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The Recruitment Dilemma: Sales Skills vs. Experience

It’s the age old question when it comes to recruiting talent; you’ve got a number of candidates to choose from, some boasting years of relevant experience in the field, others lighter on experience but strong on attitude, enthusiasm and with all the soft skills required to make a difference.

For many business leaders, experience will win over skills in the majority of cases. Individuals who have a proven track record and references behind them are more of a safe bet than someone who hasn’t managed to get as much under their belt. –However, it’s not always necessarily the case that this person will be the right person for the role you have available. The best recruitment strategy is to remain open minded. People without as much experience can still be valuable assets to your sales team, particularly if they possess the key soft skills you need; problem solving, commercial acumen and a strong ability to communicate and sell.

Here, we take a look at the value of weighing up whether to employ the person with years of experience or the candidate who excels in the interview, but who may need on the job training.


How Valuable are Sales Skills v Experience?

One of the major benefits of upskilling a new recruit is, of course, you’ll know exactly what their training has covered and as something of a blank canvas, you can hone those soft skills they have to mold them into the ideal employee for your business. It may be a programme that touches on account management, customer services, or sales skills, but whatever learning you give them, you’ll know those new skills have been hand-picked to meet your specific business needs.

The opposite can be true of the person with a CV packed with experience. It may describe years of valuable employment managing a team, generating new business, even successfully transforming an enterprise’s fortunes, but you’ll never know for sure what the different roles entailed. Understandably, candidates will ‘talk up’ experience to make it correspond to your needs and while they may end up an excellent match for your business, it’s wise to temper expectations at the recruitment stage.


Measuring Soft Skills

If you’re recruiting for a sales role, it’s also vital to give consideration to what it takes to be a sales person and what you want people to deliver. Some of the most important traits are actually soft skills.

Brilliant communication skills should be top of your list when recruiting. The capacity to listen properly and respond appropriately both within the team and in customer facing situations is an invaluable skill. The best candidates know that creating rapport, building trust and earning respect are the foundations on which a strong sales dynamic is built, while they will also have a good eye for closing a deal, negotiating, sales acumen and the ability to effectively solve problems.

Soft skills are also important when it comes to recruiting leaders. This is an area where skills v experience can most commonly rear its head. You’ll be faced with candidates who have been there and done it, up against those who want to step up and prove themselves. Often, it’ll be the case that you’ll see the potential in a person with very little concrete leadership experience. A basic aptitude for leadership can be honed relatively easily using the right training tools.


Should You Use Sales Training?

Whether you’re recruiting or not, most employees will benefit from sales and leadership training. Well-designed training courses will equip key individuals with skills that will have an impact across operations.

For example, senior staff may become confident in dealing with underperformers, in setting KPIs to make results measurable and consistent, or they may learn how best to inspire excellent work in different types of people. Quality training can help anyone in a leadership role work less reactively and more strategically, looking for long-term gains rather than short-lived wins, as well as effectively preparing sales staff to step into customer facing roles and make an impact from day one.

Whether you go for the experienced candidate or the one whose personality appeals, quality training from Pareto Law is always a prudent investment, and one that will pay dividends for years to come.


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