The trend over the last 20 years is to hire sales reps from your industry. Most VPs feel if they do this their ramp time is quicker. The hire can be more productive in a shorter amount of time.  Furthermore, with the quarterly number looming, they need sales quickly. They also don’t have to spend their precious time training them. These hires might even bring some clients over to your company.


This is short term thinking which will hurt long term results.


To make the situation worse, executive recruiters support industry hiring. Why? They earn commission when they place the sales person. Getting someone from the industry fills the opening quickly. This puts cash in their pockets sooner than later.


The question you need to ask yourself is simple: How do you determine if you should hire from the industry? Or go outside the industry?


Download our Sales Rep Sourcing Assessment. It will help you evaluate any limitations you might have when sourcing. You can then answer the above question for your situation and determine if you can look outside your industry to hire.


The overall answer to the simple question lies in the maturity of your sales force. Chaotic, unpredictable sales teams need to buy industry experience. They have no resources to train them properly. But it’s not about just training.   Sales teams that lack the 4 core processes below resort to only looking at industry hires. These companies all have:


  1. A Weak Sales Strategy
  2. No On-Boarding Program
  3. Poor Sales Leadership (yes, this means you)
  4. No Hiring Process


Let’s take a look at the four reasons why most Sales VPs are forced to hire industry-only people:


  1. Weak Sales Strategy: A Sales Strategy is the way the sales team interacts with a customer. Good Sales Strategy involves Segmentation, Lead Generation, and a Buyer-centric Sales Process. Most organizations only have parts.   Hiring from the industry buys you these components. Unfortunately, this experience is most likely bad. They’ve learned poor habits from your competitors. And now you have those bad habits. Fix your Sales Strategy first so you can determine who’s the best fit. You can then hire the best candidate for the role.


  1. No On-Boarding Program:  Getting a new sales rep onboarded to full productivity is hard work. It takes time, energy, and resources. With someone who knows nothing about your business, it’s even harder. The lazy way is to hire someone who knows the business.   They don’t need you as much during the first 90-180 days. But after that, a funny thing happens. You spend less time with them at the time they need you the most. The success of their onboarding will lead to their overall success working for you.


  1. Poor Sales Leadership: Coaching people is key to your success. Productivity can improve dramatically by coaching and developing sales people. An industry hire gives you an excuse not to coach. Why? You think it’s because they already know the business. Because they just need to learn your company processes. The truth is, everyone new needs to learn the company processes and culture. Non-industry people need more coaching. But, they will learn the industry the way you want.  And this is the way to learn it correctly.


  1. No Hiring Process: Having no documented, rigorous interviewing process leads to chaotic hiring. This means you rely on talent only to be successful. Each sales person on your team has different traits and characteristics. This makes it tough to duplicate. The easy way to hire is look inside the industry. Yet, the majority of sales teams who hire from inside the industry have a commonality. They have no hiring process tied to role competences and levels of accountability.


Call to Action:

  • Download the Sales Rep Sourcing Assessment: Gauge where you are currently, and create a Gap Analysis.
  • Prioritize Improving any Gaps: Make sure you concentrate on the fixing the 4 core strategies first.
  • Concern Yourself with Hiring the Best Candidate-the ‘A’ playerWhether they are from the industry or not, it gives you independence. You can build a virtual bench outside of your industry.


Our clients tells us some of the best candidates come from other industries. Don’t miss out on a great ‘A’ player. Look at all industries when sourcing/recruiting sales candidates. Making the number depends on it.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you have the right sales strategy to support your revenue growth goals? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate your Sales Strategy against SBI’s emerging best practices to find out if:


  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job




Robin Jones

Sources top executives for SBI and our clients.

Robin joined SBI as an Executive Recruiter, with a focus on sourcing and acquiring qualified professionals to join our team and those of our clients.

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