Why Selling Skills Are Often More Important than Industry/Product Experience

There’s an interesting trend I’ve noticed in the sales world recently. Often, the hiring decisions of companies are based more on a sales candidate’s industry/product experience rather than their actual selling skills. This is understandable to a point, but I’ve found that this isn’t always the best approach. In fact, it can be quite detrimental. 


Because companies often pass up on many great salespeople with transferable experience because they’re so blindly focused on industry/product experience and not selling skills. And that’s exactly what I want to discuss for this blog post — why you should go after salespeople with amazing selling skills over those who just have a lot of experience. 

Let’s jump right in. 

Employer Hiring Preference

To gain a better perspective on this phenomenon, let’s take a look at data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2017 survey. They found that nearly two-thirds (64.5%) of employers “prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience.”

However, only a fraction of employers (5.1%) said that experience wasn’t a major factor in their hiring decisions. 

Although this particular survey applies specifically to companies hiring recent college graduates that are new to the workforce, it does a great job of illustrating the collective mentality most companies have when forming their hiring preferences. This data shows that industry/product experience is often the number one thing companies look at when deciding which candidates to bring on board. 

And while it certainly doesn’t hurt to have industry/product experience, you shouldn’t overlook top tier candidates who possess next level selling skills just because they don’t have the same level of experience. That’s a huge mistake and one I feel holds many of today’s companies back.

An Example

Let’s say there are two candidates for a sales position. Candidate A has been in your industry for 10 years and knows your product inside and out. They’ve got a wealth of experience on industry history, trends, product features, benefits, and so on. However, their actual sales performance is pretty mediocre. They’re okay at what they do but have never been at the top of the totem pole. 

Candidate A is a “safe bet,” and you know for a fact that they’re an industry expert. That said, there’s nothing overly remarkable about them. 

Candidate B is brand new to your industry and only knows the basics of your product. They’re still learning the ropes and don’t quite have a full understanding of your offerings, product features, and benefits, but they’ve got a proven track record of sales success. They’re a complete rockstar and have consistently performed at a high level in all of the other companies they’ve worked for. 

Person B gets results, but in terms of industry/product experience, they simply haven’t had the time to gain the knowledge that Candidate A has. 

Conventional hiring wisdom would say that you would choose Person A because they have more experience. But often the wrong move for one main reason. 

It’s Easier to Train on Products Than it is Selling Skills

Let’s be brutally honest. Selling is hard, and quite frankly, not very many people are good at it — let alone great. It takes a very distinct skill set that only a small percentage of people are truly cut out for. The underlying sales processes, psychology, strategies can be learned — sure — but those that truly thrive usually have the “it factor.” According to Sellect Sales Development, the “it factor” often involves things that can’t be formally learned like ambition, tenacity, initiative, and vigor.

And even with a boatload of experience, many reps fall short of expectations. One study even found, “Hiring experienced sales candidates will produce an unsatisfactory result as much as 80% of the time!” Training someone to sell comes with a lot of challenges, and there’s really only so much you can do, as much of it boils down to natural talent. 

Training someone on products, however, is pretty straightforward. As long as they’ve got the talent and know how to sell, their skills are transferable. So in time, they can learn your industry/product and leverage their abilities to flourish. 

While an average candidate with even the most in-depth knowledge will likely plateau, a rockstar candidate with only minimal industry/product experience has the potential for massive success. 

This is something that’s extremely important to keep in mind when developing your salesperson hiring strategy. You don’t want to lose out on making a potentially game changing hire just because someone doesn’t have xxxx product service/experience. Rather, you need to see the big picture and look at their overall value. As long as you have an efficient product training framework in place that quickly gets salespeople up to speed, the results should come as long as the talent is there. 

Adjusting Your Hiring Approach to Achieve the Best Results

Don’t get me wrong. Having industry/product experience is important. But you shouldn’t get so fixated on a sales candidate having prior experience that it gets in the way of hiring legit rockstars with less experience. 

At the end of the day, what’s most important is being able to sell. As long as a sales candidate can do that, the rest should fall into place. 

Looking to elevate your sales hiring using science-based assessments and intelligent matching? Check out HireDNA right now.

It leverages cutting-edge technology based on 21 core selling competencies and 20 key data points to find the best of the best sales candidates. And a staggering 92% of candidates recruited through HireDNA reach the top of the salesforce within their first year. 

Should You Recruit Salespeople from Competitors? The Pros and Cons.

