I’ll start this off with the foundation this is written for small to medium sized businesses primarily who don’t have the HR Dept of a company like Google but have the same hiring issues and need to hire people that can sell.
I was speaking with a friend of mine who just came back from their national conference in the Office Products Industry. He knows I recruit and hire sales people so he divulged that the #1 complaint that the business owners at the conference continued to voice was the fact they cannot find, hire or retain great sales people.
Yesterday, I spoke with a young sales candidate who I was phone screening for a client of mine. He had just put his resume out there and received about 5-6 recruiters call him immediately. He obviously was a bit cocky as he told me he had all the opportunities in front of him but when we talked it was clear he did not have many options; most of the companies calling him truly sucked with high turnover and not the kind of company he really wanted to work for. He did ask a great question: ‘Why should I work for you?’. When we were done we may not have had the best position for him but he was very sold with the company I was representing. I’ll explain more below.
I am continuously amazed at the number of companies I have represented that don’t see the interview process as a two way sales. Using a retail metaphor: They believe they are just there for the candidate to impress them enough to want to be hired, meaning the company is shopping before they make make their purchase and the candidate is the product. The smart companies realize that the candidate is first shopping before they buy and the company is actually the product.
As a small or medium sized business, you know you may not be able to offer the company cafeteria; the in-house gym; the free breakfasts every morning in the company kitchen and the list goes on. You feel you have a fair compensation program and of course if the person sells hopefully you have a compensation structure that allows for a no-ceiling income possibility.
When I talk to companies looking to hire the best I break the discussion down not as much as ‘what they have to offer, but why someone would want to work for them’. What can they do that their competitors can’t?
What do great sales people generally want? You would think, make a lot of money. While that is true it’s more than that and goes back to many of the basics everyone wants and needs. I read a great list from a Sales Consultant, Mark Hunter of ‘The Sales Hunter’ who wrote this back in 2013. Mark says this list does not change year after year:
Here is what top salespeople want in an employer (adding my own comments)
1. A sharp sales manager who is a strategic thinker and has clout in the company. – If it’s the owner does he/she know where they are going. If it’s a Manager, do they have the standing in the company to help the company and help the Sales person.
2. No micro-managing.
3. Culture that embraces who they are.
4. Opportunity to be recognized and respected. – Most sales people are competitive and want to be the best. What’s in place to make that happen on a continuous basis.
5. A strong marketing and business development department. – Take that to mean, strong Lead Generation and a branding program to be recognized in the market.
6. A solid company. – will the company last, do they have a great name in the market, what do others say about them on sites like glassdoor, yelp, etc…
7. Growth opportunities. – Is there a strong learning culture? Can the person grow with the company?
8. Variable compensation. – Can the best make top compensation relative to it’s competitors? Is compensation tied to the right activities?
I would actually take it one step further.
How do you onboard? Did you make the new employee feel at home immediately? Did he get the tools, training and mentoring needed in the beginning to succeed?
Is there a clear purpose to what you do and a clear method of delivering that message to your market.
Is there a sense of sales culture. Is the sales person treated as a ‘pariah’ or outsider or is everyone made to understand that selling is the lifeblood of the company. Is everyone on the sales team?
Is there Trust? People need to be around people they know will be straight shooters; there is accountability and clear expectations; the company will not change overnight; that all people are treated honestly and there is open communication.
Looking at the list above, it’s not the things the company has but the intangibles; culture, the right structure, leaders(not micro-managers), a sense of purpose, a place the sales person will be recognized, will feel safe and will feel a sense of belonging and place that will reward accordingly.
When you talk with the right sales candidate, the best know they can make the money. They’ve done that. They know they can buy what the company can’t offer and don’t need free latte’s in the morning, as nice as that would be. If your company can break down what it is your candidate really is looking for they will buy your company because you are the best product for them.
Like a great restaurant in town that provides great food and a great experience that everyone talks about, so will be the same for your company. People will talk about it and that is how you attract great sales people.