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How to Build a Winning Sales Team

March 4, 2013
Do you struggle to find top-producing salespeople? Do you make bad hires that either quit or have to be replaced? Are you frustrated by hiring people that are not “as advertised?” Here are 15 proven trade secrets for building a high-powered top-producing sales staff.
Do you struggle to find top-producing salespeople? Do you make bad hires that either quit or have to be replaced? Are you frustrated by hiring people that are not “as advertised?” Here are 15 proven trade secrets for building a high-powered top-producing sales staff.

Have a recruiting plan and work it. Don’t be like most interviewers who wing it and end up doing all the talking. I suggest conducting an initial five-minute phone screening to ensure candidates meet minimum criteria. Then schedule a 20- to 30-minute phone interview for a day when the sales manager will conduct all of them. Top qualified candidates (six to eight of them) get face-to-face interviews. The two or three most qualified take screening assessments and have second interviews. This is the time to share details about company and opportunity.

Commit adequate time and resources. Now is not the time to be thrifty. Allocate uninterrupted time to do the phone and face-to-face interviews. Be thorough, but don’t let the process drag on and don’t string candidates along or you will lose top tier. Marketing effectively for top recruits or using an outside recruiter can be expensive but is worth the investment if it means expediting the process and yielding a top performer.

Don’t make recruiting mistakes. The top five mistakes are: 1) making the wrong or easy hire by hiring from within or hiring a relative; 2) hiring for technical experience; 3) hiring someone like you; 4) hiring the “good guy/gal”; 5) hiring for personality, not skills. These mistakes will result in you being disappointed in the person and their performance and will be costly in terms of lost productivity, opportunity, revenue and possibly even lost customers and fellow employees.

Define the job and compensation program. Determine exactly what you expect or need from the position and hire accordingly. The job description should outline specific duties, responsibilities and expectations. The compensation program should be crafted to allow for initial training, a ramp up period and shift to a standard compensation program after six months. Sales is performance-driven, and thus the compensation should incentivise and reward performance, especially incrementally when meeting targets for revenue, profit and closing ratio among others.

Develop a profile of your ideal candidate. Here’s what to look for: a candidate that possesses the core competencies of top performers and has a high ego-drive and ego-strength with an equally high level of empathy. The candidate must be money-motivated or motivated by things money can buy and be a person of integrity and character. The candidate must exude confidence, conviction and a belief in their story while being customer-care oriented. Lastly, look for someone with a high degree of talent and a great attitude that has pride, passion and enthusiasm for taking initiative, working and making sales.

Avoid weaknesses that lower chances for success. No matter how many strengths a candidate may possess, one or a combination of these weaknesses can neutralize several strengths: 1) gets emotionally involved; 2) self-limiting beliefs; 3) uncomfortable talking about money; 4) low tolerance of money and thinks things are expensive or your prices are too high; 5) negative outlook; 6) lack of commitment; 7) lack of desire; 8) not money-motivated;
9) difficulty recovering from rejection; 10) makes excuses for lack of results. The two most damaging weaknesses are a need for approval and non-supportive buying habits that make the likelihood for hiring success 35 percent and 50 percent, respectively, less likely.

Work your network. Don’t be so quick to run a want ad. You, your spouse, neighbors, friends and co-workers all know people who could be a good fit. These same people also encounter salespeople and deal with them, and they might be a good fit or know someone who is. Additionally, if these same people work their personal and professional networks and tell everyone they know that you are looking to hire, don’t be surprised when finding your request fulfilled. Every actor in Hollywood might be within six degrees of separation from actor Kevin Bacon, but it is more likely that you are within six degrees of your next great salesperson.

Think outside the box. Don’t limit your recruiting efforts to simply a classified ad or online job site. Instead, leverage several other high-yield avenues such as radio, television, schools, job fairs, signage (truck, building, billboard, area locations, bulletin boards, etc.), direct mail, inserts, circulars, church bulletins, fraternity/sorority magazines and professional recruiters.

Write emotionally appealing
recruitment marketing materials that include filters.
Start with a thought-provoking headline such as “Do You Have This Much Opportunity?” List the benefits the job offers before your requirements for the position. Tell the reader what’s in it for them. Set the bar high by stating that they must have experience earning a similar amount of income versus requiring industry experience. DO NOT request résumés because you will limit some top producers who don’t have or need one as they are so good, they can write their own ticket anywhere in a heartbeat. Place filters or qualifiers to focus your search and minimize riff-raff as well as to speed response. Require candidates to call you to be screened.

