What provides the best ROI – raw talent or industry experience?

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What kind of new hire makes the better sales person? The question of nature vs. nurture has long been a hot topic within the industry. Is it better to hire somebody whose raw talent makes them a go-to for closing deals and hitting targets, even if they haven’t had much prior experience? Or, is it preferable to stick with a tried and tested sales person, whose years of experience means that they know the industry inside out, even if they might not be as naturally gifted?

With the top 20% of sales people often closing more deals than the other 80% combined, making the right hire is extremely important, and the question of who might be the better hire is one that is often debated at our dinners. Though we know that recruitment works on a case by case scenario, 34% of our placements last year were actually made with candidates who had initially been rejected, based on their CV and lack of industry experience. There is clearly demand for great talent, and we believe in a lot of instances that industry knowledge can be taught. In short: don’t pass up on great sales DNA!

But who provides the best ROI? We take a look.

Why hire for industry experience?

Hiring for experience is the obvious choice, and has its own set of benefits. Your sales people will be able to hit the ground running, and potentially even use their existing client pipeline to nurture existing leads and close deals for your company. With a more comprehensive knowledge of the industry, they will also need less training, and they should also, theoretically, have more credibility within the industry.

However, hiring for experience has drawbacks, too. 91% of sales professionals consider financial incentives to be very important, and your new hire will inevitably expect the same from you, including basics and a compensation package. In addition, their experience might well be prove a problem: after all, if they’ve already developed their own sales processes, then they might be opposed to changing it to suit your company’s way of doing business.

There’s also the question of loyalty. Sales people are notoriously ambitious, and if they’ve already moved on from a competitor, what’s to stop them moving again?

Why should you hire raw talent?

When it comes to hiring cheaply, new hires with raw talent are undoubtedly the smarter choice. Coming into the industry completely fresh, they’ll require lower upfront costs, and they’ll also come into your business with a completely fresh set of eyes: after all, they’ll have no preconceived ideas about the ‘right’ way in which to close a deal. Effectively, they’re a blank slate that you’ll be able to mould to suit your company’s image. They’ll be enthusiastic about their job, energised by the new industry and keen to prove themselves against the more seasoned veterans within your sales team.

Though your new hires will cost money to train, it’s worth it: 55% of salespeople lack basic sales skills anyway, so spending some extra cash in training your new hire the right way will be a great investment, which will also pay off in retention rates. Investing in the future of your new recruits, and in upskilling them, is a great way to boost company loyalty, and in an industry that experiences an abnormally high 20% annual turnover, the fewer sales people that leave, the better it will be for your bottom line, and for company morale.

As promising as they may seem, though, hiring new talent can inevitably have its own set of challenges that you’ll need to handle.

Given the intense training they’ll be receiving, it may take between three to six months before you start to see an ROI on your investment. Furthermore, in a market where credibility could be the difference between a closed deal and a missed opportunity, it will take your new hires some time to build up their reputation. Your new sales people will be untried and more likely to make some mistakes along the way: for instance, refining their generic sales pitch, which 59% of people say they’re irritated by. Fortunately, this can easily be avoided by pairing your new hire up with a more experienced sales person, so they can learn on the job.

Make smart hires with BMS Performance.

Whether you want to hire at tried-and-tested salesperson for your team or invest in your future with a talented newcomer to the industry, we’re here for you.

Our years of experience of recruiting within the sales industry means that we’re perfectly placed to help you with your recruitment process and advise you on making the right move for your business. Discover more sales insights in our Knowledge Centre, or talk to our experts now. 

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