Beware of The Sales Experience Trap

by Chris Young - The Rainmaker

Show me two salespeople...

Show me two salespeople with seemingly the same required two years of sales experience on paper and it is very likely that one will be far more qualified than the other.

Two salespeople with seemingly the same experience.

I recently looked up an old graduate school buddy on LinkedIn. After graduate school we both began working for the same company. His LI profile shows the very same two years of working for the same company. ThinkstockPhotos-488874360-1.jpg

On paper, my friend appears to have the very same experience I have.

But he doesn't.

My first assignment with this particular company was exciting and challenging. I worked under a regional sales manager who was legendary in his creativity, calculated risk-taking and success. As a result, I not only observed a master at his craft, I learned to do what he did. What I learned shaped the rest of my career. 

My friend, on the other hand... Let's just say the Ferrari never left the garage.

Two salespeople with the very same two years on paper with the same company. One had much better-developed competencies than the other.


Focus on competency development, not years of experience. tweet-graphic-1.png

Competency development is far, far more predictive than years of experience. Yet so few seem to focus on it during the application and interview process.


Companies with a reputation of developing their salespeople get cherry-picked.

Every industry has a company or two that recruiters focus their efforts on.

These companies usually have the following in common:

  1. They have a rigid sales hiring program that usually includes solid sales personality testing.
  2. They develop their salespeople.
  3. They expect results.

Naturally you will pursue sales candidates from these companies. It is the easy strategy.

I recommend layering an additional strategy that will yield solid candidates who are not necessarily being pursued and bulled-up by multiple companies. 

You just have to... 



Dig into the prior work history of each sales candidate to understand the comptencies gained in each sales role. What did the sales candidate do in each sales role that supports the competencies you require?

Ask your candidates to share war stories that involve the entire sales cycle as well as how they were managed.  


The one thing that is JUST AS IMPORTANT as prior sales experience.

Job fit.

The only way you are going to truly know if a particular sales candidate fits the sales role is to objectively measure their Behaviors, Motivators, Acumen and Competencies.

Sales Personality Aptitude Test Sample Assessment