When recruiting salespeople, the goal is always to find those that are the most talented and qualified — the best of the best, the cream of the crop. Often that means choosing between the pool of candidates that apply for a job posting. But other times, the true rockstars are already employed by the competition and aren’t even looking for a job. 

This raises an interesting question. Should you recruit salespeople from competitors? 

Let’s find out.

Why Passive Candidates Often Make the Best Salespeople 

Passive candidates are individuals who are currently employed but open to new career opportunities if they come along, as long as they meet the right criteria. For example, a passive candidate would potentially entertain an offer if they could earn more money, receive better benefits, have a more flexible schedule, and so on. 

These people aren’t always on a recruiter’s radar, but they definitely should be. 

“Passive candidates can offer a lot of value to your business, and they shouldn’t be ruled out just because they’re not actively searching for a job,” says Mike Kappel of Forbes. “In fact, they’re often the most valuable type of candidate.”

Just think about it. Who’s likely to be the better salesperson? One who has to apply to dozens of jobs and is low on the totem pole for consideration? Or, one who was headhunted by top companies across your industry and is gainfully employed?

The latter, of course. 

Not only would they have the right qualifications, they probably wouldn’t need much training to get up to speed. You’re essentially plugging them into your system, which means you shouldn’t have to do any of the “hand holding” that’s often required with conventional hires.  

And what’s interesting is that 75% of candidates considered themselves passive, with most willing to talk to a recruiter. In fact, only a small 15% of candidates are completely satisfied and don’t want to move. 

It should also be noted that younger generations of Millennials and Gen Zers have a significantly higher average churn rate than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, meaning they’re especially ripe for the picking. 

So, if the only candidates you’re considering are the ones that are applying with you, you’re likely missing out on A players that could bring immense value to your company. 

An Ethical Quandary 

With all that said, recruiting salespeople from competitors does have its downsides. Mainly, it creates a moral dilemma where “poaching,” as it’s sometimes called, can bring your brand integrity into question. 

If this is a strategy you use time and time again when assembling your sales team, it can potentially give you a bad rap. Those within your industry could potentially view your company as being unscrupulous and underhanded, which isn’t going to do your reputation any favors. And we all know how fast negative publicity can spread in today’s social media age. 

Other Issues

You also have to consider the legal implications. “Very few job applicants for key positions show up without any competition restrictions,” explains attorney Oberman Thompson. So, making the wrong move could result in costly litigation and all of the headaches that come along with it. 

That’s why you need to “know the issues in advance, and address them — up front,” Thompson adds. One of the first things you should ask a candidate you’re seriously considering is whether or not they’re bound by a non-compete clause. If not, there shouldn’t be any major obstacles in the way, and you can pursue them unencumbered. 

Besides that, you could also make the argument that recruiting a salesperson from a competitor while they’re already hired means their loyalty is questionable. “Common sense will tell an employer that if a sales representative is willing to break an agreement with a past employer, it is more than likely that the employee will repeat their action,” writes Ken Sundheim of Forbes. “This behavior does not exist in a vacuum.”

In turn, they could potentially be snatched away from you by a different competitor whenever the slightest hint of a better offer comes around. In other words, you could “get a taste of your own medicine” in certain situations.

The Pros and Cons of Recruiting Salespeople from Competitors

At this point, you should have a pretty good overview of this tactic as a recruiting move. But to ensure that you see the full picture, here’s a list of the pros and cons. 

The Pros

  • Salespeople who are already hired are often highly skilled and talented
  • They usually don’t require as much training as salespeople you hire through a traditional job ad
  • Most candidates are willing to talk, and only 15% don’t want to move from the current position they’re in 
  • These candidates may have valuable connections you can leverage to find even more top talent

The Cons

  • If done inappropriately, it can potentially hurt your reputation
  • In many cases, there are legal issues you have to deal with
  • If handled incorrectly, it can potentially lead to lawsuits
  • Salespeople who are recruited this way may be more likely to “jump ship” later on if wooed by another competitor

A Recruiting Strategy to at Least Consider

Trying to recruit salespeople from competitors is something that runs through most organization’s minds at some point. After all, it’s hard to do better than a key competitor’s best rep. There are solid arguments both for and against this strategy. But at the end of the day, it’s clear that it definitely can work as long as you do things the right way and don’t overstep your boundaries. 

Want to take your recruiting to the next level and hire better sales talent, faster? See how HireDNA can help you source top talent from a verified national network of sales recruitment experts. 

