Finding good sales people . . . how hard can it be?
Good people that can hunt prospects, generate leads and sell your product - How hard can it be?
by Rob Keogh | 9 December 2019
If you are in high-value B2B products or services, then sales can be a one-person machine. People who know who’s who, and also know how the industry works. People with career pathway of sound experience that’s produced a phone full of strong contacts. Salespeople that fit this profile are like unicorns. They are never out of a job, because they always know someone, who knows someone, who is keen to employ them . . . and they are frequently fielding offers.
In many businesses however, the person with the most knowledge might be the owner or lead operational staff. You might not be able to afford or find an industry expert who can dedicate their time to sales. If you have someone who knows the industry, they simply might not be good at, or interested in delivering a structured sales process.
Developing sales resources in a business is difficult. There is the high cost of recruiting, including time to find and induct and train a new person, then you wait to discover if they’ll be productive. Also factoring into the cost, you have annual leave, sick or carers leave, workers comp and super. Then there’s the churn.
Turnover rates for salespeople are currently quoted by Linkedin to be 35% to 55%. Nearly half (46%) of sales staff don’t make quota each month. Does that mean that nearly half the people you interview, are the people that the last company were happy to see go? Is the problem with the people or the process?
Based on these numbers; if you have a good salesperson, they are a risk of getting poached or leaving. If you have an average performer you get low returns while you waste time in performance management or HR issues.
In problem solving, I often find that if you keep getting the wrong answer you are most likely asking the wrong question. To build expertise in a business, you need people with experience who will stick. That comes down to how much you can afford to pay them and what you expect them to do. People will often accept a job description, knowing they can't do, or won't do half the listed functions. They don't tell you that when you hire them.
If you have a problem finding good salespeople, then part of the solution might be to change your structure and build a sales framework. In many cases, the level of industry, business or product knowledge needed to present and close sales cannot be trained or acquired in a few months. If you have experienced people with strong industry knowledge, you don't want to take up their time with potentially low value or unqualified sales prospects. (they wont do it anyway) When they are out in the field, they are an ambassador or adviser, building relationships and brand reputation. Their role and title should reflect this.
The solution is not to confuse the sales process with other operational business roles. Sales is a distinct role. The skills and tools required for qualifying and nurturing sales prospects will translate across industries and can be supported in the business with a sound knowledge base and sales playbook (see How to create a sales playbook - the ultimate guide). When you have a strong business framework, you can deploy people faster, with more certainty. This is essential when working to scale and grow.
The proposition is to embed the knowledge in the business rather than trying to recruit it. If you look at the talent in a business as residing in its performance framework, then you will more easily find good people who can operate successfully by executing the framework. If you are not achieving quota you adjust the framework. If your people are not delivering the framework . . .
A performance framework leverages the best knowledge and experience in the business, optimises the execution with technology and automation, measures and tests performance then replicates it at scale.