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What’s More Important, Experience Or Experiences

by David Brock on August 31st, 2015

The other day I was speaking to a large group of sales people.  Many were very new to sales, they had been selling for only a few years.

During the conversation, one person asked how she should progress in her career.  She and several others related they were looking for new jobs.  They saw opportunities to move to new challenges, increase their compensation, move higher in the food chain.

We all want to grow–we want jobs with increasing levels of responsibility, higher levels of compensation.  Sometimes, we don’t like our current roles/organizations/managers, sometimes it’s a great new opportunity.

Sometimes, however, I wonder if we do ourselves, our current employers, and future employers a disservice by moving too fast and too frequently.

I look at many of the people connecting with me on LinkedIn, I see people with average tenure in a job–with a specific company less than 2 years.  Market data shows average tenure for sales roles at less than 22 months (and management tenure that’s even shorter).

Clients ask me to look at candidates they are considering, I see much of the same thing.  People moving from job to job.

In each one, they talk about “Exceeding objectives,”  “Surpassing goals,” “Overachieving quotas.”

Frankly, as a hiring manager, I want people with experience–deep experience.

While all claim to have outstanding performance, citing 100% clubs, year after year of beating quota, one wonders what that means.

Let’s look at some data:  Average tenure in complex B2B sales jobs is 22 months, onboarding is roughly 10 months.  The typical sales person is with a company no more than two fiscal reporting years.

What if they claim great success during those 2 years.  Whether it’s making the President’s Club, “significantly exceeding quota,” or something else.  What does this mean?

In reality, the first year success is probably more a reflection of the work done by the predecessor than the sales person.  Toward the end of that first year, the sales person starts to come into her own, so we start seeing success based on their individual contributions in the following year.

Being successful, achieving or exceeding your goals that second year is great!  But does that indicate sustained ability to drive performance?  Somehow, I want to see a person that has the proven experience of growing a territory.  Someone that can demonstrate sustained performance contributions year after year seems to demonstrate greater “experience” than someone who has lots of job experiences.

Seeing a person who has experienced adversity and triumphed, somehow seems more meaningful, than one who has a revolving door of jobs, each of which they have “succeeded.”

In looking at our own careers, we owe it to our own development to test ourselves, to see if we can “do it on our own,” to see what we are made of in overcoming challenges, to see that we can repeat the performance and grow our territories.  We need to know our results are a result of our own work, not the pipelines built by our predecessors, or luck.

We all want to move forward in our careers, but over the long term, we to it better through a solid base of experience, not lots of experiences.


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