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Does experience have an expiry date in sales?

Published 17 days ago by Gareth George

Age is just a number. But does this apply when you want to work in the sales sector? Not too long ago, I met with an enthusiastic candidate who had a wealth of sales experience and relevant skills that would have made her appealing to countless sales teams. However, during our meeting she asked whether her age would hinder her ability to secure a new job.

At 49 years old, this candidate felt that prospective employees would be put off by her age and were more likely to choose someone younger, even if they didn’t have the skills and experience she had. This unfortunately is not an isolated case. There have been several occasions when we’ve come across highly experienced sales candidates, both male and female, who have expressed concerns about their age and whether this would put them at a disadvantage when looking for a new job.

Working in sales has always had a reputation for being a young person’s game, so it’s not hard to see where these concerns about age stem from. The sad truth is that there are sales managers out there who would rather hire graduates over more mature candidates, even though the latter might have everything they are looking for.

The reason for this varies. There could be fears that a mature candidate won’t be technically savvy and could be less committed to their work due to having family commitments. There’s also the stigma that mature employees are too stuck in their ways and can be harder to train. These fears and opinions may sound ridiculous but they can have a big influence on whether a sales manager decides to meet a mature candidate or not.

The idea that a mature candidate with sales experience and relevant skills wouldn’t be beneficial to a sales organisation is almost laughable. They might be more of an investment initially, but it’s one that can be extremely worthwhile. Here are just a few of the benefits you could gain from hiring an older salesperson:

Less Training

When you hire an experienced sales employee, you probably won’t need to provide the same extensive sales training process that you offer to inexperienced candidates. You will need to be trained up on your computer systems and processes so they understand how your organisation works but they should be able to use their experience and skills for the rest. This saves you time on training, but also saves resources and helps you streamline your recruitment process.

More confidence

We all know that confidence is an absolute must when you work in sales. A younger and less experienced sales person might not initially have the right level of confidence needed as this is something that is often built over time. Whereas an experienced and more mature sales person will be able to draw upon their years working within the industry to sell your product or service competently from the offset. It can take time to get a new recruit to the same standard as an experienced sales person. But is this time you could be using on another aspect of your organisation?

Higher success rates

With their experience of sales and excellent negotiating skills that have been refined over many years, mature sales people are more likely to generate higher margins and profits for your organisation. Whereas someone who is younger and less experienced with the workings of the sector could take a while to get into the swing of things. If you want to reduce your turnover ratio and continue selling as much as you can, it makes sense to have a team that knows what they are doing.

Thankfully, opinions seem to be changing as more sales managers are starting to recognise the advantages of hiring mature candidates. As a sales team, we have placed candidates of all ages into roles without any issues being raised. As with most industries, the sales sector has hit a skills shortage and it seems that being more open to hiring mature sales people could be a simple and effective solution for sales teams. So actually, experience could count for a lot in sales after all.

But ultimately, there is no right answer as to who you should hire for your sales role. A mature employee who has plenty of drive and years of experience can still help you achieve sales success, but so can a graduate, if they are given the right training and plenty of encouragement. Every age bracket has something beneficial to offer.

With this in mind, the best approach when hiring for your sales roles is to disregard age altogether. Instead of focusing on the date on a candidates driving license, give more consideration to their skills, experience and personality. If they have genuine drive and ambition to succeed in sales, it really doesn’t matter how old they are. 

So whether they are a fresh faced grad who is just starting their sales career or a sales professional with decades of experience, forget about their age and hire the person who you feel will help your organisation to thrive.

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