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Finding the Quality Solutions Pro

16 Jul, 2008 By: Tom Callinan imageSource

Finding the Quality Solutions Pro

How do you find the quality solutions sales professional? It certainly isn’t
easy in an economy where less than 2% of college educated employees are
categorized as unemployed and, despite a dip in the epoch of economic growth,
most industries are not reducing their sales force. In other words, quality
sales professionals are in high demand & will have a choice in where they work. 
Let’s take a look at some areas to improve your chances of adding quality hires
to your team.

The first thing you need to decide is what “solution” will the person be
selling?  If you need a copier sales person—somebody with a pure hardware
quota—they will require a different skill set than somebody selling print
management, facilities management, or workflow. You wouldn’t hire a plumber to
install trim in your house and you don’t want to hire a sales rep that doesn’t
have the skills required to successfully fulfill the responsibilities of the
job.  So take the time to clearly define the position and the skills required to
be successful.

A Reward Plan

You need a compensation plan that attracts and rewards.  Some of you may
stop reading after this statement, but I believe this strongly, so here goes: 
Paying a draw is not a compensation plan that attracts—regardless of how much
perfume you put on it or what you call it.  I am still amazed when dealers tell
me they can’t afford to pay a competitive salary yet I discover that they have
100%+ annual turnover. Attract better candidates; reduce your turnover and you
will have a lot more money.

To get back to the point, you are competing for talent with every industry
that hires sales professionals; they are a fungible resource.  If you want to
hire top talent you need a compensation plan that pays for top talent.  One of
the benefits to a sales person in our industry is that it does have a culture of
“unlimited” income.  We usually don’t cap earnings—you need to sell that. 
Provide a base that attracts a quality pool of candidates and a variable
component that provides incentive to smash quotas. 

Fun Times

You need to understand the benefits of being on the sales team at your
company.  I jokingly tell people that when I entered the copier business it was
high tech, and it was.  The masses aren’t breaking our doors down today to sell
copiers.  You need to position the opportunity correctly so a quality person
will want to join your organization.  If the only benefit you offer is unlimited
income, you are in trouble.  Highlight the software components of our business
as well as the problem solving requirements.  If you emphasize  these products
during  the interview process, you better emphasize them in your go-to-market
strategy.  If you  hire a print management specialist, positioning the solution
aspect is easy.

You need to make it fun to work at your company and you need to recognize
performance.  Selling is tough so make your work environment as enjoyable as
possible.  Let the prospect know about your energetic, fun environment.

It is important to understand that if you have a culture of turnover, which I
would define as 12 month rolling turnover of greater than 50%, you need to
address that issue before you will be able to hire quality sales professionals. 
If you have a turnover culture, look at the areas just reviewed and objectively
ask yourself  how you rate.  Do you offer a compensation package competitive
with all industries? Do you understand and communicate the benefits of selling
at your company?  Does the environment foster any fun for de-stressing?

Be objective in your resume screens and interviewing.  It is rare when
somebody in an interview flat out tells you that they failed.  One of the best
sales rep hires I was ever involved in was in 1999, when I was president of IKON
NYC.  The guy was at his last position with the industry’s leading computer
storage company for nine months.  When I asked why he had short tenure, he was
succinct:  “(They) guaranteed me the $225,000 I was making at (ABC Company) but
made it clear that if I wasn’t at my $9 million quota at the end of nine months,
I didn’t have a job.  I sold just under $7 million and was “terminated.”  This 
company’s  reps  were   famous for booking $10 million or more & he took the
gamble, failed and admitted it.  He said that although he considered himself a
talented sales rep, the stars at that company were in another league.  He was an
absolute star for me—and still is to this day, selling $4-$6M per year in
copiers & solutions.

There are two points to this story.  The first one is that this guy had
demonstrable success in the past.  He was at ABC Company for over five years and
was earning $225,000. The number one predictor of future success is past
success.  If they have no demonstrable success in the past, it is an immediate
no hire in my book.  This rep also only had one short stint and he admitted he
failed.  The other 99.99% of people I have interviewed that had short stints 
had a million “reasons” why they failed:  Lousy territory, bad manager, poor
product, or the deal that got them over quota closed the month after they left. 
They just had bad luck in all four jobs in the last six years.  Do you really
believe that? 

Don’t allow yourself to get sold.  I have hiring discussions with bright
sales leaders and often try to sell me on a candidate. One was a “sales rep of
the month” at a job he had years ago—where he was employed for 14 months.  And
at the next job he’d had for 16 months, he increased the territorial sales by
38%.  Another job was a mistake & he left in eight months, he was misled on the
territory. And at his current job of 18 months he is the top performing sales
rep with the XYZ product. Yet the company is having financial problems and is
now dramatically reducing their sales force.

I see a person here with high probability of  eventual termination. With a
past performance that is likely not verifiable—or if assumed true, is a
performance that was still subpar. What legitimate reason would he have to leave
after spending only 14 months in his last job?  I really do not see a person
here that I’d want on my team.

If you are a large firm, I would bring a staff recruiter on board.  The
recruiter can do other work for you as well, although recruiting is their
primary responsibility. If you cannot justify the expense of having a staff
recruiter in-house, or you like the variability of the outside recruiter, find
one or two quality ones.  I define quality as a recruiter that finds you quality
candidates that are not just looking for a job.  If all your recruiter does is
farm the resume on  job sites, get rid of him—they are wasting your time.  Why
do I recommend using a recruiter?  Because good ones will save you substantial
time, and research and provide a much higher quality candidate pool.  You aren’t
going to find many top quality candidates with their resumes posted on-line.
That is as rare as winning the lottery.

Tom Callinan is the founding principal of Strategy Development, a management
consulting and advanced sales training firm. Tom graduated with honors from The
Wharton School, University of PA. At

or 610.527.3317, (www.strategydevelopment.org).

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