A sales team is like a bridge. You would never know what your potential customers need, or whether your products or services fit their demands, without your sales team. Along the same lines, building and managing a sales team is no easier than constructing and operating a bridge.
In this blog series, we are going to discuss the common challenges that considerably affect a sales team’s effectiveness and suggest how to overcome those blocks.
The employee cycle starts with recruitment. The success or failure of a new hire also starts with recruitment. The new hire shines? Cool, you’ve done a good job with hiring. The new hire fails? You might want to take another look at your recruiting activity, as that new person did not seem to fit with the position but was hired regardless.
It’s a bitter truth, but only 20% of your salespeople contribute to up to 80% of the revenue while, according to research conducted by Herbert and Jeanne Greenberg (1), about 55% of the people in a sales position are unable to sell, and another 25% possess certain sales ability but are not suited to the product or service they are trying to sell. Aside from contributing to lower productivity, these salespeople might end up leaving their jobs in the end, resulting in a high turnover rate throughout the sales industries.
Some might argue, “It’s not difficult to recruit salespeople. There are a lot of candidates out there, so I will find someone sooner or later.” Yes, you can go with this opinion, without concern for the reasons given in exit interviews, which probably relate to unsuitablility or demotivation. Because of the impressive incentives and bonus policies that appeal to many jobseekers, many are willing to take a sales position although they are not suitable for the job, so you will fill the vacancies. However, if you do not pay enough care to your hiring activity, your organisation might fall into the vicious cycle of “wrong hiring—underperforming—leaving” that will only cost you.
To prevent the trap of wrong hiring and its negative consequences later on, you should take the right steps from the beginning. Here are some points to note when hiring for sales positions:
Know what you want
Marketing people use the term “buyer profile” for traits of the potential target customer for a particular product or service. You should build an “employee profile” based on this concept. The employee profile should portray the salesperson who can succeed at selling your business’s products or services and fit with your organisational values and culture. Your candidates will be benchmarked against this profile before they can proceed to the next stage in the hiring process or are simply cut.
This step is the key to hiring. Any hiring mistakes that happen occur here most of the time, as organisations are either vague with their requirements or have no idea how to compare the candidates to their employee profile.
You can use scientific assessment tools in this step to consolidate the information and help you visualise it, thus making it usable for benchmarking.
Expand your candidate pools
As we discussed in our recent blog post “Six Types of Job Seekers and How to to Attract Them,” the majority of jobseekers remains undiscovered, so you need certain “tactics” to source them.
The talent pool for sales positions is no different. Even though tons of resumes might pour into your inbox after your organisation posts a job advertisement for a sales vacancy on job portals, not many of the applicants will be qualified. Therefore, you need to widen your exposure to reach the passive candidates by creating an employee referral programme, looking in professional networks or even using internal recruitment.
Don't be a box-checker at interviews
At the screening stage, when you need to filter candidates based on certain criteria, such as years of successful experience or knowledge about particular industries, you can box-check.
But in interviews, you should focus on keeping the session relevant to the job’s objectives. Ask candidates to describe a situation that relates to the position’s objectives and how the candidate handled it. You will be able to both review their work history and assess how they approach a problem. For example, if the position appreciates proactiveness and innovation, you might ask candidates to give an example of when they creatively prospected a lead and to describe the steps they took. You can follow up this question by going through their work histories in search of comments on their attitude and ability to work with established processes or to see whether they made some changes at work to keep up motivation.
But be sure to keep a balance of both types of questions, as you do not want a person who is only good at talking or someone who is relying only on his/her past results.
Every company wants to hire people who can produce the best results and will commit to the organisation as long as possible, but if you do not recruit properly, you will never get the results you want. Also, get sales managers involved in recruiting, because you do not want a candidate who satisfies all the attitude and aptitude requirements but ends up being incompatible with his or her future manager.
Yet suppose that you successfully hired the right employees. Will your sales team inevitably run well? We will discuss this in the second part of the series. In the meantime, share your thoughts on this issue.
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- Herbert M. Greenberg, Jeane Greenberg (1980, September). Job Matching For Better Sales Performance. Harvard Business Review.
- The US Incentive Federation (2015). Incentive Program and Legislative FAQs. http://www.incentivefederation.org/legislative-faqs
- Holland, J. L. (1985a). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Odess, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
- SalesGlobe (2012). Coaching and Developing Your Sales Team. 4-5. http://www.salesglobe.com/sites/default/files/Coaching%20Your%20Team-%20SAMPLE.pdf