Should You Hire a Recent Sales Graduate or an Experienced Rep?

Dan Perry

Graduation season is upon us and more than 5,000 students will graduate with a formal sales major. Over fifty universities with sales majors will unleash a crop of graduates. These eager young professionals will be looking for their first sales jobs. And every Sales VP is asking themselves:

  • Should I hire them?
  • Do they have enough experience?
  • Is it too risky?
  • Should I let someone else train them first?
  • Is it a safer bet to hire industry experience?
  • Do we have the onboarding and enablement to make them successful?

We provide sales curriculum used in more than 20 universities. These schools include Texas Christian University, University of Colorado, Texas A&M, Florida State, and so on. Though our PointForward video practice platform, we get to see the sales students in action every day. With our unique perspective, we have some insight for those considering recent graduates:

  • Sales majors spend at least two years (after core curriculum classes) learning how to execute a sales process. They're exposed to the concepts and get to repeatedly role play the process. They even compete against their peers through rigorous sales competitions. 
  • Sales majors also get exposed to core and updated prospecting skills. They obviously know how to use social media in their personal lives. But they also know how to leverage social media to get qualified leads. They appreciate good selling involves not only closing immediate deals but filling the funnel.
  • They’re comfortable with technology and already know how to use a CRM. You can be assured that major interactions with customers will be logged. You won't have fight the CRM adoption battle with these graduates.
  • Most sales majors also learn core sales management skills. They know what good coaching looks like (and doesn’t!). They've participated in coaching role plays. And they’ve experienced coaching as part of their prep for sales competitions. Be ready: expect them to hold management accountable for good leadership and coaching behaviors.

Sounds pretty good. “Why wouldn’t I hire one of these new sales majors?” Well, these young professionals do have some gaps. They're obviously missing industry and product knowledge. They also lack the battle scars from real-life selling experience. Perhaps most challenging, they don’t have the referrals or connections so important in many sectors. Because of these points, we recommend hiring sales majors if:

  • Your company has a strong onboarding program, particularly one with solid industry and product training. Using their sales process foundation, you can focus on situational application. This should also free up time for business acumen training, so critical for selling today's solutions.
  • A strong sales enablement function is also needed. Done right, sales enablement puts the right content in their hands at the right time. Sales enablement also builds context for new hires. It's key to ramping new sales majors, integrating their generic process concepts with your messaging. A video-practice platform will let them see how your top performers deliver the messages. They can then practice, gain feedback, and build confidence.
  • An effective CRM is essential. This means the system is at the core of your sales model, not just an expensive contact list. New sales majors are ready to embrace CRM. Be sure CRM is the foundation of your sales methodology, including call planning, deal reviews, and account management.

Hiring quality sales people is tough. Getting the best talent takes effort, energy, and maybe a little luck. New sales graduates can make the process easier. But this approach only works only if you have strong onboarding and enablement. Sales majors can bring a lot to your team. But be ready to meet them halfway with your industry, product, and solutions knowledge. Also, understand that there is a difference between a sales major and a graduate who took one or two sales classes. Most universities offer at least one sales course, but far less offer a true sales major. Make sure you know the difference.

If you need help hiring, building the right new hire profile, or optimizing your onboarding, let us know here. We have extensive experience with new sales majors and can help.

Dan Perry

Dan Perry

Daniel Perry is a partner at The Brevet Group. He leverages nearly 30 years of experience leading sales teams and helping complex sales organizations become elite performers.