Here is a question near and dear to my heart: "As a sales leader, would you hire from the new-college-graduate ranks for your B2B sales role?"
The answer to this question really depends on a variety of factors. But I would argue, never dismiss this potential pool of candidates for any B2B sales role you are looking to fill. We all want 3-10+ years of experience of sales experience selling a similar product into similar industries, market segments etc. But I would ask, do you want 5 years of experience selling your same product to the same industry, when the experience and success has been mediocre to poor, even though during your hiring process they convinced you it was stellar, or do you want a potential pure sales pro, who will learn your sales process, product and industry quickly and go on to become a superstar? I know what my answer will be!
The BEST sales person I ever hired came directly out of college. He has now gone onto several much larger sales management roles in a very large company selling and managing to very large accounts, with much success. At the time, I was managing a B2B effort in the SMB space for a large company. Our stringent requirements were 3+ years of sales success in the B2B space, but management was open-minded and encouraged all sorts of recruiting channels. I went after the colleges, and naturally, departing military officers!
When I found "Bob", he was graduating after having sold condo's for two years during his summers. He absolutely loved it. I know of another college grad who found his way directly into a successful sales career after having sold cemetery plots in college! "Bob" was smart, well-educated and hungry for a career in sales. He was after money and recognition. I brought him into our company hiring process and he quickly impressed.
"Bob" quickly impressed me out in the field, too. Extremely hard worker. Incredible ethics. Learned quickly. Despite his youthfulness, his energy, enthusiasm, persistence and newly-found sales skills were used to overcome almost all of his competitors. When other sales pro's in his group, years older and more "experienced", were having poor months, "Bob" was always there to deliver. Time and time again.
So I learned a lesson – don't dismiss the new-grad hiring pool. While doing so, keep in mind the following:
- Very few of us went through college aspiring to be a sales pro. When you find one, get him/her into your recruiting process!
- Be sure that your hiring process is exhaustive and demanding. My interviews for sales positions out of the military often included large-scale role plays and panel interviews.
- Look for schools and a transcript that has taught business acumen. The GPA does not matter. The best sales pro I know, who I didn't hire, left school with a 2.5 GPA, but his school is known for teaching incredible business acumen. He just likes to party a little, not a bad thing for a sales pro!
- If s/he is hired, be prepared to devote significant coaching time to this new-hire.
You may read this and suggest, "This is fine in the SMB sector, but I've got large accounts." Or, "Our sales process is too sophisticated." In these B2B segments, we'll often employ team-based selling. Give her/him a very junior role. S/he may lift the team to new heights!
What is better? Five years of mediocre experience selling your same product into the same industry or bringing on a potentially pure sales pro who will know nothing but success for themselves and you? Every one of us started somewhere, for someone who decided to take a chance!
Gary has a passion for building, managing and leading successful sales teams in the B2B space. Trained well by the likes of the U.S. Navy and AT&T, he looks to share his many years of sucess and experience selling and building teams via his blog: www.sellingwisdom.blogspot.com.