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To Build a Superior Sales Team Ė Hire Smart

By Taylor Williams

Generating sales is a must for any business trying to maintain profitability in todayís highly competitive business climate. With the economy in recession, maximizing sales results is essential to the very survival of smaller businesses and start-ups.

Many promising companies have gone under because of inadequate sales. Marketing, advertising and public relations activities may heighten awareness of your company and its products/services, but to really drive sales your need to build a strong sales organization. Your sales team does not have to be particularly large, but it has to be talented, hardworking and dedicated. With the right group of people your company can breakthrough to new levels of sales and profitability.

Sales trainer, Danny Wood, President of Danny Wood Enterprises, Rutherford, NJ, believes the best way to ensure superior performance from your sales team is to hire the right people in the first place. Wood advises, "When hiring a new sales rep you have to distinguish the difference between those candidates who might sell and those candidates who will sell." Wood contends many companies are too content to simply fill their open positions. They fail realize that hiring the wrong person can cost the company precious time, needless aggravation, and even worse, lost sales. Finding good salespeople is akin to mining for gold. Itís hard work, but the rewards are well worth it.

Wood offers these tips for finding and hiring top salespeople.

Cast a Wide Net

When advertising for salespeople try to attract candidates from many different sources. Wood says there are a number of ways to attract quality salespeople. Use newspapers, trade publications, employment agencies and the Internet. But Wood also suggests using trade shows and conferences as a recruiting tool and says your vendors and customers may also be an excellent source of information and possible job candidates.

Wood warns that when you advertise for a new sales rep, be very specific about what you are looking for. Most companies make the mistake of selling the company too hard. They use lines like, "great company", "great benefits", "unlimited earning potential", make $100,000 your first year." While Wood concedes you will get good response, he adds most of the people who respond will not be qualified. They may want to earn $100,000 a year, but they will not have the drive or necessary skills to reach that level of performance. Wood says for a candidate to be seriously considered, they should have a history of making 85 to 90 percent of your target. So if you expect your salespeople to make $100,000 a year, candidates should have earned $85,000 to $90,000 in the past.

Wood also believes that the ideal candidate will have experience calling on and selling to the type and level of customers your company sells to. If, for example, your company calls on corporate VPís or CFOís, a salesperson that has a history of selling to mid-level buyers or small business owners may not have the experience or skills necessary to sell on that level. If you sell to institutions, the government or professional firms, you want the candidate to have experience selling in those environments. Weíre in a recession. You want to hire people who can hit the ground running!

The Three Faces of Willy (Loman)

Wood maintains there are typically three types of salesperson:

Non-Winners Ė On a scale of one to10, these people rate between one and three. They donít take risks. They donít try new things. They donít try to meet new people. These people will call on their current customers, but they wonít seek new ones. They donít even want to push their current customers to buy more. And they resist trying to convince them to try your companyís newest products/services. These people donít want to be seen as salespeople. These people need to be liked. Avoid them at all costs!

At-Leasters Ė Most salespeople fall into this category. These people rate between four and six on the scale. They will do enough to keep the their jobs and maintain their lifestyle, but thatís about it. If this person needs to earn $40,000 a year to maintain their lifestyle they will; but their performance will fall off once they reach that level. They donít have the ambition, drive or desire to grab for the brass ring.

The Winners ĖThese people rate seven to 10 on the scale. These people are not satisfied with the status quo. They are the people who want to make it happen. They donít make excuses. They perform whether the economy is good or the economy is bad. These people will sell the companyís newest products/services. These people will fight to maintain your profit margins. These are the people you need to hire if you want to build a winning sales organization.

Panning for Gold

Now that you have a hand full of resumes, itís time to sift through the dirt and rock to find those nuggets of gold that will make up your sales team. Since most candidates wonít make the cut, Wood suggests initial interviews be held by phone. Donít simply ask them a few questions in a cordial way and agree to see them. Make them work for the interview. Make them display their selling skills. Let the candidate prove to you that they are worthy of your time.

Once a candidate makes it beyond the phone interview, Woods puts them through a special screening to gauge their ability and willingness to sell. Only those who pass the screening are granted a face-to-face interview.

During the face-to-face interview get right to the point. Dig to find out if this person will make a good addition to your sales team. Find out if the candidateís personal philosophy aligns with your corporate culture. Give them points based on their answers. Some of the items you want to rate them on include:

a. Are they articulate?

b. What type of presence do they project?

c. Are they building rapport?

d. Do they project warmth and sincerity?

e. Do they have a professional appearance?

f. Do they have the skills you require?

g. Do their past selling experiences match your needs?

h. How much have they earned in the past?

During the course of the interview, even if itís going well, you should put them off. Wood suggests saying something like, ĎWhile your credentials and past experiences are impressive, Iím not sure you are a good fit for the company.í Then, gauge how they handle it. How they respond will tell you a lot about how they will handle objections in the field. Wood suggests giving a higher rating to those salespeople who handle your objections well.

Using this procedure will lengthen the hiring process, but, in the end, you will hire better performing salespeople. If you donít put quality time into recruiting superior sales reps, youíll never hit the mother lode.

For tips on compensating your salespeople click here


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