I’ve enjoyed Alan Fendrich’s Advanced Hiring System blog, where he describes his (so far inconclusive) efforts to use his own system to find a competent sales rep. So far, it seems, things aren’t working out so well, but on the other hand, Fendrich is correct in sticking to his hiring rules not to pick someone just because he ‘needs’ to fill a spot.
His experience reflects my own observations about the sales hiring process — and conversations with other business leaders. Really good hiring systems can help you avoid some of the worst blunders, but anyone who says they have a quick, easy and “sure-thing” approach to hiring competent salespeople is either dreaming or scamming.
I’ve decided that “solving” the sales hiring challenge will be my biggest business priority in 2013. This is because, in reviewing our business model, we have two key drivers for success: Value delivery, that is, when the salesperson has finished his or her work, clients are so satisfied that they return for more (or are eager to recommend us to other), and sales capacity, that is, the scale and ability of our sales force to bring in the profitable business in the first place (and maintain the relationships for the repeat and referral business.)
We’ve developed our own sales hiring system, combining a combination of lead generation (lots of applications are essential), quick processing to eliminate obvious duds, and then, most importantly, a set of validity checks to ensure that the hiring decisions are correct. I think we’re batting about 50/50 on our hires. Not too bad, of course — better than the 80/20 ratio of duds and (as Fendrich describes), “studs” — but still, not good enough to achieve goals. I project we’ll need three additional competent salespeople to achieve our goals this year.
Now, virtually every business leader I’ve spoken to, when they are asked: “What is your biggest challenge?” will say: ”We can’t find enough great sales reps.”
This fact doesn’t surprise me. Great sales reps are golden assets in business — and the best won’t move unless something really goes wrong at the organization where they are currently employed. In many cases, when they move, they will move into their own business (after all, if they can sell, they can also find the resources to run a business, in many cases.)
I sense the available pool of salespeople skewers, as well, to people you would never want to hire. Just as in a booming real estate market you can find plenty of over-priced duds and “fixer uppers” on the market, in the labour pool, unemployed salespeople looking for work are usually scarily bad — and ones that are employed who answer your job postings are often on their way out.
The result of a mis-match between “need” and supply is that you can discover a diversity of sales training and hiring consultants out there, many of whom seem to offer irresistible good options — and others, who charge hefty consulting and service fees to deliver you the hope of success.
My decision this year: I will hire a competent editor to reduce my workload in operational editing/writing for our publications, and set out on a quest to really find out who the great salespeople are, and where they are, and how they are hired, with the goal of refining and improving our existing hiring system. As our revenue primarily arises from advertising, we’ll focus on advertising sales, but the insights probably will help anyone in the AEC community. I will write a comprehensive book on the topic by year’s end.
As the project continues, I’ll post relevant observations here (if they relate to the AEC community) and in our special adsalessuccess.com blog. And, yes, like Alan Fendrich, I’m prepared to eat my own dog food in the process.