J Patrick + Associates Blog

How Important Is Prior Experience In A Sales Rep?

Posted by Alysa Wishingrad on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 @ 11:00 AM

Importance of prior experience as a sales representative


In sales, like in most sectors, the prevailing wisdom is that experience, appropriate training and credentials are the three most important things to look for in a new hire. (for more on best practices for a new hire, read here) But just because wisdom has prevailed, does that make it right?

Let’s dive deeper and discuss if prior sales experience is really the most important thing to look for when recruiting sales Reps.


What Does Prior Experience Look Like?

When tasked with filling an open desk on their team, many hiring managers do what they were trained to do: they open up the playbook and run down a list of qualifications

  • Knowledge of, and experience in, selling in the sector
  • Robust customer base
  • Sales methodology
  • Sales assessments
  • Psychometric analysis

While all of these are important metrics to consider, they simply don’t represent the whole picture. Regardless of prior training or experience, all great salespeople embody the following traits:


Good Listener

First and foremost, salespeople are educators. Their primary goal is to find out their customer’s pain points than to instill faith and confidence that they can help find a solution. And the only way to achieve these goals is to be a good listener, to have the patience and agility of mind to listen for real needs.

You’ll find those good listeners are hard to come by and that not all sales reps have the ability to drill down and help prospects articulate their true pain points. Part therapist and part guide, people with this kind of talent are primed for a successful career in sales.



Speaking of agility, sales requires the ability to shift gears mid-stream. If a pitch isn’t going in the anticipated direction after 2 minutes or so, the successful salesperson knows they have to try another way around. Not everyone has the ability to think fast or know how to read a situation well enough to know what is called for. This is a particular kind of talent, and if you can find it in a candidate with little or no prior experience, you’d be smart to grab them and train them up.



If sales require one thing, it’s diligence. Successful sales reps are people who know that taking pride in their work, as well as finding a way to stay organized and efficient paves the path to success. It’s a hard knock life, but they know that rewards are waiting on the other end.

Again, this isn’t a character trait you can teach -- some people have it, and some don’t. All the training in a specific sales methodology can’t replace passion and drive.



Someone who is self-motivated and able to take matters into their own hands is a natural born salesperson. If there’s a job to be done, they are going to find the way to do it. If there is a problem they will keep digging until they find a solution. And when they encounter road-blocks, they are able to give themselves the much-needed pat on the back to keep moving forward.

Imagine if your entire sales team was this motivated? Well, they can be, especially if you are willing to look past prior experience when interviewing.



Resilience is born of experience. You want candidates who have encountered disappointments, but who have been able to move forward and find a new way through. And once again, those experiences don’t necessarily have to have been in your sector, or even in sales. What matters here is the innate ability to recover from disappointment, and negotiate obstacles. You might call it a thick skin, but what it really is a strong belief that there is always another way to solve a problem.



Sales require agility of thinking, and the ability to pivot when a pitch isn’t working. A sales rep who is too invested in “how it should be done” or is married to a particular sales methodology is someone who's had the ability to think on their feet trained out of them. You want sales reps on your team who are open to new ways of doing things, and who are able to implement creative solutions. Just as nothing in sales is ever done until it’s done, your team’s mindsets must remain flexible and open.

Thinking beyond past experience and metrics can lead you to some of the best prospects for your sales team -- keep your eyes and mind open to look for those candidates who, while they may not have the experience you’re looking for, have the heart and soul of a salesperson.


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Tags: Hiring for Sales

How To Build A Winning Sales Team: Look to the Olympics for Inspiration

Posted by Alysa Wishingrad on Mon, Aug 08, 2016 @ 11:00 AM

 How to build a Winning Sales Team

A winning Olympic team is not so different from a winning sales team -- well, aside from the whole medal and international fame angle. What it takes to build a team of dedicated, talented and motivated individuals is the same whether we’re talking sports, IT or AV solutions. While your team’s top-grossing salesperson is never going to wind up on a box of Wheaties, they are going to rise to fame within your company. And just like the coach training star athletes, a great sales manager also has to build and train their team.

Here’s how a great sales manager is like an Olympic coach.

They Build a Diverse Team

Just as a good swim coach understands that a team made up entirely of freestyle swimmers will not win the most medals in the games, so too, the smart sales manager knows that a diverse talent pool makes for the most wins. 

While top salespeople may share some fundamental skills or abilities, a team made of salespeople with the same strengths and weaknesses does not make for the highest sales numbers. Different clients may require different sales styles, just as different products may too. You need the closer who can work with your larger, more corporate clients, and the “finesser” who knows how to nudge a new customer toward a close.

Just as athletes need to stretch and grow, so too do salespeople -- make sure you’re making room for your team to get new training, face new challenges and keep pushing the limits of their reach and ability.

They Know It’s A Mental Game

An Olympic level coach knows how to read their athletes, and understands what it takes to make each individual perform at their best. Some members of the team may need loud music to pump themselves up before the game begins, while others need a quiet place to find their focus. The smart coach makes room for both team members to get what they need. And they also make room for failure; there is no such thing as success without trial, error, and mistakes.

This couldn’t be more true for salespeople. Not every call is going to result in a win, not every deal is going to close. There will be winning streaks, and there will be times when it’s hard to get a spark lit. Winning sales managers understand they have to create an environment that fosters resilience, where each salesperson gets the supports, training, and kind of incentive that keeps them pushing through the tough times.

They Know that Teamwork is Important Even in an Individual Sport

Just as the 200-yard dash might be an individual event, even Usain Bolt’s chances of reigning dominant diminish without a strong team to support him. Sales may be an individual sport, but even a top-grossing sales star cannot reach those heights without the support and dedication of the entire team.

They Understand the Transformative Power of Failure

The best sales managers are the best because they know that failure isn’t measured by deals not closed, but opportunities for growth not taken. And in fact, I’d argue that the very best managers of any stripe are the ones who are willing to share the stories of their loses, who don’t pretend they’ve always been exactly where they are in their careers. There are studies, after studies, after studies on the power of failure -- you need not look further than silicon valley to know how so-called failures or losses can lead to transformative innovations.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Even the kid born with innate ability or talent needs coaching and an incredibly high number of repetitions to hone their abilities. Michael Phelps might have been born with the wingspan of a champion, he might even have the focus and passion to win buried deep in his DNA, but he would never have made his first Olympic team if he didn’t have the drive to keep practicing and honing his skills.

None of this is to suggest that you going to be hiring salespeople who solely are athletes, already experienced in sales or have proven track records, but you are looking to hire people who are driven and are committed to honing their skills.

Providing your team with ongoing training, holding sales competitions, and constantly raising the bar on performance and outreach all help to build a better, stronger team.

They Know A Win Isn’t the End Of The Game

Just as the US Women’s Soccer Team knows that past glory in the World Cup doesn’t insure how they’ll perform in the future, a sales team is always building on success. It might be tempting to rest on the laurels of a hot quarter, but taking those wins and pushing for a banner year is what makes a sales team truly successful. The constant drive to improve is a mindset that needs to be encouraged, fostered and rewarded.

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J. Patrick & Associates is an Executive Recruiting firm that focuses on Executive Management, Sales, Marketing and Technical roles within Information Technology markets. We have over 20 years of experience recruiting in every aspect of AV/VTC/UC, Application, Storage, Information/Network Security, Mobile Technologies and Telecommunications.

Tags: HR and Hiring, Hiring for Sales, sales