Mark Roberge and the Experience Myth

Quick: What is the trait that correlates most closely with the future success of a sales rep? If you said “lots of experience” I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you’re in great company — the bulk of sales leaders believe that the best way to predict how a new hire will perform is how they’ve performed in a similar role in the past.

The bad news is that you’re wrong. At least according to HubSpot’s Mark Roberge.

And Mark knows a thing or two about hiring new sales reps and predicting how they will perform (and tracking his predictions over time). At HubSpot, Mark built a sales team with hundreds of reps from scratch and meticulously tracked how the reps he hired performed over time.

His main takeaway? Prior experience doesn’t matter nearly as much as most sales managers think it does.

“When we started hiring, we wrote down a set of attributes that we thought would be important and we looked for them during interviews,” he told InsightSquared during an extensive interview recently. “We conducted over 1,000 interviews, hired more than 60 people, and then measured which of those attributes correlated with success.”

Despite going into the process seeking the attributes most sales organizations held in high regard — closing skills, objection handling and experience — Mark’s data showed him that the conventional wisdom was wrong.

“For us, experience didn’t matter as much,” he said. “I did a lot of experiments with experience level — like was it better to have 15 years of experience or no sales experience? — and there was a strong correlation between success at HubSpot and less prior experience.”

Mark also believes that this discovery, though counterintuitive, actually has a fairly straightforward explanation — especially at a cutting-edge company like HubSpot.

“As people have more experience,” he explained, “they become less moldable, which is important in our space because most reps have never sold something like our product before.”

So, sales managers, if you’re looking for your next great rep: Don’t get hung up in the experience section of the resume, look for someone with high upside and a lot of energy.

What other surprising insights did Mark Roberge learn about hiring great sales reps? Download our FREE eBook with the rest of the interview to find out.

Mike Baker
Mike Baker
Mike Baker is the Content Strategy Manager at InsightSquared, where he helps distribute original eBooks, articles and guides about data-driven sales and marketing. He has a BA in English and Journalism from Oberlin College.
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