Do you find it difficult to attract and keep good salespeople? Recruiting can be difficult if you don’t have a process.
It may be time to update your recruiting and hiring process. Most alarm and electronic security systems business managers and HR executives recognize the difficult challenges in managing a typically high sales department turnover.
This is not just an alarm industry problem. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, across the spectrum of US companies in all industries, sales departments experienced a staggering total of 25-30% turnover in 2015.
Effectively, the average company must hire and train an entirely new sales staff every three to four years.
The drain on productivity associated with such high sales team turnover represents an enormous loss for alarm and security firms as well as for vast numbers of US businesses of all types.
Sales team turnover results in lost profits including the impact of lost sales as well as the high costs of hiring, training and developing new, replacement, sales personnel. Turnover is a pervasive problem in US business that can severely shrink profit margins, sometimes to potentially ruinous extremes for small businesses and start-ups.
Here are 7 key measures you can take to more systematically develop a higher retention rate in your sales team. Remember, it all starts with recruiting:
Be clear on the type of salesperson you need
Salespeople and sales positions in alarm and security systems businesses vary from one company to the next.
Salespeople vary from dauntless “hunters” who thrive on cold calling their way to higher volumes of short-cycle sales—to “farmers” who flourish in cultivating long-cycle relationships yielding larger sales. In between are those “farming-hunters” who operate in the realm of medium sales cycles to provide security systems to medium-sized businesses.
Here are some specifics you need to clarify before you recruit:
- Specify the responsibilities you expect your new salesperson to fulfill.
- Clarify the degree of technical knowledge necessary to perform effectively.
- Specify the kinds of customers / clients that the sales representative will call on.
- Residential (working with families)
- Small Businesses (working with small business owners)
- Franchise Owners and Operators (light commercial, working with business owners and their managers)
- Property Management Companies (working with managers who represent building owners)
- Government and Safety Officials (some small business, light commercial and large commercial sales require coordination with government agencies for approvals and permitting.)
- General Contractors
- Schools (K-12)
- Storage Facilities
- National Accounts
Enhance the appeal of your company as an employer
More than 100 studies have now confirmed what has long been observed by employers—that employees who report feeling fully committed to their jobs tend to be much more productive and contribute much more to customer satisfaction.
Compare your company to your competition and consider why someone would rather work for you.
Think about what naturally makes employees feel the most enthusiastic and loyal to an employer.
Here are some key actions you should take:
- Shift from striving to squeeze more productivity to facilitating satisfaction of employees’ core needs—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. This can free and inspire team members to perform optimally every day.
- Specify expectations, i.e, clarify what is recognizable as success in the role.
- Allow professionals as much autonomy as feasible to accomplish their work.
- Design an appealing work environment.
- Institute two-way performance reviews.
- Make every company employee, from top to bottom, accountable for treating all others respectfully and with care.
- Encourage supervisors to regularly recognize employees for positive contributions.
- Give employees a financial stake in the company’s success (bonuses, or profit sharing, etc.).
- Make it possible for employees to devote time to value-added projects they’re passionate about.
- Provide ongoing opportunities and employee incentives to learn, develop and grow.
- Make sure your company stands for increasing profits and much more. Commit to adding value to your local community and the world.
Develop a description of the sales position you want to fill
Selling is a talent, a skill and a process. Sales tasks vary with changes in the market, your business strategy, your business development stage, your customer types and their buying processes.
- What market you want to reach and your new sales candidate’s experience indicates how he or she can relate to that market.
- Whether your tasks involve the personalized service and strategic lead cultivation of longer-cycle large commercial sales, or are the less complex and variable residential and small business sales, you need to hire based on degree of match for the tasks, not on attributes superfluous to them.
Although sales traits like assertiveness and empathy are important, the force of these influences on sales should not be overestimated.
Current research indicates that matching abilities to tasks is actually a more successful approach in sales hiring. The key is to know with whom your salesperson will be working, and to determine if the candidate for the position is capable of succeeding with that particular type of person.
Develop a sales talent pool
Treat sales recruiting as an ongoing activity.
Recruiting is challenging, as there is no obvious resource for new entrants into the employment market to fill sales positions.
