When you hire salespeople, you probably look first and foremost for experience in your industry, product knowledge, and a strong background in sales. After all, history repeats itself, right?

But do you seriously believe that the best salespeople are always the ones with the most years of experience? If not, then why is experience your No. 1 criterion for hiring new salespeople?

If you think about it, the answer has to be that on a fundamental level, you lack faith in sales training. You don’t believe that sales training can build excellent sales skills in ordinary people. And if sales skills can’t really be taught, then you need to hire for them.

Well, how is your batting average with that approach? I’m guessing not so hot.

Here is some good news: Great sales training really can reliably produce great salespeople. That fact has implications for your hiring process. And they are downright revolutionary.

Sales training based on the Action Selling system, for instance, produces dramatic, measurable improvements in the performance of sales rookies and veterans alike.

In other words, with the right sales training, you really can teach people how to sell. Since that is true, you don’t necessarily need to hire for experience. You are free to hire for more important qualities. Even greatness.

Hire for qualities you can’t teach

Hiring for experience isn’t bad or dumb, but it’s a long way from foolproof. And there is a rule of hiring that outweighs all others: Hire for the qualities you can’t teach.

Since great sales training allows you to teach great sales skills, factors like product knowledge and years of experience may be getting too much weight in your hiring decisions. If I know for sure that I can teach people how to sell, and how to do it at an outstanding performance level, then I can give more weight to factors I can’t teach. For instance, I can surround myself with people who are smart, who communicate well, and who have a strong desire to succeed. If they already have some of the skills and experience I want, then that becomes a plus. But sales experience need no longer be my primary criterion.

One Action Selling client who arrived at this insight says that the No. 1 thing he now looks for in job candidates is the “desire to be great at something.”  If that were my top hiring criterion, what kinds of questions might I ask job candidates? How about these:

    • Can you give me an example from your past where you truly excelled at a task that was assigned to you?
    • When you were given this task, what were the initial performance expectations? How did your actual performance differ from those initial expectations?
    • What obstacles did you have to overcome?
    • What was it that motivated you to deal with the obstacles and to outperform the expectations?

With great sales training covering your back in the sales-skills department, you can afford the luxury of a hiring process that aims to surround you with great people. Why would you not take advantage?

For information about how to improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).