Across all industries and all career paths, there is a constant struggle as to whether industry experience is needed or not. This is a conversation that arises when we are talking to clients about digital strategy roles, web design roles and sales roles alike. Every role has its own nuances as it relates to industry experience and there are strong arguments that can be made on both sides of the coin. Today, we are going to tackle sales roles and whether industry experience is needed or not.

While the ideal fit for a role may have industry experience, there are others that can excel in the role. We have seen and experienced candidates that are hired and excel because of the right combination of attributes and no industry experience. As a company whose focus is filling roles in the digital marketing and emerging technology space, we may be a little biased. But let us explain. As technology grows and becomes more complex, roles become more specialized. As the war for talent continues to heat up, you need to be realistic about what is available given your requirements, the salary you are able to pay and what is expected from your team member long term. So let’s dig deeper.

In today’s world, employees don’t stay in one company, much less one industry, throughout their entire careers. They move around for different experiences and opportunities to learn and grow. Different experiences give people different perspectives. This enables your sales folks to ask new and more probing questions to dig deeper during fact-finding discussions to learn about and understand business challenges. They are also able to connect with and relate to potential clients better because they are more well-rounded in their experiences.  Yes, there can be a learning curve to sell in a new industry, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. If you hire someone who has had significant success in previous sales roles, they likely have attributes that are indicators of success for your company and industry. If they understand sales cycles and your sales processes are well defined, they are worth further consideration. This gives you a larger candidate pool and allows you to find the best talent available for your role.

If you are struggling to find the right person or you are looking to improve the quality of employees hired, consider broadening your job requirements. Evaluate potential teammates on demonstrated attributes that would make them successful such as:

  • Willingness to learn
  • Experience taking on and excelling in new challenges
  • Drive and motivation
  • Passions or interests in your industry
  • Relatable experiences
  • Preparation/education on your industry prior to the interview

Next time you are looking to hire a new sales role, keep in mind what an ideal candidate looks like to you. But don’t get tunnel vision and overlook the perfect candidate that may not fit into the mold you have created. You may just miss out on a great opportunity for that team member you have been seeking!