There is a common belief that the primary cause of a sales team missing its revenue goal is a dry sales pipeline. If a sales team doesn’t have a healthy prospect pipeline, trouble lies ahead. Yet, there is a pipeline that is more impactful to the financial health of the business than even the sales one. That pipeline is the sales candidate pipeline. keep reading…
You’ve hired your rainmaker! The hard work is over and now it’s time for the dollars to roll in. After all, you’ve just hired a great salesperson. Take her to the office, hand her a prospecting list, and success is imminent!
Oh, if only this formula worked.
Early Greek mythology tells tales of sailors lured by Sirens. Their sweet music mesmerized the sailors and led them to believe that the illusion was reality. Ultimately, those sailors who blindly followed the tunes crashed their ships on the rocks and their boats sank.
Sirens lure business executives and small business owners too. The song that the Sirens sing has one line … “Promote my top salesperson, put six people underneath them, and generate six times the sales.” And, like the sailors, many business executives and their companies have been led into harm’s way. keep reading…
David walks into Mr. Stevens’ office for a first meeting. He shakes Mr. Stevens’ hand, opens his briefcase, and proceeds to lecture about the greatness of his products. The harangue lasts about 45 minutes. As he continues to talk, David packs up his materials, again shakes Mr. Stevens’ hand, and walks out of the office.
He’s barely out of the building when he calls his sales manager to debrief on the meeting. “I told him about our latest products and all the great colors that it comes in. It was a great meeting … I talked the whole time … We are going to get this deal!”
Anyone who has been in sales for even a minute can see the glaring flaw in this meeting. keep reading…
Hiring salespeople from the competition always seems like a no-brainer, but there are many pitfalls with this hiring strategy.
Life would be grand if we could sprinkle a few seeds in the ground, fertilize, add water … and a great salesperson would sprout. This is truly a pipedream, but one often pursued by small business owners and sales management executives in their quest to find great sales talent. Rather than grow their own, they attempt to steal the crops from their competitors. Why not — their competitor is much better at growing a sales organization than they are. They will grab some magic from their competitor’s land and they too can enjoy great success.
When did the competition begin building a better sales organization than your company? Before you harvest their crop, consider these five myths when hiring your competitor’s salespeople. keep reading…
Years ago, I was interviewing for a Vice President of Sales position with a mid-sized services firm. Everything was going well with my interview with the CEO of the company, and then the question came. It is the favorite question of CEOs everywhere. Yet, it is also the most ridiculous question to ask a Vice President of Sales candidate in an interview.
“So, how much revenue can you drive for us this year?”
I thought it was a joke, but he wasn’t joking. Maybe it was a trick question — no, it wasn’t. So, I said, “Before I answer, may I ask you a few questions?” He acquiesced…
How many salespeople can I hire?
What is the marketing budget?
What is the travel budget?
What is the budget for cost of sales?
To all of these fundamental business questions, the answer was, “I haven’t decided yet.” Very quickly what I initially thought was a joke became an interview nightmare. Red flags were waving in front of my face telling me to run from this opportunity as fast as I could.
Originally published April 8, 2008.
It’s a great day at Newman Industries! For the last month, it has been actively recruiting a hot candidate to join its sales team. Today, Steven Harmon agreed to join. Newman sees him as a true rainmaker. The recruiter and sales manager share high-fives. Mission accomplished! Spike the ball in the end zone. The job is done! The competition was fierce for Steven, but Newman Industries won.
While Newman Industries was celebrating, Steven resigned his position with his present employer and enjoyed a celebratory dinner with his wife. That night, Steven lay in bed wondering if he made the right decision. He came to terms with his decision and looks forward to his first day at the company.
Many execs put industry experience at the top of their criteria list for sales-management candidates.
“The successful applicant will have 10 years experience in the widget industry.”
The end result of this approach is that companies hire the industry retreads.
After a lengthy screening process, the hiring committee feels it has found the right candidate for the company. Now comes the tricky part: how do you design an offer and go through the offer stage of the process without damaging the relationship with the candidate?
Many companies are not prepared to go through the offer step of the process. As a result, they damage the relationship with the candidate. This leads to one of two unfortunate conclusions. Either they lose the candidate or the candidate comes on board, but with scar tissue. Applying some of the best practices from the sales world into a sales talent screening program helps to avoid that scenario.
The offer stage of the hiring process parallels the proposal phase of sales. Best practices in sales say that you don’t present a proposal until a thorough needs analysis has been completed. If a sales person is presenting a proposal to a prospect, he has acquired the information needed to design a solution, has discussed budget, has a full understanding of their solution requirements, and has set an expectation on pricing. This is certainly the case if the salesperson is going to be successful in winning the account.
Looking at this process in relation to the offer stage of the sales talent screening program, many of the same best practices from sales hold true. During the screening program, information needs to be gathered from the candidate to determine their financial requirements. Unfortunately, many sales talent screening programs focus exclusively on screening the candidate for fit, but do not consider the needs for the offer phase of the process. This leads to a last-minute scurry to mine the information from the candidate, or they design the offer blindly. Neither of those are best practices for the offer stage.
In sales, it is said that if you are going to lose, lose early. This prevents you from making a huge investment in a relationship that will not generate revenue. The parallel to screening sales talent is understanding the financial requirements of the candidate early enough to stop the process before over-investing in the relationship. There is no point in continuing a process with a candidate who requires a compensation level 25% above what you can offer. This probably seems logical, but hiring executives rarely focus on this as a de-selection element early in the process.
