Who are the new sales reps?

Hiring new sales people

Companies traditionally look to hire sales reps from multiple sources. Some look to college new hires to fill a series of lower level inside sales and sales support positions prior to becoming “full fledged” account execs. Others seek out competitive hires providing them with totally different territories and/or tasks until non-compete agreements have matured.

A few look outside to other industries they believe have good sales people. For example, back in the 1980s and 1990s it was common to hear people say, “Xerox and IBM train the nation’s sales force.” While perhaps this isn’t as true today, we have witnessed this theme and interesting variations on it – like a medical device company looking to the CPG (consumer products industry) for new sales reps. When we asked two of its first line managers, why?, we heard “Because they know how to sell – we can teach them the science. It’s much harder the other way around.”

Recently we’re seeing companies seeking a different background when looking to fill major account executive positions. As the customer’s business problems have become more complex and the impact of those problems have had greater strategic, financial and operational consequences, companies are revising their hiring profile. Many companies are placing a greater emphasis on hiring candidates they believe bring problem solving skills to the position – and later training them on sales skills.

This strategy is worth considering. The approach does, however, have implications for those who are designing what the on-boarding sales training curriculum should look like. Other required knowledge sets worthy of additional time devoted to them: market knowledge, business economics, the buying processes of the customer base, competitive insights, and product knowledge. In addition, more care needs to be extended to training in the fundamentals of consultative selling.

Check out other posts on sales effectiveness at the Sales Training Connection. 

©2011 Sales Horizons,™ LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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2 Responses to Who are the new sales reps?

  1. Interesting perspective on the evolution of the salesforce!

    • Richard Ruff says:

      Thanks for the comment, Gordon.

      One of the specifics around more emphasis on problem solving skills is training the sales team to have business conversations that move beyond the traditional “discovery” narrative. The additional training helps the sales rep to have conversations that are in fact “point of view” discussions with the customers – that is helping the customer to learn something new about a problem they didn’t even know they had. This type of conversion can have particularly high impact when you are talking with senior level people who more and more are a big piece of the success puzzle.


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