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What’s Better – A Young, Inexperienced Sales Team or a Veteran, Tenured One?

What’s Better – A Young, Inexperienced Sales Team or a Veteran, Tenured One?

As an award-winning sales performance company, we’ve seen it all – teams that are young and inexperienced, those that are proven and established, and a mix of the two. One of the questions we hear often is whether it’s better to have a young, green team or an older, tenured one. The short answer is that it depends. We’ll delve deeper into why in this post.

The Pros of a Young, Inexperienced Sales Team

  1. Often more receptive to coaching and training
  2. Cheaper base salary costs
  3. Potentially higher energy

The Cons of a Young, Inexperienced Sales Team

  1. Often lacking in selling skills
  2. More likely to not have knowledge of industry and competition
  3. Higher rate of turnover

With a young, inexperienced sales force, you’ll have a chance to more easily mold the culture and teach the selling skills and habits you want to see from your direct reports. A C-Suite that is particularly concerned with reducing cost will also appreciate the labor savings by going with a greenhorn team.

Conversely, it’s going to take time to get them up to speed and the top line may have a ceiling until this fresh-faced squad acquires the skills and knowledge to be able to sell effectively. More resources (especially time) need to be set aside for training, coaching, and development to nurture them into the sales reps they’re capable of being.

You’ll also need to be prepared for a potentially higher than average churn rate as new and early career sales reps get lured in by promotion and pay increase opportunities from other businesses as they gain experience and establish themselves. The antidote to that will be to ensure they see success as early on as possible, have a policy of promoting within and providing raises or compensation percentage increases, but even that might not be enough to entirely staunch the bleeding.

Organizations Most Likely to Benefit from a Young, Inexperienced Sales Team
Startups, primarily due to the benefits of lower labor cost while the organization devotes most of their time to development – business development, employee development, etc. Because it takes a lot of effort to be the new game in town and break into an already established market, the higher reserves of physical energy of young sales reps will also prove valuable.

High volume, high velocity industries. Because there’s so much turnover of products and services, missed deals due to sales reps errors and inexperience do not have as great an impact as those with low volume, high average sale amounts and long sales cycles.

The Pros of a Tenured, Veteran Sales Team

  1. More adept at selling skills
  2. High knowledge of industry and competition
  3. Potentially lower rate of turnover

The Cons of a Tenured, Veteran Sales Team

  1. May be more resistant to training and coaching
  2. Might have bad selling habits built up over time
  3. Higher base salary costs
  4. Might not have as high a physical stamina

A tenured, veteran sales team has proven itself and has a high floor of revenue & profitability. They generally know how to sell and have the skills, knowledge, experience, and professional network to close deals and create satisfied customers. And while the costs are higher, the income they generate faster can make the price worth the money. It can also be easier to retain them because many tenured reps have stability and an established career in mind.

On the flip side, because they’re so skilled and experienced, a tenured sales team might prove more resistant to training and coaching due to their belief that they’ve established their credentials and have the right selling skills. Therefore, more time may need to be spent creating buy-in for development opportunities. Training and coaching will both need to be particularly tailored to the team as a whole and the individual rep respectively, so that the veterans can see the value in what’s being taught.

Organizations Most Likely to Benefit from a Tenured, Veteran Sales Team
Established companies with a secure foothold in the marketplace. These reps bring their existing networks with them into the company and because there’s already a built-in customer base, a proven team can help expand existing accounts and clients to larger deals, with less emphasis on new account acquisition (though obviously that’s still an important part of sales).

Low volume, low velocity industries. It takes time, skill, and patience to be able to convert these often complex, multi-faceted, multi-decision maker deals, and it’s a hallmark of many B2B verticals. This type of environment is especially suited to a veteran team, which has a much better understanding of the cadence and process than a group that lacks the experience to know how to handle such involved, lengthy processes.

Which situation is better has no right or wrong answer in a vacuum. It depends on your company’s life stage, industry, and sales process cadence. Of course, many organizations also have a mix of the two based on what works for them (one of our most recent case studies, for example, discusses working with an already tenured, experienced sales force ).