Does having a “proven sales track record’ on your CV really make someone an exceptional sales candidate?

At first thought, you may say yes, of course it does. However I’d like to disagree. There are too many factors that influence a salesperson’s ability or failure to reach sales targets. 

Here are a few examples:

I know of a solution sales chap who “inherited” a R30 million Rand deal from an alliance partner.  He did nothing more than being on the other end of the phone when the right guy phoned him to tell him they’d won the deal and were giving that part of the contract to his company.  If you saw that achievement on his CV, you’d automatically assume that he was a ‘wunderkind’ sales rep who had reached 250% of his target by month two of the financial year. Not so.

Another example:

Jenny X’s CV says that she has been the top sales achiever at her company for the past five years.  Unless you ask the question “top out of how many sales reps?” you wouldn’t know that she was the only rep they had. So is she the top achiever? Did she achieve amazing year on year growth? Or is the company in a niche market with a whole batch of existing clients that Jen merely needs to visit once in a while and who would happily keep on ordering, with or without her being there?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking sales achievements but if you don’t ask the right questions at the interview, you may just employ someone who can’t cut it in your sales environment.

We call it “interrogating” a sales CV. It’s really important for you to do it thoroughly.

Those super sales achievers who have indeed reached and exceeded targets will only be too happy and willing to share with you exactly how those deals were brought it – they’ll have the facts and figures imprinted in their memory banks ready to reel off to you without hesitation. Dig a bit deeper into their ‘proven sales track record’ before allowing yourself to be sold on what is on paper.

Now, we haven’t even mentioned how the company’s work ethic, brand, reputation, product or service that the salesperson is responsible to sell  can influence his or her sales results.  An over-priced, under-performing product won’t exactly sell well in today’s competitive market, no matter how good a salesperson is sitting across from Billy the Buyer.  You also have to ask yourself if you really want a salesperson selling for you who can sell rubbish without a second thought to an unsuspecting prospect? What about ethics? Would your choice be sales results over ethics?

I’m not making excuses for salespeople who over or underperforming, I just think that there are many factors that are ignored by employers which could influence the outcome of their sales recruitment decision.

It’s all about asking the right questions AND having a well-defined sales recruitment process in place which helps you to cover all your bases.

1 thought on “Does having a “proven sales track record’ on your CV really make someone an exceptional sales candidate?

  1. Brian Jeffrey

    As Suzanne alludes to, resumes are often great examples of creative writing, second only to a salesperson’s expense account, and it takes a seasoned recruiting pro to uncover the “real” story.


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