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

Sales often result from personal knowledge. 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.

In many cases this might apply to the owner or lead operational staff, but they are kept busy day-to-day running the business. 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.

If you are in a company that doesn’t have a unicorn, or you need to expand and therefore require more sales resources, then the whole process of creating sales can be entirely different and highly inefficient.

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 waist time in performance management or HR issues. Neither option is a great strategy for growth.

Every business faces this issue. Having worked with, and managed salespeople for over twenty years, I believe that the companies that are now moving to the top, are approaching sales with a different structure. When you stand back and look at the sales process from the viewpoint of revenue efficiency, you start to look closely at the tasks that make up the person’s day. Instead of one job, there are roughly three functions. Hunt, Nurture and Close. Within these functions are a range of sub-sets of tasks and skills.

The point is, that very little about sales is generic. Specific tasks, consistent message, delivered at the right moment and repeated until you break or break through. In rough numbers, you might nurture ten percent of the people you attract and with a good offer you’ll maybe close one or two percent.

Therefore, not everyone needs to be a closer. A good closer is often crap at hunting or nurturing and vice versa. Which one is the salesperson? Does the generic term still apply?

Hunting today is either about bringing in the hay (digital marketing) or looking for the needle (forensic data tracking). Either way both functions require someone who can use specialised sales technology. Nurturing, again requires sales workflow technology, a strong framework and personal diligence.

In higher value B2B, closing is an entirely different skill demanding strong industry experience. You can’t afford to tie up these resources with low value prospects. This is why sales is more efficient if it is not recruited as one generic role. If you structure the functions correctly, you need less unicorns.

To inform and nurture enquiries, it is possible to swap out industry experience with a well-constructed sales playbook and a strong performance framework. The best playbook of sales dialogue and materials must be carefully and creatively crafted; embedded as the bible and knowledge-base of the business, then regularly reviewed and revised. The efficiency in the timing and format of the delivery, requires personalisation, automation, sequencing and tracking, so it can operate effectively at scale. Its performance must be monitored and measurable in real time.

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.