I’m sitting here in the Salt Lake City airport for a layover on my way back from Toledo, OH where I just wrapped up our Smart Selling Boot Camp. In this two day course, we do a deep dive on how to build and grow world class, productive sales forces. Every time I finish teaching one of these events, I always enjoy seeing the excitement of the attendees as they go back into their office and implement what they’ve learned. So, I thought I’d do a cliff notes version of some of the highlights from our Boot Camp course.
Regardless of industry, there are only 5 areas that we have to focus on when building a world-class sales organization:
1- Finding Good People
2- Getting Them to Join Our Team
3- Getting Them Trained and Producing
4- Growing Them into Top Producers
5- Keeping Them
In this article, let’s throw the tools in the box to help us out with the first two initiatives mentioned. In doing so, we can take the necessary steps to find good people and to get them to join our teams.
1. Finding Good People
The process of recruiting good talent to your organization is not one that often times happens by chance. Many companies get aggressive about recruiting only when they need somebody to add to their team or when they need to replace somebody who has just left their team. Recruiting is a process, not an event. It must be ongoing and continuous. Can you imagine only going after a new customer when you lose an existing one?
I believe that too many companies out there today are not in a constant hunt for talent, even when they are not happy with the production of some of those currently on their team. When you are dealing with a sales team, YOU ARE NEVER FULLY STAFFED!
For many sales managers and leaders of sales organizations, the recruiting process is treated as a necessary evil and something to “get out of the way as quickly a possible.” Often this is the case because it is the goal of that individual to build sales. We believe that the sales manager’s job is not to grow sales. Rather, it is their job to grow salespeople, both in quality and quantity, on a regular basis. It takes time and effort to build a pipeline of business and it also takes time and effort to build a pipeline of top notch sales candidate prospects that you must actively be courting for your team.
In order to do this, you must first be very clear on what this person looks like. Have you put together a profile for this person? What characteristics does this person have that make them successful? What type of experience does he/she have? What soft selling skills do they possess? What specific selling skills do they have? What computer skills do they have/need? What type of communicator are they? You need to write down, in bullet point format the profile of the type of individual that you would recognize as a hitter for your team. Once that is in writing, get it in as many hands as possible. Let your entire staff know what you are looking for. Let you clients know, your vendors know, your entire network. If you are the only person in your company who knows what your idea of the ideal sales candidate looks like, you seriously limit your chances of finding them. The more that know you are looking, and what you are looking for, the better your chances.
As a salesperson, or with salespeople currently working for you, you realize that you must identify prospective client candidates and then methodically look to get them to do business with you. This is often done through a series of touches such as prospecting calls, e-mails, faxes, lunches, meetings, presentations, etc. Most salespeople continue this courting process for days, weeks, months, and sometimes-even years to get the right prospect to do business with them.
When bringing new talent to our team, we must take the same approach. Once you have identified some prospective sales animals that you would love to have on your team, regardless of where they currently work or what they currently are doing or making, you must begin the same process. Remember, the best prospective new salespeople for you are probably already working in sales, making a good living and are not necessarily looking to change careers. How will you initiate contact with these people? How will you look to set the initial meeting to introduce your company to them? What will you say? How will you overcome their objections? What questions will you ask? How will you maintain contact with them after the first meeting? This makes sense when going after one account doesn’t it? Then why don’t we prepare this way when we are going after a sales professional that could possibly secure the next 20 of those accounts for our company?
The process of continually looking for and recruiting top talent to our teams is imperative when building a world-class sales organization. In order to have the best people constantly surrounding you in your company, start looking now and do not ever stop!
2. Getting Them to Join Our Team
Now that we have spent countless hours, days, and months hunting our prey, we finally have him/her in our sights. They have agreed to sit down with us and have a formal interview. Let’s go back over to our “big-customer prospect” analogy for a moment. Once our salespeople have identified a new prospective BIG client and set an initial sales presentation meeting with them, we fully expect our salesperson to do their homework thoroughly. We want them to know as much as they possibly can about this company and this prospect before they meet with them. We expect them to be fully prepared to ask all the right questions to find out all of the prospects needs, pains, fears, and desires. We fully expect our salesperson to be armed with appropriate responses to all of the potential questions and/or objections that the prospect may have. Additionally, we will have the full expectations that our salesperson has prepared and practiced a very thorough and professional presentation of our company, it’s products/services, features, advantages, and benefits. This is only natural when we think about it in our sales process.
However, when we attract the potential big-dog sales professional to our company to come in and take a look at what we are about, we often times wing it. My mind plays back for me the hundreds of sales interviews that I have witnessed where the sales manager grabs the candidate’s resume, gives it the once over, and then proceeds to find out a little about the candidate while he prepares to vomit all of the reasons why the candidate should come to work for him.
Sitting in front of the sales manager is a person who could potentially create the next 20 big clients for the company and the sales manager decides to fly by the seat of his/her pants. Very little preparation was done prior to meeting with this candidate. Questions were not prepared to discover the true person; their needs, pains, fears, and desires in regards to a career change. Answers to potential questions/objections from the candidate were not prepared and practiced. A very thorough presentation of the features, advantages, and benefits of employment with your firm was not put together in advance and practiced for a flawless delivery. No communication was prepared to show this candidate how we are different, better, stronger, and more beneficial to work for than the candidate’s current employer.
It is our belief that the interview and hiring process is the most important SALE that you, as a company leader or sales manager can make for your company. This process must be prepared well in advance if you are to have a shot at the top talent. Even more so, this must be a system that flows throughout your entire organization. Your entire company must present an air of success and enthusiasm about the workplace-especially when you are bringing in the top candidates for the initial interview. Ask yourself these questions: “Would I be impressed with my company if I was recruited? Would I be excited to come to work here? Would I pull up stakes in my current successful career to come work here?” If the answer to any of these questions is yes, ask WHY, and then work to build on that. If the answer to any of these question is NO or I’M NOT SURE, get to work.
Many sales managers think that money is the only thing that will lure a top hitter away from his/her current career. With lack of preparation, this could very well be true. If that is the case, it’s time for a DIFFERENT APPROACH!! If you take the time to thoroughly find out what a potential candidate is looking for out of his/her perfect sales opportunity and then take the time to truly find out what they are missing from their current employer or opportunity, only then can you design a proper plan for them with you. Assume nothing! You can earn the right to build their dream opportunity for them only when you shut up and LISTEN…. just like in a sale. If all parties at the table want the same thing, a deal can be made. Don’t worry about price until you have established value in a sale likewise, don’t worry about compensation until you have established value in the interview.
Finally, just one more thing to remember about the recruiting and hiring process.
Regardless of your planning and preparation, you will make a bad hire from time to time. Do not become hesitant to take action and make a decision! You do not have a crystal ball. You cannot predict the future. There is no guarantee that every choice that you make will be the right one. There is however a guarantee that if you do not do the things mentioned in the paragraphs above, you will a have much harder time getting your sales team to where you want it. Use the same planning, preparation, and tenacity to identify, hunt, and land top sales professionals for your team that you expect your people to do to identify, hunt, and land big clients. GET BUSY!