Attract the Best and Brightest Salespeople By Offering These 10 Benefits

There are numerous factors that go into attracting top salespeople. Compensation, advancement opportunities, and company culture are often some of the first things that come to mind. 

But benefits have become a major factor as well. “In today’s hiring market, companies have to fork out more and more to create benefits packages that both attract and retain talent,” writes Kerry Jones, marketing director at Fractl, a growth marketing firm. 

The question is, which specific benefits should you offer? 

What the Data Says

Fractl performed a comprehensive survey that asked 2,000 people which benefits out of a list of 17 were most important to them. Here are the most valued benefits according to the data.

What we want to focus on here is the top 10 benefits so you’ll know which ones to prioritize. They are as follows. 

  1. Health, Dental, and Vision Insurance

Unsurprisingly, this is the number one benefit — something that’s primarily due to the rising cost of healthcare. Just look at how the total national health expenditures have increased between 1988 and 2018. 

It’s becoming a bigger and bigger challenge for Americans to keep up with rising healthcare costs, so offering fully paid healthcare to salespeople can be a game changer for attracting top tier talent. This is no doubt one of the most expensive benefits, averaging $11,394 for a base salary of $60,000… 

…but it can be well worth it when you consider the competitive edge it can give you. For a rundown on offering health insurance to employees, check out this guide from Gusto

  1. More Flexible Hours

This came in just behind health, dental, and vision insurance at number two on the list. 

“Steering away from a traditional 9-to-5 workplace structure that dictates the whereabouts of an employee, moving toward a modern workplace model that improves satisfaction and productivity, is ideal in today’s job climate,” says Joshua Stowers of Business News Daily

Giving salespeople more say over their schedule and allowing them to balance their professional and personal lives can be instrumental in attracting the best and the brightest talent. 

  1. More Vacation Time

Not far behind health insurance and more flexible hours is more vacation time. Here’s how much paid vacation the average salesperson receives according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you can go beyond that, your company instantly becomes more attractive to elite salespeople.

  1. Work-From-Home Options

Being able to work remotely at least part of the time has been an attractive benefit for a while. But with COVID turning the world on its head, it’s pretty much a must for businesses nowadays. 

There’s never been a more important time to invest in technology that allows your salespeople to work-from-home than the present. To learn how to help your team make the shift to remote processes for talent acquisition, check out this previous post we wrote

  1. Unlimited Vacation

At first glance, this benefit may sound a little crazy, but it’s really catching on as of late. “Although the perk is far from widespread,” says Kerry Jones, “unlimited paid time off has been adopted by a growing number of organizations” with some of the most notable being Netflix and LinkedIn. 

When done right, it can offer multiple advantages, including a healthier work-life balance, more time for salespeople to recharge, and a deeper sense of trust between you and your team.

  1. Student Loan Assistance 

In 2020, the average student loan debt was $30,062, which is more than a $6,250 increase from what it was in 2010. 

So it’s no wonder that student loan assistance clocks in at number six of the top 10 benefits. This is a perk that more and more companies are offering, including Chegg, Estee Lauder, and First Republic.

  1. Tuition Assistance

And for younger salespeople who are still finishing their education, tuition assistance can be an extremely enticing benefit — especially for those attending private institutions, which have an average tuition cost of over $35,000 per year. 

  1. Paid Parental Leave

“The United States is one of only two countries in the world that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave to its workers,” notes Kerry Jones. “However, this benefit is important to employees.”

In fact, 26% of salespeople reported that they’ve switched jobs specifically for family benefits. Offering paid parental leave can put your company at the top of the list for ultra talented salespeople that are family focused.

  1. Free Gym Membership

Lower on this list but still important is a free gym membership. We’re living in a day and age where people are becoming more conscious of their personal health. So, being able to stay in shape by going to the gym — something that costs nearly $700 a year — can definitely be enticing. 

While interest has obviously waned post-COVID, it’s likely to pick up again in the near future. 

  1. Free Day Care Services 

Finally, there’s free day care. In 2019, about 40% of US households had children under the age of 18, which makes this attractive to a good chunk of salespeople. And with all of the complications that have arisen with child care due to COVID, this can be a major selling point for those with young children. 

Make Your Company a Top Contender

The success and longevity of your company relies heavily upon the quality of your salespeople. And one of the most effective ways to attract the best and the brightest is by offering the right benefits. 

The list above zeroes in on the 10 most popular according to reliable data so you’ll know exactly which benefits to prioritize moving forward. 

