The Recruitment Dilemma: Sales Experience vs Sales Training

4 Minutes

Discover the value of sales training & experience in hiring decisions. Learn how to nurture skills & competencies for a robust sales team.

It’s an age-old question when it comes to hiring: you’ve got several candidates to choose from, with some boasting years of relevant experience in the field and others lacking the career history but possessing attitude, enthusiasm, and soft skills. Whilst a track record and references can often be a safe bet, candidates from a sales training background can be valuable assets—especially if they bring critical skills like problem-solving, commercial understanding, and solid communication abilities.

As always, the best recruitment strategy is to stay open-minded. But what are the different benefits of sales training, how do they compare to experience, and why are both necessary for a robust workforce?

If you're interested in learning more about how you can nurture your employees’ skills and competencies after you’ve finished reading this piece, check out our guide on Realising the Potential of Emerging Talent for more insight into the benefits of training.

Hiring for Sales Training or Sales Experience?

Both experience and training in sales are valuable. Often, your hiring preference will be dictated by the urgency of your requirements. If you’re struggling for time already, it’s likely that you’ll want a candidate with sales experience, since they’ll get up-to-speed with internal processes quickly, whereas if you have the time and resources to nurture a candidate from a sales training background, you can often benefit from being able to mold them into the perfect salesperson for your business.

The Benefits of Sales Training

One of the significant benefits of upskilling a recruit is that you’ll know exactly what their training has covered: 

  • Tailored training. As something of a blank canvas, you can hone their soft skills and encourage them to discover a productive niche within your business. 

  • Openness to learning new techniques. Hiring candidates with sales training means that they’re likely to be flexible and ambitious to learn and enhance their sales skills.

  • Less expensive. Recruiting for training rather than experience can be cheaper, since experienced sales professionals will command higher salaries.

It may require a programme in account management, customer service or sales, but whatever learning you give them, you’ll know those new skills have been hand-picked to meet your business needs.

The Benefits of Sales Experience

Whilst it can be wise to temper expectations at the recruitment stage when looking to hire a candidate with experience, here are benefits to hiring a candidate with a track record of high performance: 

  • Immediate results. Hiring an experienced sales professional can be helpful when businesses want their new employees to become profitable quickly, given that they will likely have established contacts in prior roles.

  • Reduced time to train. If a company is low on the resources to train recruits, they’ll often seek out candidates with sales experience since they require less time to get up-to-speed with internal processes. 

  • Lower risk. With the expense of a poor hire reaching as high as 30%, recruiting an experienced candidate reduces the chance of being unable to meet sales goals.

Understandably, interviewees will want to “talk up” their experience to correspond with your business needs. A clear and robust approach to interviewing is essential, since it will help ensure you hire the right candidate. Still, if you’re looking to scale up your activities or don’t have the time to dedicate to an early-career professional, it can be valuable to hire a professional with sales experience.

Why Both Are Vital

Candidates with a sales training background and experienced professionals are both necessary for business success. Sales team management is all about ensuring that you have the experience to recognise innovative ways to improve productivity and processes:

  • Fresh perspective. Candidates with training in the latest sales techniques bring new ideas and ambition to a company, meaning that they can suggest changes to processes that can help businesses to stay competitive.

  • A wealth of knowledge. On the other hand, a candidate with proven sales experience will bring their expertise in the field, established relationships, and insights on successful sales methods to an organisation, allowing organisations to make informed decisions.

  • Balance is important. Whilst experienced professionals will have established contacts and a history of rapport with customers, candidates with sales training may be more analytical and>A team comprising trained and experienced staff can leverage the different strengths and perspectives that both bring.

    Sales Performance Management: How to Measure Crucial Competencies

    When a team is made up of experienced and early-career professionals, it’s important to know what metrics you’re tracking to set goals and objectives and ensure all employees are aligned. Whether you’re measuring objectives and key results (OKRs) or KPIs, having a>Sales performance management allows you to recognise areas for improvement and implement an ongoing plan to ensure your salespeople can take advantage of the latest techniques and technologies. Whether this is done through sales training or mentorship, it’s vital that your employees can improve their skills and perform at their best. 

    Measuring Technical Skills

    By tracking your employees’ on-the-job performance, you can determine how well they apply their technical skills in the sales environment. This can be achieved through collecting data on several areas, such as: 

    • Average deal size. Understanding the average value of a sale made by an employee can help you to identify your experts in cross-selling and upselling.

    • Conversion rates. These metrics measure the number of leads or prospects converted into customers, giving valuable insight into employees’ ability to close deals. 

    • Customer satisfaction scores. This metric is crucial to customer retention, and provides an understanding of how effective your salespeople are at building rapport and identifying opportunities to improve customer loyalty.

    • Sales volume. Measuring the total value of sales generated by an employee over a specific period can help to form an overall picture of their performance and progress towards targets.

    This data can help managers to recognise areas for improvement, and build a business case for training resources.

    Measuring Soft Skills

    Building a well-balanced sales team means that organisations consider what it takes to be a salesperson—often, some of the most important traits are actually soft skills. It’s essential to measure and nurture these skills in not only early-career sales professionals, but experienced ones too. 

    Measuring soft skills often begins in the interview environment: 

    • Behavioural interviews. Since communication skills should be at the top of your list when recruiting sales professionals, it’s important to ask candidates open-ended questions that require them to offer examples of how well they have demonstrated their soft skills in prior roles.

    • Personality assessments. These can evaluate traits such as emotional intelligence and leadership qualities, giving managers insight into how they’re likely to handle certain situations.

    However, it’s also important to continue measuring and improving soft skills after the hire has been made: 

    • Coaching and feedback. Providing early-career and experienced professionals with coaching and mentorship, helping to develop strategies to improve soft skills and enhance customer interactions. 

    • Observation. Observing team meetings and interactions might not produce statistics, but it will allow you to gather valuable qualitative data on your workforce’s ability to communicate, collaborate, and solve problems.

    Soft skills are similarly critical when it comes to leadership potential. An aptitude for these soft skills can be honed relatively quickly when using the right tools and approach to training.


    When Should You Use Sales Training?

    Whether you’re recruiting or not, most employees will benefit from sales and leadership training. A well-designed sales training course will equip professionals with the necessary skills to impact all business operations. Ensuring that learning and development opportunities are in place is crucial to effective sales team management. 

    If senior staff are looking to become more confident in working with and coaching underperformers, most sales training providers can provide bespoke courses of study backed up by practical experience in the workplace. For example, such a course might focus on setting KPIs or OKRs, which help to make results measurable and consistent. 

    Other leaders may be interested in learning how best to motivate and inspire a diverse team of sales professionals to perform at their best, helping to improve career mobility and drive internal talent retention. 

    Quality training can help anyone in the sales environment to work more strategically and to focus on long-term gains rather than short-lived wins. In addition, effectively preparing early-career sales staff to step into customer-facing roles and make a positive impact is vital to ensuring business success. 

    Whether you go for an experienced candidate or one with a sales training background, enhancing your workforce's skills is always a prudent investment.

    Partner with Our Sales Training Experts

    With over 120,000 professionals trained, Pareto’s sales training courses are tailored to give your employees the skills and knowledge they need to drive your continued success. Our consultants have been helping sales staff to discover new techniques and supporting businesses to retain their talent through bespoke in-person and virtual learning opportunities for over 25 years. Contact us to explore how our professionally-accredited sales training in London, Manchester, Leeds, and Nottingham, as well as via our innovative e-learning platform, can help your team realise their potential. 

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