Interview effectively and efficiently by using a standardized process and set of questions. A good set of questions is a platform to judge candidates fairly. Be sure to follow up on vague or generic responses, wishy-washy answers, nonanswers, key performance indicators and critical factors or behavior. Focus on results and what the candidate can bring to the position. Listen for excuses and lack of commitment, desire and responsibility. Don’t go it alone. Allow others in your organization to interview the person and get their feedback. Don’t forget to get female input. They tend to be better judges of people.

Utilize an objective scoring process that assesses interview performance in key areas: initial impression; dress, appearance, vehicle – image presentation; bonding and rapport; eye contact and smile; warmth; interaction; sincerity; attitude; dignity and respect; integrity and character; responsibility/excuses; organization and thought patterns; spontaneity; conduct, composure, posture and gestures; questions; maturity and professionalism; vocabulary; articulate; style; resilience and rejection; experience, education, training compatibility; past performance; initiative; customer care; sales mind-set; buying habits; confidence and conviction; closer. Create a weighted point scale for each criteria with more important criteria carrying more points. Score each candidate on the criteria and assign an overall letter grade.

Use a battery of effective screening tools or assessments to develop a complete picture and profile of each candidate. Personality profiles and intelligence tests don’t paint a complete picture to determine the ideal candidate. A sales screening and behavioral profile will tell you not only if a candidate can sell but also if he or she will sell when confronted by their own self-limiting beliefs (everyone has them), weaknesses and whether or not they can develop enough to overcome likely problems they will encounter as a result. This can help determine if hiring and training will yield short-term results and if “the juice is worth the squeeze.” A values profile can also help you avoid likely personal problems or “baggage.”

Listen to the voices in your head and your gut instinct. Sometimes the voices in your head are actually smarter than you are. We all tend to overthink and overanalyze when hiring. Review all the data collected, but what is your initial thought and gut reaction to a candidate? Would you be proud to have this person representing your company; if you saw them at a distance in the mall after hiring them, would you say hello or duck for cover in a store? Is there any chance you would regret your hire in one, five or 10 years? Would you be OK to have your spouse or kids around this person?

Don’t waste your effort by not training and coaching properly, completely and ongoing. The most unforgivable sin of recruiting. You spend all the time and money to get the most qualified candidate only to have them flame out or quit. Of course, you blame the
candidate. Typically, I find it’s not their fault. You hired them incorrectly, kept them too long or did not offer proper and adequate training and coaching. The initial training is critical, but the ramp-up period is when the person is going to require time, attention, support, on-the-job assistance, coaching and probably even more training. Once the person is up and running, they will require coaching and ongoing training to continue their growth and improve performance.

Constantly recruit. Recruiting is 33 percent of any manager’s function. When you wait to recruit based on need, you typically wind up hiring under the gun and making snap decisions to fill a need and will even accept mediocrity. Effective Sales Management starts with hiring the right people. Sales management becomes laborious and unrewarding when you do a poor job during the recruiting process. Create a file of potential candidates. Plant seeds with those you think worthy in advance of need and let them know you may contact them in the future. Don’t forget someone who impressed you but didn’t necessarily have the experience. Five years down the road, they may have experience and may be willing to consider your opportunity. Dedicate time each day to adding to and improving your talent pool. You should be able to make a few calls when you need someone instead of the fire drill and shot in the dark most companies go through when recruiting.

When recruiting a sales team, realize the impact it can have on top-line revenue and bottom-line profitability. Keeping this in mind will help guide your commitment to the process and making the right decisions.

Drew Cameron is President of HVAC Sellutions, the premier contractor-focused marketing resource, sales development and management support organization. It works with residential contractors to build multimillion dollar profit-generating sales forces and positioning their companies to gain mindshare with maximum consumer awareness and marketshare dominance, utilizing unique marketing strategy, sales philosophy, selling style and effective sales and marketing tools and resources, while helping them to establish brand identity for sales and profitability. Contact Drew at 888/621-7888, [email protected] or visit