Why Hiring a Salesperson from Inside Your Industry Can Destroy Sales


Hiring a salesperson with industry experience is a good thing, right? It’s natural to think that. The truth is, however, this conventional “wisdom” can destroy sales, crush employee morale, and threaten the very existence of your company! Our licensed Advisors at Sales Xceleration tell us again and again that hiring a salesperson based on experience in your industry seldom works. Here’s why:

Why Hiring a Salesperson with Industry Experience Doesn’t Add Up to More Sales

It might seem surprising that industry experience is not that valuable – or can be detrimental – for a salesperson, but here’s why:

The Recycled Salesperson

Salespeople who float from company to company within an industry might be experts within that world but might not be truly adept at sales. After all, if they are so valuable, why do they move around? Why are they available? Are they worth the price you might have to pay, especially if they are prone to frequent moving?

The Pied Piper Doesn’t Exist

One reason business owners consider hiring a salesperson away from a competitor is the notion – the belief – that the salesperson will bring current customers along. This is seldom true. Customers are human; they don’t like change. When a sales rep leaves, that forces change upon the customer, but unless the customer is truly dissatisfied with the salesperson’s product or service, they aren’t apt to follow the salesperson.

Same Old, Same Old

Salespeople with direct industry experience are expected to hit the ground running, providing speed-to-revenue while helping save on training expense. However, industry-experienced salespeople sometimes bring bad habits and be close-minded to innovative methods.

Your Industry Might Not be as Different as You Think

We hear this a lot: “My industry is different.” Really? Is the sales process truly all that different based on your industry’s products and services? Are the buyers in your field wired so differently they respond only to highly specialized industry-specific sales strategies and methods? Does your business need another expert in your product, services or industry; or does it simply need someone who is accomplished in driving new business in any industry? While industry knowledge is important, it is not usually the most important criteria in sales success. Rather, our licensed Sales Xceleration Advisors confirm that sales competency and a proven track record in achieving strategic sales goals top the list of desirable salesperson qualifications. Next in priority is how the salesperson fits in with your existing employee culture. And then comes industry experience. If the first two are missing, your sales effort will be in trouble regardless of your new salesperson’s industry experience.

Industry Knowledge Can be Acquired More Quickly than Sales Acumen

I’m not just saying this because I am a sales leadership professional; I say it because my experience – and the collective wisdom of our Sales Xceleration Advisors – bears this out: It can take 10 to 20 years to become truly great at sales; but most proficient salespeople can learn enough of the required industry knowledge in three to four months. What’s more, acclimation to your products and services typically goes hand-in-hand with your normal onboarding and orientation process anyway.

A Better Way for Hiring a Salesperson

What we’ve found in serving hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses with outsourced sales consulting services is that, when hiring a salesperson, it is best to expand your search from a talent pool to a talent ocean. Hire the best salesperson you can find. Period.

Indeed, superior sales skills are generally transferable from industry to industry. However, it is wise to look for a track record of sales success in achieving goals with the sales methodologies you are confident will help your company succeed. For example, if you need an inside sales professional, look for an inside sales superstar. If you need someone who can nurture prospects into customers over a long sales cycle, find someone with a history of success doing that. If you need a proven salesperson who can cover a multi-state territory, look beyond the borders of your industry.

Simply put, a top salesperson who consistently achieved over 100% of their quota has the skill set and discipline necessary to achieve those same results anywhere. Beyond this, top salespeople capable of switching their industry focus may bring fresh perspectives and creative approaches to expand your sales reach.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to hiring a salesperson, you need the best sales talent available, regardless of their industry background. Limiting your search to the “usual suspects” can destroy sales, upset your company culture, and threaten your company’s survival. Expanding your search beyond your industry can land you a superior sales professional with years of success honing their craft. Sales professionals who have sustained success across industry borders not only have transferrable skills; they also possess the adaptability and flexibility necessary to get quickly up to speed and produce results in competitive markets.

To learn more about how Sales Xceleration can help you find and onboard superior sales talent, and establish sustainable sales programs, contact an Advisor today, or give us a call at 1.844.874.7253.