Most MBA professionals from prestigious universities don’t join sales

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“Nothing happens unless someone sells something.”

This Henry Ford quote essentially says that the impact of all other functions - product, marketing, finance and operations - is not realized until you make a sale.

This more often than not leads to many a raised eyebrow. But no one can dispute the fact that despite the way businesses have changed with the proliferation of technology, sales still remains one of the most powerful functions in any organization.

There’s no function more closely tied to the revenue of a business. The job of every other function in a way is to essentially support sales in order to make the business successful.

Typically, recruiters look for specific personality traits for sales roles - strong communication and negotiation skills, aggression, go-getter attitude, among others. But apart from these criteria, they invariably add a layer of complexity by mentioning ‘MBA from Tier 1 university’ in a ‘must-have’ or a ‘good-to-have’ column while writing the JDs.

While this is pretty much the standard approach to writing a sales JD, Belong's research team sifted through enormous amount of data and found that at any given point in time, only 3% of people working in sales in India are from Tier 1 MBA universities.

People from Tier 1 universities who start off their career in sales typically switch to other roles in a few years.

This is in stark contrast with functions such as product management and marketing where more than 18% and 11% of employees are from Tier 1 MBA universities.

overall.pngOnly 8% of sales leaders come from Tier 1 universities

One would think that the trend wouldn't hold true for those in leadership roles. For this, our research team looked at the pedigree of 12,000 sales leaders (directors, VPs and AVPs level) and found that barely 8% of them went to Tier 1 MBA universities. In fact, we also found that as many as 62% of these sales leaders are actually just under-graduates.

In fact, we also found that as many as 62% of these sales leaders are actually just under-graduates.

This further corroborates that for sales roles, there’s no correlation between what universities candidates go to and how much they progress in their careers.

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Most sales leaders from Tier 1 universities join high-ticket size companies

As many as 66% of Tier 1 sales leaders join high-ticket size companies such as B2B product companies, ITES, and industrial/chemical companies, among others. On the other hand, only 6% of these Tier 1 sales leaders join FMCG companies as they comprise mostly field sales. Typically, most people who start off in sales in FMCG get promoted to marketing in a few years.

universities.pngIncreasing interest in internet companies

Historically, most sales professionals have aspired to work in FMCG, telecom and software companies. However, the last few years have seen a lot of interest in internet and eCommerce companies. The internet-based companies have seen a 26% increase in sales talent from Tier 1 universities in the last one year. Among the Tier 1 MBA professionals in sales, almost one-fourth worked in internet companies.

Among the Tier 1 MBA professionals in sales, almost one-fourth worked in internet companies.

Owing to the boom in the technology space, there’s a lot of competition among recruiters to hire sales professionals already working in the internet space. However, recruiters could also look at potentially hiring sales talent from Computer Software/Telecommunication or ITES companies to move into Internet and eCommerce sales due to their strong exposure to technology.

aspiration.pngAll of this means that recruiters today need to relook at the way they are hiring for sales. When you mention ‘MBA from Tier 1 university a must’ in a JD, you are unwittingly decreasing your chances of finding a relevant candidate.

How to recruit for sales talent?

The data proves that recruiters need to look beyond the Tier 1 talent pool as it's too small. To create a sustainable and healthy pipeline, they need to look beyond pedigree universities and factor in experience, industry and company to build a comprehensive talent pool. 

With such data-backed approach to hiring, recruiters can significantly shorten their time-to-hire and optimize the hiring funnel.

Wait for our upcoming post on candidate personas where we take an indepth look at how to systematically find talent pools that will match what your organization is looking for.   

*Note: Universities included in Tier 1 category are IIMs, ISB, FMS and XLRI. 

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