In my 20 years of helping clients find top-performing salespeople, I’ve saved my data. I’ve kept records of which ads work, which offers work, and who performed after being hired.

It started out as a personal project. I had 200 salespeople in a company I started in dotcom. Being a bit of a geek, I tracked results in an Excel spreadsheet.

Without question, the biggest mistake is trying to recruit for “previous industry experience.”

Here are the reasons why:

1) Most sales hires are failing in your industry. The stats right out of “Harvard Business Review” are – AT BEST – you pick 1 out of 2 winners. MOST sales managers get 1 out of 4 or 5.  When you ask for industry sales experience, you get applications from salespeople who are failing at your competitors.

2) In highly technical sales, team selling is much more effective and predictable. You’ve created a team, a much more solid approach. Your prospects will appreciate having two experts.

3) Professional salespeople are fast learners.  We’ve watched a top sales performer who had never sold health insurance learn fast. He devoured the material he needed. He took a geek along on sales calls to help him. Company sales are up 1000% in two years. 1000%!

4) Only 3% of the American population can really sell. 1 out of 33. Finding people who are good at selling is a challenge. When you require candidates to have “industry sales experience”, your odds against finding a top producer are astronomical.

5) NDAs forbid top performers from leaving.

6) Top salespeople know most companies don’t manage salespeople well. If they are top performers at your competitors, they know they are being treated well. They are making money. Wooing them away is fantasy. If you like fantasy, go watch Star Wars. You will never fill your sales staff with top performers when you require “industry sales experience,” because your applicants will be salespeople who are failing someplace else.  There are terrific sales candidates who nobody else in your industry is finding, and THOSE are the people you need to attract into your system. They will be successful, no matter what they are selling.