Is Industry Specific Experience Crucial When Hiring Sales Reps?

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Relevant experience is a common requirement in “help wanted” advertisements, but when it comes to sales, what specifically qualifies as relevant?

Perhaps even more important, why do companies so covet experienced salespeople? In the right circumstances and for the right position, there are often times  compelling reasons to consider applicants with little or even no familiarity with your specific product or industry but with perhaps a history of success in selling a different product or service. In many situations, these are candidates that should not be overlooked.

In addition, occasionally there are candidates that are new to the job market or are coming from a different position outside of sales, but who exhibit such strong intrinsic motivators, that it makes sense to evaluate their candidacy. These unique individuals that are virtually hardwired to be successful at selling can be identified by utilizing some of the amazing profiling tools readily available. We recommend   Predictive Group   as a tremendous resource to be able to target individuals whose innate abilities strongly position them to be highly successful in a selling role.

Here are some situations where it may make sense to widen the candidate pool by looking at candidates that do not necessarily have existing industry specific sales experience:


  • Your company is a training powerhouse. A strong training program allows firms to mold new salespeople in the firm’s image. They become part of the company brand. Experienced sellers, on the other hand, already have been exposed to at least one prior business culture and may have learned bad habits that potentially may be hard to break.
  •  It should be noted that these types of organizations enjoy a tremendous advantage over their competitors, because having the ability to TRAIN  gives them the ability to fish from a substantially larger pool of potential candidates. Not having to limit themselves to candidates that have industry specific experience,  but being able to look at the top 10% of all sales people in any geographic area, knowing that they can train them to their product or services, opens up a plethora of options that companies that do not have the confidence in their training ability simply do not enjoy.    



    • The candidate has proven ability.If your candidate has a proven track record of success within the geographic territory or a related industry, she has demonstrated her ability to create and nurture relationships that will pay off quickly in her new position. Having pre-existing relationships with decision makers is often times much more valuable than experience selling a specific product or service. Knowing how to navigate  a key accounts procurement process, and how to get in front of the right people, is essential to closing the deal. Does it make sense to pass her over just because she has no “relative experience” with your exact product or sector? The answer,  quite frankly, is no.
    • Superstar salespeople possess a je ne sais quoi that transcends industries. Personality, drive, and a willingness to learn often are more relevant considerations than where or what the candidate sold in previous jobs.
      • The candidate is a fit for the environment. Prior success can be readily discounted if it was achieved in a situation vastly different from yours. Results achieved in a high-pressure, inside sales position,   for instance, may not translate to success in a job that requires cold calling or lengthy sales cycles. Highly regulated corporate cultures that are mired in red tapes attract certain types of individuals that inherently do not do well in more relaxed working environments, and vice versa. It is essential to look at a candidates previous working environment and how they were managed in their prior positions and how they responded to get a good feel to how they will produce in your position.


Carefully consider the specific selling duties the position requires, tailor the compensation package (salary, commission, or a combination) to match those goals, then determine whether and what type of experience is necessary for a candidate to thrive.

  • BONUS TIP: Making a point to look at the sign- in sheet of your targeted Client list when you sign in, and seeing who else is already calling on your accounts is a terrific way to get a list of other reps that are also calling on your accounts. For sales managers that want to add to or top grade  to their team, asking your current team to take a snap shot of the sign in sheet with their cell phone and send it to their favorite recruiter, ( or doing this yourself)  in order  to target those sales reps, is a smart way to cut to the front of the line, in order to target  candidates that have pre-existing relationships with your ideal clients.


International Search Consultants has had an award winning team of Sales Recruiters since 1999.


Please feel free to Contact ISC today to get a strong flow of quota busting sales pros delivered to your interview table to make your next quarters numbers break records!