ACTivation Nation – 20 years of experience or one year of experience 20 times [PODCAST]

In sales, there are very different types of experience, and as Frank Cespedes explains in his interview with ACTivation Nation host, Matt Benelli, “you better know what you’re going for.”

Cespedes is Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer, and author of Sales Management That Works: How to Sell in a World that Never Stops Changing. He notes the importance of comparing “20 years of experience or one year of experience 20 times.” Very often, sales leaders using the criteria of experience when hiring new sales reps has a false trade-off in mind. The trade off, he explains, is that if the sales manager can hire someone with experience, the extra money that is spent on salary and incentive, is less than what will need be spent on training.

This is a false trade-off. The reason being is that there are two other important dimensions. Cespedes explains, “Experience is a very tricky variable. What do we mean by experience? Do we simply mean length of service in the job, or do we mean they have experience with a given customer segment or think about inside sales organizations? Perhaps they’ve got experience in high velocity sales environments.”

One must manage their experience and the ability to use that experience is not highly portable. There are many sales reps that come as a superstar from company A and yet, somehow don’t work out at company B.  Sales is an area where it’s not just that person’s capabilities externally with customers that determine success or failure, but also ability internally. For example, the other relationships they develop with other salespeople, with customer service, customer success product. When that person leaves company A, they leave all that behind and they’ve got to recreate it.


Experience counts. But as Cespedes emphasizes, you’ve got to know what you’re looking for!