Anyone who has ever put together a sales team will attest that the road to sales success can be a bumpy one.
Finding people who have a deep passion for the selling game is tough, with strong competition for the limited number of top performers—followed by the majority of average or below average performers (whose sales results often fluctuate wildly with luck, market health, and the merits of the product they’re selling).
There’s no magic recipe for hiring superb sales people unfortunately, but there are a few crucial starting points to ensure that your sales hire search gets off to the best possible beginnings.
There are so many different types of sales skills, so choose your candidates wisely. Be aware that salespeople specialise in different types of selling, and that there aren’t all that many ‘all-rounders’ who’ll be as happy cold-calling with a script as they will be doing high-level pitches in boardrooms.
Give real thought to what precise talents your sales hires really need in order to give you the results you want: do you want them to excel in telesales, customer relations, cold-calling, door-to-door? Write a detailed job description requesting those narrow key competencies, and in the interview get them to provide proof of having met those competencies in prior roles.
There’s potential everywhere (but you will have to train them). We’ve already mentioned that competition for proven performers is fierce, but there are also untapped sales people all around you…once you learn to recognise them.
It might be that incredible waitress who somehow got you to agree to that expensive bottle of wine or dessert course when you initially had the intention of quick cheap meal and a glass of tap water, or it might be the new guy in your Saturday sports team who convinces you to sponsor his charity marathon. Of course, it will be up to you to train these recruits to fulfil their potential as salespeople, but the effort of doing so often produces unexpected sales stars.
Keep a close eye on your salespeople to avoid time-wasting behaviours. The truth is, it’s all too easy to put sales calls off, and even easier to avoid chasing customers up after the first ‘no thanks’. You’ll find sales-shy hires spend a lot of time organising- whether it’s organising client databases, answering emails, or working on new pitches each time the first one doesn’t work.
You don’t need to loom over them (and in fact this micromanaging style will often make people feel you don’t trust them), you just need to utilise a reporting system such as a CRM that requires them to input details such as how many sales calls they’re making and results they’re generating, so it’s easy to see where people are spending their time.
Train them to the utmost of your ability (and then get help to train them even more). Some managers tend to think that sales ability is ‘pure talent’ i.e.: it can’t really be taught. In this fixed mindset, the manager believes that the stars will always perform, regardless of training, and that no amount of training will transform low-performing sales staff.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone has untapped potential, right from the least impressive recruit through to your top salesperson. The first, crucial step of training is to ensure that every single person should know every last detail of the product or service they are selling, as well as have a thorough knowledge of their client base.
Do not be stingy: reward your people well when they succeed if you want to keep them. Whether you’re opting for salaries with bonuses, part-commission or full commission as compensation, you need to provide financial incentives that put a real fire under them to succeed.
When someone starts regularly blitzing targets, don’t be tempted to raise the targets or reduce the commission, as this will rapidly demotivate your salespeople and you risk losing them to your competition.
Don’t be discouraged if you have a few non-starters or disappointing flops. A few hiring mistakes is just a necessary part of honing your team down to the absolute best when it comes to sales. It’s all a learning process and you’ll soon realise what to look out for in future hires. It’s a good idea to put everyone on probation for 3 to 6 months so you can let non-performers go easily.
Above all, you need to recognise that truly great sales people are hard to find. You’ll have to work hard to find great sales staff, lure them to your business, train them thoroughly, then fire them up with enthusiasm for your product or service.
Putting together a winning sales team takes a lot of effort on your part, but it will soon be well worth it when the sales come rolling in!