Are You Ready to Hire Veterans into Sales Roles?

Over the past eighteen months, Tech Qualled has trained and helped place over one hundred veterans into their first technology sales roles.  We have learned some valuable lessons that apply to all Early in Career (EIC) sales hires.  Below are some of our key takeaways if you have the option to hire veterans.

Structure:  Most technology companies are structured to support experienced sales professionals.  In reality, that means that most companies do not have a support structure to make hiring less experienced salespeople viable.

Some companies use their inside sales organizations as a training ground for new salespeople.  The challenge with this model is geography.  If you centralize your inside sales organization, your sellers will get established in the community surrounding your sales center and it often proves difficult to get them to move to the cities where you need coverage.  Another challenge with this model as it applies to veterans is that the on-target income for most inside sales roles is less than the veteran’s military compensation.

Other companies use a Senior-Junior model.  They take a high performing and consciously competent senior sales person and they pair them with a junior sales person.  Many companies have seen the territory yield from these pairings to be 30-50% higher than the yield from the senior sales person operating solo.  The key is to make sure that there is a fair value exchange between the two sellers.  The senior person must provide coaching and guidance but she must be able to delegate some lower value activities to the junior seller.  The junior seller must be willing to accept a reasonable level of grunt work in exchange for valuable coaching.

The last model that we occasionally see is the “Yoda” model.  These companies take a strong sales leader that loves to develop new talent and charter him or her to drive programs and to mentor the veterans and other early in career professionals.  These leaders typically work in parallel with the actual hiring managers and provide coaching to both the new hires and their managers.  The key to this model is that this centralized coach must be credible and very organized.

Patience:  Front line sales managers often get very mixed messages regarding hiring EIC sellers.  On one hand, they are encouraged to bring in fresh talent and to stop hiring retreads.  On the other hand, senior sales leadership sometimes forgets that it takes several quarters to ramp up an inexperienced salesperson.  If you decide to expand the use of EIC sellers, you must set realistic time frames and productivity expectations for those early months and quarters.

Training:  EIC hires need lots of training.  The good news is that they are usually much more open to learning new concepts than their experienced peers.  We have learned that any training program for EIC hires must contain three core elements:

  • Sales Training with significant and realistic role-playing
  • Technology Training that gives students a broad understanding of the IT market and the business impact of technology
  • Business Acumen Training that gives students a strong foundation on business drivers and key financial metrics

Raw Talent:  If you hire the wrong person, none of the earlier actions will matter.  Before you invest in developing a veteran, you must make sure that you have hired the right person.  We have seen the following attributes as being particularly important when hiring veterans:

  • Coachability
  • Loyalty
  • Curiosity
  • Drive, tenacity, and resilience
  • Written and verbal communications skills
  • High gratitude and low entitlement

The battle for talent in the market is more competitive than it has ever been. Veterans inherently bring leadership, diversity of thought, and reliability that is hard to find in other EIC hires. With the right qualification and training process, they can become a fresh source of talent and a new weapon in your talent arsenal.

If you would like to hire veterans or improve your capabilities to onboard and develop other early in career sales professionals, Tech Qualled has some proven programs to help.  Please reach out to Nick Breedlove at


Hire Veterans