Why it’s OK to Hire Inexperienced Sales People

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As startups launch, they need feet on the street or voices over the phone to drive sales.  Many companies struggle with the decision to hire fresh, inexperienced sales people.  I’ve had a pleasant experience with bringing on young talented people and having them cut their teeth in sales.

Here a few reasons why I feel hiring inexperienced sales people can work:

  • They can learn from the best – CEO/Founders are usually doing the selling in the beginning.  Let these unexperienced sales people learn from the best.
  • Put them on the inside – I would recommend you start with these folks in inside sales, cold calling type roles. If you have a solid sales process and pitch in place it’s conceptually an easy role.  They call and get the founders or experienced sales people in front of qualified prospects.
  • They’ve already lived in those shoes – If you are hiring “green” sales people make sure that during the interview process they shadowed someone making the types of calls they will be asked to make.  I stress to go a step further and have them make some sales calls of their own in the interview.  If they are reluctant to dial in the interview chances are they will be reluctant in the role.
  • Old dog, old tricks – The face of selling is changing so rapidly today (with Insight/Challenger selling, etc.) that the old school way of selling can be less effective.  Hiring inexperienced folks will allow you to teach and train an approach and sales process you believe in.
  • Compensation – most startups don’t have a choice when they need to start ramping the sales organization and can’t afford high salary sales people.

My proof of concept – Our most experienced sales person in the lead generation role at Hireology is 4 months into the role and 4 months into her career.  Even with no real B2B sales experience we’re glad we brought her on as she is performing well above expectations.  One of my most seasoned sales people (1 year of experience – yes that’s seasoned in our world) came to us with zero sales experience and wins our sales person of the month contest month after month.

Dave Stein brings good insight to the opposing view that it is better to hire experienced sales people.  His thinking is that they need to learn way to much to be effective in a short period of time.  I would agree if you are selling to enterprise clients in an established market – for most startups however this typically isn’t the case.  http://davesteinsblog.esresearch.com/2008/07/hiring-inexperienced-sales-reps/

Whatever your decision, (experienced vs. inexperienced) hiring the right person is critical.  Perform structured scored interviews, do reference checks, understand their personality makeup and make sure they understand the role and day to day expectations.

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