Why You Should Be Hiring the Best Sales and Marketing Athletes over Industry Experience


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“You don’t understand. Our business, in fact our entire industry, is different.”


I’ve heard that statement a hundred times.  To be honest, early in my career, I’m sure I said, and believed it myself; but not for quite some time now.  After decades of working with sales and marketing organizations across several industries I can tell you with confidence that when it comes to the basic mechanics of your business you’re not that unique.  Believe me, it’s OK for us to agree to disagree on this topic, and I’m sure many will.  But in my opinion there is nothing magically different about your company, and the fact that you insist on only hiring individuals who have “industry experience” is the very reason you will fall behind your competition.

How do I know you value industry experience so much?  First of all, it was obvious in your job post:


  • “Please do not respond if you do not have deep [name industry] knowledge.”
  • “Must bring a rolodex of contacts within [name industry]”


You don’t have to read between the lines to see your thought process.  Industry experience equals rainmaker.  When asked which is more important, picking the best qualifications or selecting a player who presents the strongest industry background, most hiring managers will say I want both.   Yes, they are both desired.  But if you had to favor either industry experience or best qualifications which one would you choose if you were serious about maximizing the impact of your team?


From my point of view, put your money on the organization that drafts the best athlete.  Uncertainty reigns, and in today’s business environment a rolodex can become outdated before your new player finishes reading your new employee manual.   In addition, even if their contacts remain current there is no guarantee your new player will maintain their industry standing.  After all, their reputation was established under a different brand and that in no way guarantees that they won’t need training, or will make a successful transition to your particular environment.

At best, strict industry experience comes across as desperate pleas for quick sales or a statement of “we don’t like change.”  Of course, anyone who has carried a quota or launched a marketing campaign knows Quick Hits and Low-Hanging Fruit are never as quick or as low as everyone believes.  And “more of the same” is certainly a creativity killer.

What statements might you find in a job post that focuses on the best athlete?


  • Follows consultative approaches.
  • Leads from the front and team builder.
  • Ability to network and manage complex cross-functional relationships.
  • Can build a vision and create unique content.
  • Passion, courage, and confidence to get things done fast.
  • Credibility and rapport building skills that fosters trust.

The best athlete understand how persuasion really works and know that human beings still make buying decisions based on doing business with people they know, like, and trust.

They are capable of creating narratives with ultimate designs on increasing their social capital.  And they are able to consistently create content that their audience values.  In short, they can figure out how to build key relationships and add value across any industry, not just drop names and quantify the costs.

If you want to grow your business, stop worrying about how much industry experience your job candidate has.  Just hire the best sales and marketing athlete. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


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