Unicorn in field Often times employers will approach Peak with a desire to hire sales people with very specific sales experience, who in theory will leverage this experience to produce superior sales. The approach makes a sense in theory and would be a convenient way to identify superior sales people but hiring based on experience seldom works in practice.

Looking for the Orange Striped Unicorn in China that Speaks Spanish
Many employers like to think if someone has perfect resume, then they will be the perfect sales person. As the theory goes, someone with the right industry experience, selling the exact same product to the right people will be able to quickly produce great sales results – and this may in fact be the case, but there are a couple of reasons why this approach is more likely to fail than succeed:

DNA – Behavioral traits play a larger role in the success of sales people than experience. By placing the largest emphasis on experience, a hiring manager is likely to be overlooking many highly capable sales people that are more likely to succeed than a person with the right resume.

Pool of Talent – by defining the qualifications so tightly, an employer is often vastly reducing the number of people that are eilligible, in many cases down to single digits even in larger geographies. For a variety of reasons, a very small talent pool becomes problematic (there may be no eligible AND available candidates, and/or the employer must pay a large premium due to scarcity)

Time – It is not impossible to find the person with the a highly specific combination of experiences, but it takes time. This usually means months and/or years of waiting until the right person becomes available, during which time sales are not being made. Meanwhile a competitor is making sales. An employer has to weight the opportunity cost of waiting for the perfect rep.

Finding a sales person that is the equivalent of an orange striped unicorn is sometimes possible, but it takes a considerable amount of time and effort, will likely require premium compensation, and often leads to a short circuit of the hiring process which in turn leads to an inferior sales hire.

 Settling- In many cases, an employer will begin searching for the perfect rep only to realize how long it takes and then, under the pressure to fill a vacant sales position, settle on someone who perhaps has some of the right experience, but lacks the right DNA or who has been poorly assessed and lacks even the right experiences. This is fixing a bad plan with a bad plan and a recipe for failure. Discipline in the hiring process is critical, so settling on a hire should not be an option unless the employer is settling on the right sales person for the right reasons.

Redefining Perfect- There are no perfect sales people. Even perennial overachievers have weaknesses, however they  typically share several important success traits such as an inner desire to succeed, competitiveness, confidence, sense of urgency, optimism, resilience and ability to interact and influence others.

Experience– Experience is in fact very important, but sales managers with a track record of success in hiring sales people, look for reps that have demonstrated the right behaviors and success working in similar environments (past relevant behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and success).

Putting it all Together
There is aways a balance between quality and time in sales recruiting and hiring. You need to get the right rep, but you also need someone on-board and selling as quickly as possible. By searching for the right DNA and relevant experience, and by focussing on someone that can do the job rather than someone with the right resume,  a sales hiring manager can increase their chances of quickly hiring a  sales person who will be a consistent over achiever.

To your success!


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick | freedigitalphotos.net


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

Contact us to speak directly with a
Peak representative

Privacy Policy & Terms of Use
Share This