Is your FinTech Sales hiring strategy working?

By Danny Richardson, Head of FinTech Sales, EMEA

When I’m looking to hire a senior level sales consultant I often have similar conversations with my clients. They often say “I need someone with strong industry experience and a track record selling the software that our business sells”. And in response to “where would you like this candidate to come from?” The answer is invariably, “one of my competitors!”  

Recruiting senior sales consultants for the last 7 years I have found that hiring managers want to hire the perfect person with the perfect experience from one of their competitors.

It’s an increasingly common request, but is it the best approach?  

Hire for ability, not background

Rather than focusing on the things we can teach, such as market and product knowledge, why are we not focusing on the ability to build relationships, cold call, win new business, hit targets, reliability and consistency?  All the traits of a successful salesperson.

From working in this market for a while now, I know that the fintech market is very small and everyone knows everyone, making it harder and harder to hire the best people! With this reduced pool of candidates, it makes sense to think differently and expand the available talent pool by looking at sales candidates from different industries with experience of selling different types of software.

Adopt a longer-term strategy

Do companies need to think more long term in the hiring approach for salespeople? It may take a little longer to train someone with different industry experience and product knowledge but with the right training, this person could be your next global top biller. I hear more and more that the perfect candidates on paper are not always the most successful hires; simply because they have the ‘perfect’ background, they are brought in at a more senior level with a corresponding level of expectation and pressure.   This means that, in some cases, people are not performing in line with expectations.  

An alternative approach is to focus on growing talent rather than buying it in – to consider bringing in candidates with alternative industry backgrounds at less senior levels and allowing time and space for coaching, development and cultural acclimatisation.   The unavoidable truth is that, regardless of background, everyone needs at least some time to reach their potential – so acknowledging this fact and building it into your plans has enormous capacity for return – from the benefit you will gain from fishing in a wider talent pool to reduced turnover, as unrealistic ‘hit the ground running’ targets don’t need to be set.  

Thinking differently will help you beat the market

The Fintech market is booming and is only going to get bigger, meaning the top salespeople will become even more in demand and hiring the best sales people will get even more challenging than it is today.   Companies will be faced with huge competition and salary battles in order to persuade the best talent to join their businesses.

I speak to candidates on a daily basis that have worked in a specific market for the last 10 years and want to use their sales skills to work in a different market but many of the hiring managers from those markets stick with their requirement for specific experience.    

Is this right? Are companies missing a trick? I would argue that there needs to be a radical rethink of what is really required to excel in sales roles - that those employers who shift their focus to prioritise ability over market experience will reap the rewards.


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