Just like discussing pricing with a prospect, the financial-needs discussion requires finesse. The candidate knows that you are asking questions about their financials, just like a prospect knows a sales person is fishing for budget information. The better-skilled salespeople tell their prospects, “I don’t want to waste your time by getting you excited about a solution that will not fit in your budget constraints…”
In much the same way, this discussion can be had with the candidate, “I don’t want to excite you about an opportunity that might not be a match for your financial needs. As you look at making a change in position, what thoughts have you given to your compensation requirements?”
Close your eyes. Now think of the perfect mate. Are you done? Close your eyes again. Think some more. How long is your list of requirements of the perfect mate? Are there five of them? Ten? Perhaps, you have 20 requirements.
Think about your list again. Are each of those really requirements of your ideal mate? Or are those desired attributes? On which items are you willing to be flexible? For example, some people say the religion of their mate is a requirement while height is only desired. For others, it is the other way around.
In my sales management career, I would bet that I’ve seen about 5,000 resumes for salespeople. Yet, I still haven’t seen one that shows someone who has achieved 40% of quota. Every single resume shows 100%, 200%, or 2,000,000% of goal. Where are all of the people who have had less-than-stellar sales performances? Did they all leave the sales profession? If all of the resumes that I saw truly represented the performance of the individual, the U.S. economy would be thriving, to say the least. Every company would be enjoying record revenue performances.
If you have read my past articles, you’ve felt my passion for creating sales marriages, those relationships whereby a mutually-beneficial relationship is formulated between a sales professional and a company based on synergistic matches of needs. This is not easy to do as, right off the bat, the relationship begins with a flawed tool: a resume. It is this tool, not necessarily the individual, that dupes, tricks, and stretches the truth of a person’s pedigree. Yet, as an employer, that is what you have to work with when hiring a sales professional. You need to find a way to mine through the information in a quest for the complete truth.
I was never very good in science class, which is probably why I’m not a doctor today. Yet, I remember vividly the exercise on heated atoms. The experiment started with a flask of water and a Bunsen burner. When the flame from the Bunsen burner was applied to the flask, the atoms would dart all over the place in excitement. The excitement was uncontrollable. The energy remained as long as the heat was applied. As soon as the Bunsen burner was removed, the atoms moved back to a static state. All movement stopped.
This science experiment teaches a lot about recruiting “passive” sales candidates (those not presently looking for a job). All companies want to recruit the top-talent salespeople from other companies. However, that talent is usually locked in pretty tightly. The top salespeople are the best earners of the company, so they probably aren’t looking to leave. What would get them to leave? How do you find these candidates? What would energize passive sales candidates to be excited about another opportunity?
Phil walks into his favorite retailer to apply for a job. He sits down at the kiosk and begins to fill out the employment application. He fumbles through the online form and realizes that he forgot to enter his apartment number. He clicks the browser to go back to the prior page. In doing so, all of the information he already entered is wiped out. Darn it! He begins completing the application again. Name, address, social security number, etc.
Once done, the manager waves him into his office as if he is flagging down a cab in Midtown Manhattan during rush hour. Phil makes his way down to the office. He is shocked and disgusted by what he sees in the office. It is a mess, and that is putting it mildly. Scattered papers are one thing, but leftover crumbs from lunch are another. Phil begins to wonder if he might need a tetanus shot after this experience.
Candidate screening is one of the most difficult tasks that recruiters and managers face. Most will tell you that screening sales talent is the toughest of all. Why? Salespeople are trained in the art of persuasion. They know how to provide the desired responses to the questions. Even more daunting is when you are interviewing salespeople who worked for a competitor. These salespeople know the language and industry buzzwords, making it even more challenging to screen them. Fret not! It is possible to successfully screen sales talent, but there is work to be done before you even look at a resume.
The most important step a company can take is to develop a sales talent screening program. This helps bring focus to the initiative. The mission of this program is to provide data that allows for the measurement of the candidate’s pedigree versus the desired profile. Think in terms of formulating a marriage…a sales marriage, that is.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of CEOs about their sales recruitment needs. To make a point, I mentioned to them that my friend Willie McMoney had heard that I was speaking to this group and asked that I mention he was looking for a new sales home. I shared Willie’s background with the group: Willie has a bachelor’s degree from a well-respected institution, has a great look, has been selling for more than 10 years for household name companies that offer low-priced products, and has exceeded quota each of the last three years. That being said, I asked the group who wanted to hire Willie. Most raised their hands in earnest.
I shared with the group that there were a few more details to discuss before a decision could be finalized. The information to consider was the profile of their companies, which included the following attributes: They were startups with no name recognition in the marketplace, were positioned as high value/high price providers, and required customization for each client. I asked the group again about hiring Willie. The light bulbs started turning on.
There are few decisions more critical for a company than the hiring of the leadership of their sales organization. Yet, few know how to do it well. Many err and “promote” their best seller to a sales management position.
Why this is called a promotion is beyond me. The job of the sales manager is vastly different than that of a sales person, so why is this considered employment elevation? Often sales managers earn less than the top sales people. Promotion?
Many cars today tell the driver when it is time to perform maintenance. Even better, some tell the driver that maintenance is needed in 1,000 miles with updates along the way. It would be great if as a business executive or small business owner, you had this kind of technology at your fingertips.
Unfortunately, managing a sales organization will always be a manual effort. Sure, CRM systems and contact managers help, but there is no technology that replaces the leadership associated with sales management.