Sales People Don’t Grow on Trees; You Still Need to Train Them!

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

Sales People

Having worked in the sales recruiting industry for the past 8 years, and having personally interviewed 1,000’s of sales people, the one thing that I know for sure – good sales people don’t grow on trees. This is especially a challenge for hiring managers in the tech sector.There has been a recent trend over the past 5 years of tech companies investing more heavily into entry level inside sales people versus the tenured outside rainmaker sales reps. In fact, our most common sales recruiting request seems to be for junior inside sales reps with only 1-3 years sales experience, and a salary expectation of no more than 30-45K in base salary. What kind of sales person do you think you can find with 1 year of experience? You guessed it, an inexperienced one!

The Importance of Training

So what can you do when the supply of young talent has not caught up with demand? TRAINING! We discovered this issue back in 2010 when Sales for Life conducted a survey with 500 different sales reps across North America. We discovered that 55.2% of sales reps claimed their employer invested less than 5 days a year in sales training. A more recent report conducted by CSO Insights‘ 18th annual Sales Performance Optimization (SPO) (which studies over 1,500 companies worldwide and over 100 sales effectiveness related metrics), suggest a similar facts about the need to improve sales training overall:

  • 49.7% of sales manager admit they need improvement in the area of Management Training
  • 52.9% of sales managers admin they need improvement in the area of regularly conducting Win/Loss Reviews
  • 37.3% of sales managers admit they need improvement in the area of proactively Identifying which sales reps need coaching
  • 52.3% of sales managers admit they need improvement in the area of customer marketplace training

It really was not hard to see this new inverted sales model with the increase popularity of Marketing Automation. As many sales models began shifting to an inside sales model to handle qualifying inbound leads, the new challenge became how to find enough talented entry level sales people to fill the needs.


There are often two camps on defining what selling is; a science or an art form. The fact is selling is science. It is a trainable, repeatable process – so why would you focus so much on the science part of your interviews when hiring your entry level sales reps. Focus more on the art form of selling – the DNA part of the sales reps. This is the part you can’t train – you can’t train someone to have a good attitude and personality. So start looking for the right sales DNA instead of a sales person can recite a sales process that you are going to change anyway. Here are some of the characteristics of a strong sales DNA in no particular order:

  • Risk taker
  • Passionate about life and/or craft
  • Lifelong learner
  • Impatience (needs to move the process along)
  • Self-motivated (Kick your own ass)
  • Great communicator (face-to-face and in writing)
  • Witty (funny)
  • Prepared & strives to win
  • Personally Branded
  • Great at networking
  • Smart – able to get in front of decision makers (not tire kickers)
  • Creative (able to differentiate & dominate)
  • Influencer – able to nurture the buying (people want to buy and not be sold)

Do any of these traits look familiar? They should as you top reps carry these kinds of traits. So maybe sales reps don’t grow on trees…but if you are more focused on the above traits and you are ready to train your new entry level sales reps the science of selling, you should never run out of talent for your growing sales teams.

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