Recruitment Criteria Hurting Your Business?

(Posted on 23/06/15)

So you’ve made the decision to recruit a new salesperson, but which road are you going to take? The road of choosing candidates who have sold a similar product, the road where they have sold into a similar market or perhaps you’ll go down the road of looking for a superstar sales person? You don’t have to go down just one road, you can take two roads or even travel all three roads. So what is the optimal blend for your business?

In my time as a pharma sales person I invested much time and energy in personal development, sales training and consistently worked hard to develop my sales skills and the wider mix of ingredients that make up my Sales IQ. Consequently I felt better about what I was doing and inevitably grew into a better and more consistent sales professional. However, when it came to looking for new roles, I believe the only factors that were seriously considered were my product and market experience, thus to my mind the one thing that enabled me to consistently outperform my competitors was largely ignored.

Now that I’m working in Sales Recruitment, I don’t feel much has changed as most hiring managers are still essentially looking for someone that’s sold the same product into the same market. In so doing, they ignore the Sales IQ and thus miss out on sales superstars who would quickly pick up the product and market knowledge. More significantly they totally miss out on the vast wealth of experience, ability and the valuable cross fertilisation of ideas that would come from opening the pool up to include more candidates from different backgrounds.

I would love to see a World where the few truly great salespeople are recognised and recruited more for their intangible skills, and for the immense financial contribution they inevitably make to a business. Sadly though I don’t see that happening soon, as there is so little consensus on what makes a great salesperson and so many of those magic ingredients are intangible. So the hiring manager simply defaults to the well, and I would argue over travelled roads of product and market knowledge.

So what is the optimal blend of these ingredients for your business? Would it hurt to loosen up your selection criteria, and in so doing allow more focus on the vital but often overlooked sales IQ? True sales professionals are priceless, and until we start to realise their value and therefore actively search for people with well developed Sales IQ’s, then nothing will change and businesses will continue to limit their potential. For the good of the sales profession, I implore you to think bigger, to stretch your comfort zones and stop being over reliant on product and market knowledge at the expense of the one magic ingredient that sets the few top performers apart.

Written by Mark Pickles who is a recruitment consultant with M-Tech360, and focusses on senior sales and commercial executive recruitment for IT and Software sales professionals who sell into the Pharma and Life Science industries. Contact Mark on