Competition for great sales people is tough.
Recent trading conditions mean that speculative job searches by talented sales people have diminished. Keen to be seen as loyal and benefit from current job security, they are keeping their heads down. Likewise savvy employers and making sure they look after their key sales performers.
Do I think this is likely to change in the short term? Not really, I’m afraid.
Never mind, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from what is happening and future proof the sales team moving forward.
Larger organisations have a few more options that the regular SME when it comes to attracting and retaining staff; stock option, promises of overseas postings, fast track programs and all manner of velvet handcuffs to ensure loyalty and commitment. However, the cupboard is not entirely bare for the SME, here are a few tips for ensuring you get to attract and keep the best sales people in your organisation;
- Have a robust and ethical recruitment and selection process. This means not leaving sales recruitment until the very last minute when the sales team are screaming for extra resource. This will compromise decision making as you may be inclined to take the best person on the day, rather than finding the best person for the job. Either way you are unlikely to be attracting the very best, and too many times I have seen sales managers try to retain staff that are not worth it in order to simply save face over their recruitment decisions. So the message here is – plan, take your time and accept that it’s ok to reject a lot of candidates before you get the one you really want.
- Keep a high and clean business profile in your local area – be seen as an employer of choice. Ensure that your sales staff are the best local advert you have for being a great organisation to work for. Word of mouth works and your sales team probably mix with other sales people socially – make sure your reputation is positive and professional…sales is a small world.
- Have a senior mentor role model program for the sales team – much research has been done to establish that money is not the only motivator (yes!!! even in a sales environment) and that other factors are often more important (more on this another day). Sales people are often self taught, and they are great at sales. However, other aspects of business life may well be alien to them. Likewise, sales is probably one of the few areas of business where skill is probably less related to age, hence sales teams can consist of very young and successful sales staff that lack business acumen outside of the sale arena. Remedying this is great for the business as a whole, additionally it builds loyalty, connections and networks, increases learning and knowledge transfer around the business and is the ideal preparation for succession planning.
- Look out side of your industry – maintain good formal and informal contact with sales people you chance across. Whether they are cold calling you, you meet at a networking event or on the golf course…it matters not. Keep the communication channels open. Not only do you get to informally observe the person in many situations over a longer period, you also get to find out what other people thing about them and how they conduct themselves. Even the most robust interview procedure or psychometric test will not give you that kind of insight.
- Brand management – what do your sales team really think about your organisation and how you run things? Give your sales team a voice. Listen to what they say and act upon it. Make them an integral part of the decision making process, consult and consider with them. A feeling of contribution and value can engender a lot of good will. Too many times, initiatives and sales campaigns fail due to an autocratic management style and edicts being issued… don’t fall foul. Open heart, open mind, open door…
- Visibly invest in your top performers – it may be an MBA, 121 coaching/mentoring, or simply ensuring they have access to the best resources your business has, make sure the investment is preferential, visible, valuable, valued and frequent.
Finally, don’t deal with the sales team as a group…work with the individual. Herd Management is for shepherds.
For further information about Sales Talent Management, Ethical and Robust Sales Recruitment and Sales Succession Planning call Carol Griffiths – 0779 002 1885 or email firstname.lastname@example.org