Use your data to improve sales force recruiting, skills, diversity, and sales!

The goal was to double the sales force of a medical device company that was launching a game-changing product, by hiring more than 100 sales representatives across the U.S. We needed to accomplish this in roughly six months. And, by the way, the new sales reps had to have technical skills our current sales force didn’t have.

My company needed sales reps, who could understand the intricacies of medical science and be able to quickly explain the relevance of clinical trial differences, as well as complex product features. They also needed to be able to work through emerging hospital supply-chain processes.

Hiring to the profile of our current sales reps wouldn’t cut it.  The world had changed!

But, how should we change our sales candidate profile to guide our search?  Should we use big data in our analysis? No, unfortunately. Like many organizations, we were too small for “big data.” And, there were no empirical studies to guide us.

So, we put “little data” to work.

We set out to learn all we could about our current best sales reps—in a hurry.  We interviewed the sales reps, their managers, and the employees and customers they regularly interacted with. We also looked at their work histories before we hired them, and their current performance and development records.

One of the new characteristics we uncovered was that some of our best sales reps came from a source that management long held in disdain. They were pharmaceutical representatives.

Pharmaceutical representatives typically have a bad reputation in medical device sales. The bias is that they have a relatively easy job, selling to doctors at their offices and dropping off free drug samples for their patients. Medical device industry management didn’t believe that pharmaceutical representatives could cut it in the higher stakes world of its sales environment.

What we discovered shattered this bias. Some of our best sales representatives, we learned, were former pharmaceutical sales representatives, who in their previous pharmaceutical sales roles sold to hospitals or hospital chains. They had learned the same skills to sell to hospital chains that we needed to teach our salesforce.

After reviewing our new data, we changed our candidate profile. Then, we armed our recruiting team to find and recruit our new sales representatives.

We succeeded with our recruiting goals, and the new product launch was a success. Our company became number one in our domain.  We also had an added benefit. The new sales rep profile – based on data, not biases – increased the representation of females and minorities within our sales force.

Even more satisfying for me, several of the new sales reps became our new generation of best sales reps, winning Rookie of the Year, and President Club honors.

Not bad for “little data!”

Are you planning a business expansion that requires big volume hiring? Has your customer, marketing and sales environment changed?  What are you doing to empirically update your job candidate profile to shed old biases, and hire for accurate, valid, and reliable job competencies that will drive your business success?

Join the discussion.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults on innovation, global talent strategies, developing agile leaders and teams, and other strategic initiatives. Questions? Please e-mail Victor at Visit for valuable free reports. For innovation visit

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