Should You Choose An Experienced Sales Rep Or A Recent Graduate?

No words have broken the hearts of job-hungry college grads more than the dreaded — “We’re sorry, but we’re looking for someone with more experience.” As a sales manager, you’ve probably even uttered those fateful words once or twice. Meanwhile, the eager young candidate on the other end is left grappling with that timeless new-grad conundrum: You need experience to get hired, but you need to be hired to gain experience.

The truth is, new grads and experienced professionals can each offer plenty of value to your sales staff. But is one better than the other? Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of each type of sales candidate.

The Benefits of Hiring Recent Graduates

They’re Less Expensive

An experienced sales rep is going to expect higher pay than a rookie, it’s as simple as that. Some might argue that the costs associated with a new grad’s training and “learning curve” render this pay discrepancy moot, but what if the newbie’s a high achiever or helps free up your experienced team members to be more productive and efficient? You may be getting massive returns from an employee who’s costing you very little and who could grow to be a major earner for your organization.

They’re Adaptable

Because new grads have virtually no hands-on experience, they’re going to be less fixed to particular methods, work styles, and opinions. Think about it — an employee with no agenda and no preconceptions who’s eager to learn is just happy to be there. Sounds pretty perfect, right? Point being, new grads are likely more willing to mold (or be molded) to the requirements of an organization, position, or customer engagement. With an experienced salesperson, you might get someone who has a strong, and potentially inflexible, opinion about how to go about their job. This can be grating as a manager as well as hinder your team’s performance.

They Make Great Generalists

Say you’re hiring for a sales position that requires a ton of different hat wearing. Not only will this person be performing sales duties, they’ll also be supporting the marketing team, handling some customer service responsibilities, and assisting your executives. A new grad could be a great fit for a generalist role like this because he or she hasn’t yet developed a specialized skill set or defined a specific career direction. In a fast-paced start-up environment, having a team of hard-working generalists could be a huge advantage for your team.

The Benefits of Hiring Experienced Sales Reps

They Can Do the Job…Today

Training and learning-curve costs drop substantially when you hire a rep with a few years of experience under their belt. Since they aren’t starting their career from scratch, an experienced hire can (hopefully) plug right into your team and prove to be an effective addition from day one. In a perfect world, this candidate even augments your methods and processes with the unique knowledge and expertise they’ve gained over the course of their career.

You Know What You’re Getting

An experienced sales rep has a documented track record. A new grad offers a mist of potential. Sure, a rookie sales rep can grow into a high-performing professional, but that takes time. A newbie could also prove to be a massive dud that simply isn’t cut out for your company or a career in sales. A seasoned rep, on the other hand, can show immediate value and has the performance numbers, references, and customer relationships to prove it.

They Can Provide Specialized Knowledge and Skills

Seasoned sales professionals have had the time and opportunities to acquire knowledge, build relationships, and sharpen skills in very specialized areas. Maybe a candidate has vast amounts of experience in a particular vertical or perhaps they’ve spent years performing a certain function or role on a sales team. Whether you’re looking to fill a specific knowledge gap in your team or you’re growing your staff to include new disciplines or skills, an experienced candidate can offer you expertise that a recent grad simply won’t have.

Deciding between a recent graduate and an experienced sales rep can be tricky. You’re putting a lot of investment at stake no matter what, and there’s no guarantee that either candidate is going to pan out. Even if an established rep has the experience you’re looking for, they might lack key intangibles like passion, work ethic, and coachability.

The smartest approach when choosing who to hire is to first consider the role you’re trying to fill, what success looks like in that role and the current makeup of your team. This will set you up to make an informed, holistic decision — no matter how experienced (or inexperienced) your prospective candidates are.

Ready for more insights into what people, processes, and technologies create a high-performing sales team? Read more from the Sales section of our blog!

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