The Great Debate: Hiring A Sales Pro Versus Industry Expert

by Deena Neste on May 9, 2012

We are often involved in helping clients identify and hire good sales reps for their communities and organizations.   During this process, many clients will ask if it's better to hire someone who is good at sales but has no prior industry experience or an individual who is an expert in senior living? 

Hired sales person


This is a great question because when you think about it, customers do not choose a senior living community or service based strictly on product.  Many times, the relationship they develop with a community's marketing or sales rep has a deep impact on the final decision and choice.

More and more senior living providers have realized that hiring the wrong person to support sales and marketing can have devastating consequences and can cost an organization between two and five times the position’s annual salary.  These are just the measurable costs such as advertising, recruiting, training, etc .  What's more difficult to measure is the cost of lost opportunity - lost sales and broken relationships.  It takes months of hard work to re-build trust and reputation with referral sources and the community at large.


In today’s competitive environment, we have found greater performance outcomes by hiring individuals who posses proven sales skills coupled with a compassionate style over hiring someone who is simply a seasoned "expert" within the senior care industry. 


Here's why:

  1. Ramp up time for sales success is typically shorter when hiring a sales expert.  It is easier to teach a new hire with sales experience how to sell their Community than to teach a new hire how to sell.

  2. “Knowing it all” can diminish listening skills.  One of the disadvantages in having a lot of product knowledge is you’re going to want to talk about what you know, especially if you’re new to an organization.  It’s natural for people automatically revert to their comfort zone when they’re nervous or unsure.  Nervousness often turns in to rambling on about everything they know about the industry, senior issues, other communities.  Individuals with strong sales skills can fall back on their strong Discovery technique, focusing on the needs of the prospect not on their lack of product knowledge. 

  3. New, successful sales ideas and techniques often accompany sales experts.

  4. A fresh face can sometimes open the doors and minds of professionals who haven't been willing to make time in the past.  There is something to be said about being truly "green" and open to being shown "the ropes".

  5. Compassion and a drive to succeed are not necessarily in conflict, in fact the two are often complimentary.  (more on this idea in an future post)


So, when high quality industry candidates are not present, we would encourage you to consider recruiting sales reps from outside the senior living industry. As long as you see genuine passion for your mission and compassion for your customers, proven sales people with no prior senior living experience can equal great sales success for your organization.  


What do you think?  Have you hired outside of the industry and what were the results?

Want more ideas on how to identify and hire great sales talent for your organization?  Watch this informative interview with Michael Scott, President of Search Consultants Inc., an exclusive recruitment agency known for successfully recruiting top sales talent across multiple industries.

to view, click the link below


Webinar indentify, attract, retain top sales talent for senior living

Intentify, Attract and Retain Top Sales Talent for Senior Living and Care


Topics: Sales Process, Building Relationships, Marketing Your Community and Brand, sales discovery technique, Sales Source Webinars, Discovery, Hiring Sales Professionals, Connecting with Prospects, Selling Senior Living, Senior Living Sales