A question that has caused difficulty for many companies which need to recruit a technical sales representative is knowing which is the better choice, a candidate with technical qualifications but little sales experience or an experienced sales person without knowledge of your technical or scientific product.
There is not one answer, although if there’s doubt, I’d take a guy who can prove to you that he has produced good sales results elsewhere.
Some environments do require sophisticated knowledge of a specialised area of science. For example, one of my clients is a supplier of lasers to university research departments. The technical sales staff there have to interface with Heads of Department - professors. Such academics tend to be allergic to sales people, they always screen what you say for flaws. If they spot one, it’s game over. So for such a position, you need someone with the right degree or doctorate who has no trouble with that level of techie-talk
But for more normal situations, the experienced sales person is a better choice even if he or she lacks knowledge of your special field. With the motivation that a good salesperson brings to the job, it doesn’t take long to pick up the relevant specialised knowledge. The questions customers ask are often the same, so after a while you learn good answers.
The reason that the scientific/analytical mind is not much good at sales is because this type of person is not particularly interested in other people, is not commercially minded or a self-starter and may lack the confidence to ask for an order or deal effectively with objections.
Many companies select people for their professional qualifications and then put them into selling even if they lack good interpersonal ability. Although technical understanding is valuable, in selling it is far more important to have good people skills and commercial acumen. Since this and the other key attributes can only be taught slowly, if at all, choosing the right personality type is more important.
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