Reportedly, more than half of college graduates, across the array of majors, will likely work in sales during some period. However, fewer than 100 of the approximately 4,000 US colleges offer sales courses, much less comprehensive sales education programs.
You can succeed by combining sales recruitment strategies, such as these.
- Advertise your company’s employer attributes, even when you’re not hiring.
- Include a Careers tab on your Website with both sales and technical positions.
- Interview prospects even if you’re not ready to hire.
- Recruit sales talent from competitors.
- Offer a bonus to employees for applicant referrals.
- Ask your customers to refer talented people to you and reward them if they do.
Your website and social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are important tools in the recruiting process. Make sure you are present on these platforms and attractive to potential sales talent.
When you discover talented people, hire them
Exceptional salespeople are rare.
Searching to find and recruit the right salesperson(s) for hard-to-fit revenue-generating roles can be frustrating, expensive, time consuming and require months to bear fruit.
Even after a highly qualified candidate is identified, training and ramp-up time remains a drag on revenues and profits for additional weeks or months into the future.
So, when you encounter a very talented sales professional, create a position and find a way to bring him or her on board at the earliest possible time.
Prepare for interviewing salespeople
Practice and develop techniques for interviewing.
Consider methods employed by larger companies such as offering a summer job, internship or part-time position as an opportunity for the candidate to showcase skills to your firm’s professionals prior to consideration for full-time employment.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask each applicant.
- Compare answers from the candidates.
- Assemble a team from various departments that interact with the salespeople, and engage them in the interviewing process.
Priorities for candidates’ sales competencies have evolved over time.
Current sales employee data across the US business sector indicates that you should consider multiple factors in your evaluation of each sales candidate, weighing them as follows:
- Fit with company culture 10%
- Formal interview 30%
- Background reference checks 30%
- Assessment results 30%
Evaluating these multiple factors may seem a bit counter-intuitive to some managers who are accustomed to highly prioritizing how a candidate is likely to fit into the workplace culture.
Please, please check background references for every candidate before making an offer.
Modern buying processes require updated sales competencies. Research indicates that sales competencies viewed as critical ten years ago are now less important.
Key sales skills to look for during the interview process:
- Do they have the ability to use logical analysis to prioritize tasks?
- Do they believe in your company’s strategic vision?
- Do they have the ability to advance that vision?
- Do they seem capable of devoting the time and effort needed to succeed?
- Can they cultivate leads?
Institute A Program For Sales Skills Development
A reliable long-term development program for training and fully integrating new salespeople into your organization is appealing to aspiring professionals.
Some companies have new hires spend several weeks in classroom training. Others incorporate extensive field training, joint sales calls, and face-to-face sales situation role playing.
Engaging new sales trainees in role play of their customers’ work affords a deeper appreciation for their customers’ human situation and needs. This can help salespeople acquire a stronger sense of connection with their prospective customers.
- Set a 90-day timeframe as the ramp-up phase for new sales employees to become operational and productive at a normal level.
- Provide ongoing advanced sales training in closing, objection handling, sales psychology, business philosophy, and relevant analytics.
- Set training benchmarks and conduct sales skills testing on an ongoing basis. Adapt as your market evolves, and build the competencies it requires today, not in bygone times.
- Create formalized selling and closing processes to allow salespeople a canned basic sales presentation that they can then customize to fit effectively with their own personalities.
- Have a well-structured sales process. Research data now reflects that high-performing sales managers are much more likely to have well-structured, closely monitored, and efficiently enforced sales processes than under-performers.
- Focus on sales team development. To keep the best salespeople, it is becoming more and more necessary for any company in its industry to be among the best places of its type to work.
- Don’t let yours be a cliché company that maintains equipment and trucks better than it attends to its staff. Closely monitor and nurture sales team development.
Without question, finding good sales talent is not easy. Our goal is to provide you with tips and tools to make it a little easier. In the next post, “Keys To Finding The Right Salespeople For Your Alarm Company” We will show you what to look for in your next salesperson.
Resources used in this article:
Harvard Business Review,The Best Ways to Hire Salespeople
United States Department of Labor, Training and Education
Harvard Business Review,The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work
Larrabee Ventures, Inc. (LVI)
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The Larrabee Ventures professional team is fully dedicated to increasing the wealth of our clients. For more about how we work with clients see here look at the LVI Approach.
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