Sometimes we over-rate previous experience of sales people. While it's
great to have someone been-there-done-that, sometimes that comes at a
price: baggage about how they think sales should be run, handled, comp,
I speak from experience. One time we hired a rep with many years of
experience, but he just couldn't change/adapt to our process. Things didn't
go well. Not only it was painful for both sides, but we also lost valuable
Sometimes you can get great sales people out of college (and if you're more
progressive, even without college). There's a little bit more more of
training that you need to do, but you can usually mold them to your way of
doing things and process. This, of course, assumes you have a sales
vp/director at the top that can make it happen. But if you subscribe to the
lean startup philosophy (not sure where you are in your cycle), then you'll
agree that there's a lot of value in founders/execs being involved in the
sales cycle well past beyond the first few customers.
Now, I believe the above statement applies across the board to many
different industries and sales processes - and I've seen it working across
different markets and business model. However, I am not oblivious to the
fact that enterprise and government (where a lot of education money is at)
presents its own set of challenges.
A good rule of thumb to me is: the
slower the sales cycle and the higher the average ticket item, the more
experienced sales guys you'll want to hire (less room for error), but if
you have a high-velocity sale cycle with a relatively low ticket item, then
you have more room to experiment.