The Necessary Evil Part 3

Categories: Management, Sales & Marketing

By Tim Miller | June 5, 2020 << Back to Articles The Necessary Evil Part 3

In the last two articles of this series (part 1, part 2), we discussed the need to develop a value proposition. This would provide compelling reasons and/or solutions to pains for prospects to change whatever they are doing currently, in order to do business with you. We then considered the need to carry your message utilizing a well-thought-out sales process.

The next component of your sales program is the salespeople that carry your value proposition into the marketplace utilizing your sales process.

In the last article I discussed that statistically, 50% of salespeople should be in a different profession.  Basically, they are useless when it comes to sales. Another 20% are “serviceable,” the next 24% categorize as strong, and the remaining 6% are elite salespeople.

The importance of having the right people on your team cannot be overemphasized. While a great value proposition and effective sales process can positively impact even a serviceable salesperson’s results, having strong salespeople in addition is, quite frankly, a force multiplier.

It can be a huge waste of time for a company when a salesperson does not work out. All of the training, seeing if they will perform in the field, rehiring, etc., can be a real constraint or bottleneck in a company’s growth plans. So, you should do everything possible to get it right the first time. Develop people to reach their potential and then keep highly effective salespeople for as long as possible!

When it comes to evaluating salespeople, there are two scenarios business owners face. The first is trying to understand if your current sales force can produce more, how much more, and over what time period. The second scenario is when you are trying to hire new salespeople.

Evaluating an existing sales force

When looking at improving your existing sales force and getting better results, you must understand all the variables that impact performance by conducting an extensive diagnostic.

While there may be many ways to conduct this diagnostic, we are proponents of utilizing the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Assessment (SEIA) tool by Objective Management Group (OMG). Depending on the situation, other assessment tools may also be utilized.

We add to that, assessment interviews of the sales team AND the executive leadership team, as well as an extensive review of sales reporting and salesperson ride-alongs, so we can see first-hand how salespeople behave in their natural habitat. When a skilled consultant analyzes all of this information, a reliable diagnosis and plan of action can be developed.

This process examines your people, strategies, and systems, and can tell you whether your people can actually execute the company’s strategies, meet your expectations, and if they belong in the roles that they are in.

A comprehensive diagnostic will reveal the following information:

  • Which of your existing salespeople could be performing two, three, or even four times better.
  • What you must do in order to help those people achieve their potential.
  • Which of your people won’t ever perform any better than they do right now and why.
  • Who is trainable, how much training they’ll need, and the kind of help from which each will benefit.
  • The effectiveness of sales management.
  • If there are potential problems with your hiring criteria.
  • Whether or not your management team is on the same page.
  • Whether or not your salespeople are capable of executing your strategies.
  • How comfortable your salespeople are with your model for going to market.
  • How much business is being lost as a result of weaknesses among your salespeople.

While we utilize assessments as part of our evaluation and hiring process and give these evaluations a great deal of weight, the number one factor in evaluating salespeople is sales. In other words: What are their results? How many widgets did they sell? How much revenue did they bring in?

Now, you still need to examine this data carefully to understand if what they have achieved in the past is similar to what you need them to do for you now. If you need someone to build a territory from scratch and your candidate grew an existing group of house accounts from US$8,000,000 to $10,000,000, that is not the same thing and you should not infer that success in one area means they will succeed in the other!

When evaluating existing employee’s sales, actual results are very important, and you should have a very clear idea where they came from. As part of your evaluation, be sure to dig deep enough. Did your rep take over from a highly successful prior rep or did they build it from the ground up, etc.?

A more common situation is that a high-performing salesperson does not do well on the OMG or other assessments. There are two possibilities in this case.

First, if you are the tallest kid in the sixth grade, well you’re the tallest. But that doesn’t mean that you have accomplished what is possible or are performing at the highest level.

In the second case, “done it” trumps the assessments. I always think about legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan’s famous “Flu Game.” Jackson said, “I never understood the true power of ‘the will to win’ until I saw Michael Jordan play that game.”

Some salespeople are successful because they want it so badly even though they don’t score well on assessments.

In these cases, the assessments can be helpful management tools, but a rep like this is a keeper.

Hiring new salespeople

Most businesses hire salespeople the same way they hire for any other position in their company. But identifying and hiring the very best salespeople requires a unique approach. You really need a system to do it correctly. If you don’t have a system, you can’t repeat the process and truly drive the growth of your business over time through your company’s direct sales and marketing efforts.

Traditionally, when companies need to fill a sales position, they:

  • Place a generic ad
  • Wade through stacks of resumes
  • Interview the candidates that looked the best on paper
  • Sell the offer to the top candidate
  • Hope for the best that it all works out.

It’s because of a hiring process like this that the average tenure of a salesperson is 18 months or less. In fact, one bad salesperson hire typically costs three times the annual compensation of an average salesperson!

Before you even place the ad, you must decide exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate and communicate that effectively in the ad copy. If you don’t clearly define the attributes you’re looking for, you can’t expect to find someone that will fit your ideal mold.

Once the ad is placed, the resumes will start to roll in. It’s important to remember that the only things a resume can really tell you are:

  • The candidate’s work history and the industries they are familiar with.
  • A pattern to determine if they have a natural up-and-down cycle. For example, do they have a habit of switching jobs around the same time every year?

There are now unique tools designed to screen every potential candidate to make sure that they have the desire, commitment, and skill set necessary for sales success. If they pass this assessment, you can then move them to a phone screening process. The goal of this brief 10 to 15-minute screening is to put them under the kind of pressure that they are likely to encounter in the field and see what kind of sales skills they really have when the bullets are flying.

If they do not pass the phone screening, then there is no sense in wasting any further time on a live interview.

The interview process during the first interview should be focused on picking apart the resume. Treat it as an audition. You have to be aggressive and ask questions like, “It says here that you built a territory from nothing to a $4,000,000 operation in three years. How exactly did you do that?” 43% of resumes contain false information. It is your job to determine whether or not it is an accurate statement of their past achievements.

Once you’ve found the salesperson you want to hire, you must sell the offer to them in a way that demonstrates it is a worthy position for someone of their ability. They’ll also need proper on-boarding, training, ongoing coaching, professional development, and accountability measures and tools to ensure they have everything they need to be successful.

Hiring and keeping a high-performance salesperson that will drive the growth of your company can’t be approached the same way you tackle hiring for other positions. Doing so almost guarantees that you’ll be looking for a replacement in less than two years.

The good news is that outside sales are not dead—in fact, far from it! There are few other ways to generate revenue and build a business as quickly and effectively as an outside sales force. And today, we have the technology to identify, hire, and develop those people most suited to succeed in a specific sales environment.

To evaluate your sales process, try this Free Sales Process Grader.

About the Author.

Tim Miller is the president of Business Development Associates, Inc., specializing in cleaning and restoration industry sales development and marketing strategies. BDA creates direct sales programs for contractors, distributors, manufacturers, and others. Contact Miller at 847-386-6556, or email him at [email protected]