They are hard to find – but they are worth their weight in gold. They pay for themselves, so they are in effect, FREE!
Most employees are really craftspeople. They want to work on making a product or delivering a service. Very few want to sell the product or service, and even fewer can sell it well. Yet, without the sale, there is nothing for those hard-working craftspeople to work on or deliver – the pipeline is empty and the plant is idle.
Why Are Sales People Different?
Our informal assessment, based on many years of real-life experience, is that 90% of individuals want to focus their working life on delivering a product or service, as opposed to finding a customer for that product or service. This is evident even among entrepreneurs who often begin a new venture based on their technical or product-related skill set and are totally unqualified to take their innovation to the marketplace.
The result of this fact is that only about 10% of the population is equipped with the raw potential to be able to find customers. Even with this raw ability, training and other personal characteristics will differentiate among this group, with the effect that some will be far more successful than others, and some, while having the basic sales DNA, will still be totally unsuccessful. Organizations looking to find customers and increase revenue should focus on the portion of this select group that is equipped, by nature, with the potential to be customer-finders AND have the necessary personal characteristics to work as part of a team, be organized, be trainable, etc.
How to Find These Rare Creatures?
That has been a challenge for many companies, recruiting firms, and creators of personality assessment tools. One problem in the selection process is the over-reliance on one factor, to the exclusion of others. A sales candidate may be extremely well-spoken, confident and knowledgeable about the industry or product, but at the extreme may lack critical complementary skills or attitudes in the area of customer service or in gaining internal cooperation. They may be excellent at persistent follow-up and closing the sale, but if they are not able to manage the after-sale process to ensure effective delivery and customer satisfaction, the overall experience may not be optimal.
A balanced approach may be best. Personality assessments can be useful for highlighting areas to be dealt with in more detail. At Kathbern Management, in our sales recruiting projects, we have had good success using the Self Management Group’s Predictor of Potential (Sales). Interviews by several people can reduce the chance that a hiring decision will be based on one or two over-riding characteristics to the exclusion of potential problem areas. Employment references can verify the level of enthusiasm by past employers. All of these factors must be taken with a grain of salt and assessed as a whole, as it is likely that some elements will indicate a “green light” hiring condition while others will indicate “caution”.
How to Keep Them Once You Find Them?
Sales people traditionally have the highest turnover rate of any type of employee (technical people have the lowest). Whatever you can do to slow this down will pay off in spades provided that you are retaining the best and churning out the rest. For some tips in this area, have a look at Sales Turnover.
One of the most difficult challenges for management is developing a sales compensation scheme that will attract the right people and keep them engaged while encouraging the wrong people to not apply in the first place or not stay around too long. The most important factor is proper screening and assessment at the front end to be sure that you are hiring the right people. If you can get that 80% right, you are a star! Beyond that, the compensation scheme must be sufficiently attractive that a good sales person will do very well (and the company will do even better). Unfortunately, the company must assume a level of risk. It is not realistic to expect that a sales rep will pay for themselves in a short span of time. Just as investing in a new piece of machinery might take several years to recover its initial purchase price through cost savings due to greater efficiency, an investment in a new sales rep may take a year or two to begin to pay off as they begin to learn your products, your processes and begin to establish useful customer relationships. A short-sighted expectation of instant results will guarantee the failure of your sales program.
In The End…
When the balance of factors leads to the hiring of a successful sales person, their impact on the organization through increased revenue and the gainful employment of the other 90% of non-sales types, makes the cost of that special sales person essentially “free”.
Kathbern Management is a Toronto-based recruiting firm focused on working with organizations who are seeking to find and hire the key people who are critical for their success.
Contact us today for a free consultation about your key person search.