Should you hire for sales or technical skills

Should You Hire for Sales Skill or Technical Acumen?

The question plaguing many hiring managers — not just in the Clinical Research and the Genomics and Genetics Diagnostics spaces, but indeed in all businesses — is:  “Should we hire a candidate with technical expertise and train them in becoming a great sales person; or, should we hire a candidate with a strong sales background and train them in technical and product knowledge?

Making a hiring decision to address all the needs of your business takes forethought, patience and insight. You may find yourself asking whether you should focus more on sales or technical experience throughout the process, but the truth is, both are integral to success. 

In fact, research shows that sales experience is more important long term, while technical expertise is more important short term. Let’s go into more detail.

Some say truly good sales people are harder to find than those with technical expertise, being that the ability to sell comes more naturally to those with certain innate traits that cannot really be taught as readily as technical proficiency. Many can learn about a process, product, service or idea, but if you are not able sell that same process, product, service or idea to the public, you are dead in the water. That’s why many believe sales experience is a better long-term characteristic than its technical compliment.

Technical problem solvers are always doing just that: solving problems. That’s what they do. They work with things, while natural sales people work with other people. 

Those skilled more on the technical end of things can sit in a room, put pen to paper, and figure out how to solve your company’s problems, how to bring a product to market, how to get by stumbling blocks in the research or production process. However, you need someone out there on the front lines (even if those front lines are digital and remote today): someone who can handle the chaos and complexity of the daily grind with the fortitude to fail and get back up again — even in the face of rejection – and especially as a lone, independent operator. 

After all, what is sales but a series of repeated attempts to find success? Personal motivation, persistence, self-confidence, people skills…these are all critical pieces to the sales puzzle.

The sales person’s role in the process is to present a product or service in a clear, concise and truthful manner yet with integrity, says Forbes, and sales people should be in the sharing business, not the convincing business. As such, naturally talented sales people will help the customer make a purchase decision, moving them confidently through a buyers journey to help them find a solution, not solve a problem for them.

Now, before you leave thinking technical proficiency is just an after thought and shouldn’t be a factor in the hiring decision, it’s still important. Just because a candidate is skilled in sales aptitude doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have knowledge of the core competency at hand. By hiring someone with a basic knowledge of the technical aspects of your Clinical Research, Molecular Diagnostics, Genomics or Genetics business, you are using that as a foundation on which to grow their skills through ongoing training. Technical know how combined with sales prowess makes it all come together so well.

Finding that strong sales talent with at least a basic knowledge of the technical aspects of your industry or products will generally provide you with the best foundation to build upon. When interviewing, remember to look at past sales performance and solid rankings, as this is generally the best predictor of future success.

At Cerca, we are professionals working with professionals to fine tune talent branding.  If you are a leader looking to expand your team with professionals who are bring both technical and sales expertise to bear, then we would be privileged to help you in the process.  Having been pros ourselves in the fields where we focus, we know the ins and outs of the companies, the business and the customers we serve.

Partner with the group that can talk shop and gain rapport with the pros who will lead your business into the future. Let’s figure out what is going to help you in your quest to select those “A” players that will provide you a 10X return on your money. Just email me today at, and we will begin the process of connecting you to Allstars who will help you set records.