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No Experience Required

I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.
–Steve Martin (Born Standing Up)

A few weeks ago I shared my presentation on the eleven attributes that all successful people share and the ten sales skills all successful business-to-business salespeople possess.

The success attributes are self-discipline, optimism, competitiveness, initiative, determination, resourcefulness, caring, empathy and emotional intelligence, communication, influence, and passion.

The sales skills are closing, prospecting, storytelling, differentiating, diagnosing, negotiating, business acumen, change management, leadership, and owning outcomes.

One of the people looking at the list asked a great question, and one I have been asked a few times before. He looked at the list of success attributes and said: “Where is experience?” I told him that experience isn’t a prerequisite for success. He was incredulous.

Successful people aren’t constrained by a belief that they need experience to succeed. They set their sites on some goal, some outcome, then they take action and move towards those goals. Because they don’t believe that experience is a necessary component of success, it isn’t. They go and succeed and make progress long before they gain experience.

But even though success in sales doesn’t require experience, it does make up a big part of the business acumen and situational knowledge that gives the salesperson the ability to create value for their clients. It is important that a salesperson gain experience over time.

Too many sales managers and sales leaders place far too much weight on experience. But it isn’t the best indicator of future success. There are countless sales managers that have hired poorly by looking first to experience. The success attributes listed above are better indicators.

Business acumen can be gained through education. Situational knowledge can eventually be gained by experience. But the foundational attributes are more important, more difficult to identify, and much more difficult to train, improve, or develop—even though it can be done.

You can succeed now. You can succeed long before you have what others would believe is the necessary experience. No experience is required.


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  1. […] colleague, S. Anthony Iannarino, addressed this question in his blog entitled “No Experience Required.” What Anthony did was to share 11 key attributes and 10 necessary sales skills. In reading […]