Learn how HireDNA can help you take your recruiting and hiring to the next level. See how it allows you to source top talent and use intelligent matching and science-based assessments to find elite salespeople in your industry. 

Book your live demo today

Use This Simple Hack to Drive Massive Leads to Your Demo Video

A demo video, which succinctly breaks down how a product works, its features, and benefits, has become a powerful tool for winning over leads. Research has found that roughly 80% of leads find demo videos helpful, and those “who view demo videos are 1.81 times more likely to make a purchase than non-viewers.”

But in order to have maximum impact, you need to consistently drive a high volume of leads to your demo video. Here’s an ultra simple hack that will help you do just that, along with a real-life example, advice on how to choose the right keywords, and tips on how to promote your demo video. 

Place Your Demo Video on Your Website and on YouTube

Whenever you create a demo video, you’ll obviously put it on your website so visitors can find it quickly and easily. That’s a no-brainer.

But as digital marketing consultant, Mike Sonders explains, you shouldn’t stop there. You’ll want to place it on your YouTube page as well. And if you don’t currently have a YouTube page, you’ll want to create one so prospects can find you through this massive channel that had two billion users worldwide as of 2020. 

“Having demo content on your website and on YouTube gives you a chance to own more real estate in search results, thereby giving you a better chance to own the narrative,” writes Sonders

And check it out. Besides your demo video appearing on YouTube (something that’s incredibly helpful in and of itself), it also increases the chances of it appearing in a high ranking position in Google search results. In fact, one study found that 8 out of 10 of the Google video results come from YouTube, meaning it clearly has far more “SEO juice” than any other video platform. 

So, by placing your demo video on your website as well as YouTube, you can get targeted leads from your website, YouTube, and Google.

In turn, this allows you to cast a wider net without putting forth a lot of extra effort. And if you haven’t gotten around to creating a YouTube channel up until this point, it’s the perfect way to segue into this massively powerful medium. 

A Real-Life Example

Xero is an online accounting software that specifically caters to small and mid-sized businesses. They have a strong online presence and are active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and of course, YouTube. 

They’re also the perfect example of a brand that’s used this strategy to pull in a ton of qualified leads. To do this, they’ve created multiple demo videos that go after targeted keywords like:

  • “Xero demo”
  • “Xero app demo”
  • “Xero accounting app demo”
  • “Xero software”
  • “Xero accounting software”

For example, here’s what pops up when you search for “Xero demo.”

Notice how YouTube features these two videos — one for Xero’s product demo and one for their accounting app demo — front and center. 

So, besides being able to find a product demo on Xero’s website…

…prospects can also find them in YouTube search results as well as Google search results. 

Bear in mind that Xero has multiple demos, but this technique works equally as well with just one. 

This makes it a surefire way to expand your reach without having to invest a lot of time and energy. It’s really just a matter of posting the same demo video that you already have on your website to YouTube and following best practices, which brings us to our next point. 

How to Choose the Right Keywords

Don’t overthink it when picking the keywords to go after when uploading on YouTube. Mike Sonders recommends giving it a straightforward title with the go-to simply being “[brand] demo.” 

Besides using those keywords in the title, SEO expert Brian Dean suggests also placing them in the description…

…and in the video tags. 

Doing so should signal to YouTube and Google what the content of your video is about without sound spammy. Dean also recommends including the keyword in the first 25 words of your description and making the description at least 250 words long. 

Promoting Your Demo Video on YouTube

There’s one last thing to point out. How far your video climbs the rankings on YouTube and Google correlates with how many views it gets. So, you need to have an effective means of promoting your demo video on YouTube — something that creates a positive cycle and brings in even more views. 

Some simple ways to do that, according to Dean, include:

  • Placing a link to the YouTube video in your email signature
  • Linking to it in relevant posts on your blog
  • Mentioning it on Q&A sites like Quora

For a full overview of best practices, I suggest reading Dean’s comprehensive guide on how to rank YouTube videos. It’s super helpful. 

A Simple Hack Can Equal Massive Leads

A demo video is without a doubt one of the best ways to concisely explain the ins and outs of your product and what your unique value proposition is. And it’s especially important if your product is complex and can’t be fully understood with basic sales copy. 

Rather than generating leads from just your website, the simple hack of uploading your demo video to YouTube can help you generate dramatically more leads from YouTube as well as Google search results. 

It just boils down to choosing the right keywords and effectively promoting the video.

Looking to build a high-level sales team? See how HireDNA can help you find and hire the best and brightest reps using intelligent matching and science-based assessments. 

Get your demo today