We hear it all the time. “We can’t find great salespeople, we look hard, employ those with experience and they never seem to be really, truly successful. It’s just really hard to find good quality sales people and we haven’t been able to crack it yet”.
Well maybe… actually it’s probably not them, it’s you.
In order to grow a great business, you first must have great people according to Jim Collins. So if you want your business to be in the top 10% of businesses in your industry based on quality, revenue, profit or just about any measure, firstly you must ensure you have people who are in the top 10% of available candidates within your price range.
Lets take a look at the top 5 reasons people find it difficult to recruit top sales people.
1. You don’t capture the largest number of candidates possible
Looking for a sales candidate in the top 10%? It stands to reason the more candidates you have to select from the greater the chance you will find one. If you have 5 applicants there is a 50% chance that one is a top sales performer. With 10 applicants you are close to doubling that. With 50 applicants you have a good chance that 5 could be top performers, and when you are interviewing 5 top performers you have a very good chance of hiring someone who is not only suitable, but also aligns with your Core Values.
The problem is that when most people need to employ someone they feel it’s a waste of time interviewing or dealing with people who don’t end up with the job. They dream that they will place a job advert, and the ideal candidate applies, then after one brief interview they are able to start the next day. Of course this has never happened and only serves to make employers have an unrealistic expectation of candidates.
What you need to do?
Cast the widest net possible, use effective filtering and obsess about getting only the right people in. Don’t just wait for advert replies but proactively ask suppliers and customers for referrals, approach people on LinkedIn and try unique marketing options.
2. You don’t filter for the best
I clearly remember the worst sales rep assessment I have ever heard.
A sales manager proudly told me when someone applies for a sales job he asks them one question, how many fights have you had in a pub, and when was the most recent? If they haven’t had more than 10 in total and one in the past few years he won’t hire them.
Still to this day I am shocked at the stupidity of that hiring process.
The problem is that in order to get the best you need to obtain a lot of applicants and then try to identify who is worthy of an interview. Most people look for experience in a similar role as a predictive indicator of success. The problem is that 74% of people who are paid to sell are not making budget. So it’s likely you are just inheriting someone else’s problem, and if it was your competitor they are likely delighted.
Apart from the damage to staff morale and perhaps upset clients the problem with hiring incapable salespeople is that they burn leads. All the good money you are spending on marketing is being lost on them. You accept a 25% conversion rate when you could be getting 50%, 60% or higher.
What you need to do?
Find a way to filter applicants at the beginning of the recruitment process and reduce the time spent from 20 hours to 5 hours and increase the chance of success from 50% to +90%. We use and recommend the Objective Management Group sales candidate assessment which has a 92% likelihood of identifying candidates who can and will sell. This data is based upon almost 1 million sales person assessments over the past 20 years. What I really like about it is that it presents a simple recommended or not recommended status on a dashboard (see image), along with around 20 pages to support the recommendation for each candidate including suggested questions for the interview to help quantify the findings.
It is essentially using science over art to remove gut feelings and use predictive data to give you the greatest chance of success.
3. You don’t have an on-boarding program
Fantastic, so your A Player sales person has started. Now what?
“Off into the market and make money baby!”
This is actually where many mistakes are made. Without a clearly defined, 90 day on-boarding process you are significantly increasing the chance that your new star salesperson will up and go elsewhere. When you put an A player into a B team the A player will either leave or drop to the standard of the B players. This is your first chance to prove to your new recruit that you are indeed a team of A players.
What you need to do?
When you hire the person you should clearly spell out each stage of the process, document it and explain what is expected from each party. Then as time goes on record when each item is completed and progress against time goals.
First day – all introductions and training
First week – clients to meet, sales calls to ride along with, numbers expected, activities due for completion
First month – sales training and coaching, sales calls to make, numbers expected, activities due for completion
First quarter – sales training and coaching, sales calls to make, numbers expected, activities due for completion
This 90 day on-boarding sales plan should include every single thing that is expected of the new sales person up front, and progress should be discussed weekly between the sales manager and salesperson.
If you have used an assessment to recruit the sales person you should also have the NSROI (New Salesperson Return on Investment) or how long a new salesperson must remain with a company in order for the investment of time and money to produce an acceptable return and for the salesperson to have an impact. This NSROI should be factored into the 90 day on-boarding plan.
Find more information of NSROI in this whitepaper about the science of predicting sales turnover
4. You don’t have a sales process
Can you say exactly where every single opportunity is within a staged process that every single team member follows, and what the chance is that a prospect will do business is with you based on their location within that process, rather than a salespersons wild guess? Lack of a sales process significantly reduces the chance a salesperson will succeed in your company.
Here is an example of a simple sales process
Stage 1 – You have an appointment
Stage 2 – They need what you have, there is an urgency and they believe you are different and unique from the competition
Stage 3- The prospect is completely qualified to do business with you and you are completely qualified to do business with the prospect
Stage 4 – you have presented the perfect solution, appropriate for their budget and they have made a decision to buy from you
image credit @GemmaTognini
So a suspect is pre-stage 1, a prospect is between stage 1 and stage 2 and qualified is between stage 2 and 3. There is a very clear difference in the team between what it means to be at stage 1, to be a prospect or to be at stage 2 – based upon the questions that have been asked and those that have been answered. To be clear this is not micro management, but a clear process to hold people accountable to. The problem is most sales people get to stage 1 and try to close without differentiating, creating urgency, qualifying and presenting the perfect solution to fit the clients needs.
5. You don’t hold them accountable
Sales people have just one job.
To generate leads or take the leads from marketing and work them through a sales process as quickly and efficiently as possible to create a sale. It’s not easy, but it is simple. Accountability means holding them responsible with consequences if they do not achieve the required numbers. That is not only the quarterly sales figures but daily calls, meetings, process stage advancements, levels of contact etc.
The problem is that too many managers tolerate sub-par performance (not making budget) and take no action.
What you need to do?
The sales manager should know the statistics on every sales persons activity and who is on track. These should be tracked daily and monitored through a sales dashboard. Again this is accountability for results, not micro managing.
Every person should be fully aware of exactly what they need to do, or need to not do in order to succeed or be fired.
This high level of accountability on results will create results – exactly what the salespeople want.
If you are looking to hire successful sales people and grow a successful sales force, it’s not about getting lucky, but creating an environment which will consistently generate results.