HIRING, DEVELOPING, COMPENSATING — CULTIVATING SALES REPS
However, what often isn’t seen on the surface are the systemic, contributing factors to that individual’s development and performance achievements. These usually include a coach or mentor, a wide array of support personnel, a supportive culture that includes relentless education and training, and systematic (including constructive and positive) feedback.
Turning to the future, organizations should be developing their “sales rep bench strength” before it is needed. This objective can be achieved in a cost-effective manner through coordination of ongoing: (a) systematic sales rep education and training (this process can create a recruitment process for your organization’s market reputation), (b) hiring and training CSRs as part of the feeder process for future sales reps, (c) customer education and training programs—that are preceded by employee education and training programs—for customer contact personnel, (d) improved information and workflow systems for serving customers, and (e) frequent internal (as well as external) recognition for improving performance.
Successful recruitment and professional performance development starts with a culture that believes in over-arching strategy, accountability, structure and constant improvement.
For example, a written position description should be a cornerstone for the recruitment process, and includes (a) outlined performance expectations, (b) skill sets and behavior traits expected in the successful candidate, and (c) what management is committed to providing to support success in the individual. Additionally, all interviewees should be given a copy of this position description, and what their first three to six months are expected to look like.
Here are some of the qualities I suggest be included in the selection processes:
With complexity of technology and information exploding, successful reps tend to utilize their “expert resources” for accomplishing their objectives. Ultimately, your best sales reps are great facilitators of useful information for creating customer value, improved bottom line performance and company differentiation. Internal case studies can be great examples for teaching future opportunities for improved performance.
Whether your candidate is an introvert or extrovert is almost irrelevant—great sales reps can be either. However, being able to effectively communicate is critical. Depending on your environment, effective written communication skills is of increasing importance, and ongoing training can over time improve a rep’s skills and accomplishments.zz
About the Author
Chadwick Consulting’s mission is to improve company and individual performance in the graphic communications industry through business development—resulting from research, strategy development, education and training, and publishing. Sid Chadwick can be reached at (336) 945-0645 or www.chadwickconsulting.com.
Developing a Sales Force
New sales rep development should include: a 30/60/90-day detailed orientation and development plan. Each day should be detailed regarding departments, and what is to be learned. In particular, we suggest a 30/60/90-day written plan be given to the employee up front, and include: (a) what is to be learned, (b) what is to be demonstrated, and (c) what is to be accomplished. Department supervisor ownership is also a key for this process being successful.
Note: the employee ideally should receive a 15-30 minute debriefing with his supervisor at the end of each day regarding: (a) what was learned, (b) what was confusing, (c) who was most helpful, (d) what was a surprise, and (e) what’s scheduled for tomorrow.
A 30/60/90-day written performance review: This process tends to identify and address subtle, but self-destructive, habits early, while also providing the candidate with positive feedback on what they are doing that’s correct, helpful, important and needs to be nurtured further.
A written description of (a) target customers to develop and (b) to avoid. These two documents require discussion, and frequent updating. However, they also provide integration of the organization’s understanding of which customers the supplier is important to, and which customers it should focus on developing—to ensure its future prosperity. Large customers may be important, but not if the supplier is not important to the customer. Mutual importance between customer and supplier is strategic.
Systematic Education And Sales Training
Technical Knowledge: If it is accepted that our industry is engaged in ongoing change and innovation, by what means are an organization’s sales reps to stay current on both company and industry technologies? Additionally, buyers look to suppliers as their primary source of useful information. To the degree that your sales reps are knowledgeable, and demonstrate and share that knowledge with target buyers, your organization has the opportunity to become a preferred, differentiated supplier.
We’ve even experienced clients being “sought-out” by unhappy reps currently working for competitors—because the prospective employer was recognized as superior in its education and training resources for reps.
Personal Skills Development: What a person can personally do is critical to their professional development, and contributions. And each skill set tends to contribute to the others. For instance, anecdotal evidence shows that most sales reps do not have strong writing skills; yet, important written correspondence—including by e-mail—distinguishes one supplier from another in customers’ awards of work. Examples of important correspondence include: proposals, customized quote letters, and letters of introduction, acknowledgement and appreciation.
Organizational Skills: How an organization supports customer and revenue development is not just a “sales rep responsibility.” In recent World Cup matches, post-game analysis repeatedly reported how certain teams with “multiple stars” were soundly beaten by teams—who played unselfishly—as a team.
Ultimately, there really are no substitutes for clear standards of conduct, knowing the mission and priorities, and who is to do what, by when. Customers can tell the difference in suppliers. Yet, too few organizations educate and train on these opportunities.
Sales Rep Remuneration
There’s a refreshing reexamination of sales rep and sales team remuneration occurring in our industry. Folks are becoming aware that increased commission does not make a better sales rep. Additionally, “straight commission” can even be counter-productive to sales rep contributions to company performance. This last statement is frequently true if long-term customer development and retention are recognized priorities.
For most sales reps, the issue isn’t “percentage of commission,” but rather—“increasing opportunities to earn income.”
Issues to examine in developing a Sales Rep Remuneration Plan include:
Clarity of ownership’s objectives and goals. For instance, an owner over 55 without a succession plan can be expected to reinvest in the company differently from an owner who does have an achievable succession plan. If objectives and goals aren’t clear, then many other day-to-day tactical issues also won’t be clear, and sales rep income can be expected to suffer.
Clarity of company differentiation to its target markets. If the company message is unclear regarding value to customers, or not systematically communicated, sales reps’ best efforts may be neutralized against a smaller but more effective competitor.
Company support structures. Today’s younger generation is often smarter about what to expect from an employer. An RIT graduate was recently hired by a client for a key business development position. The candidate, however, was prepared for the interview process—asking about company objectives, examples of market differentiation, current and new technologies being implemented, frequency of education and training sessions, examples of the company’s self-promotion strategies and even frequency of written performance reviews.
This candidate had interviewed with half-a-dozen larger organizations—but elected to join a smaller organization—primarily because of the clarity of their management practices.
Sales rep income needs. There can be a need for a different remuneration plan for each salesperson. The bright rep who has three young children has need for a noticeably different plan from the rep in his mid-50s—who’s already a top producer.
Company culture. What’s the focus and priorities? Does the customer come first? What communication disciplines and standards are in writing, and expected? Are values clear such that three different people, in different positions, can be asked how a decision should be made—and all three give the same answer?
Is the plan in writing? Avoiding this issue does not make problems go away. If the plan isn’t written and available to reps to review and question, “there really is no plan.” As but one example, what do you say to the recent widow who comes in expecting to collect her husband’s quarterly commission check for sales to accounts he developed?