitive environment will not suit the candidate if they are used to more sedate environments.
Don’t be ruled by myths. Experience and education have their place, but 85 years of research into selection and over 30 years of the science of talent have proven again and again that natural talent is the best predictor of success in your team.