Saturday, 24 January 2015

Here’s something to ponder on when you are considering the addition of a new member to your sales team – why would any successful sales professional want to leave their current job if they are good at it and they are being properly rewarded for doing it?

After all, it takes a while to learn about a product range, build up a client base and work on the relationships between salesperson and client that produce ongoing repeat business. It takes time to build trust in that relationship, so why would anyone who has been through that process successfully want to change jobs and come to work for you?

There are, of course, lots of reasons why someone might be considering such a move but not all of them bode well for you as a potential employer.

If the sales professional has been successful in their previous role they may feel that their current employer does not offer sufficient room for growth and development of their career – this is especially true of smaller companies where there are fewer opportunities to progress into management.
Someone in this position may not be too concerned with the salary structure – as long as they were not worse off in moving to you, but would be more motivated by the realistic prospect of a sales manager role at some point in the near future.

When interviewing candidates I personally try to avoid the somewhat clich├ęd “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” type of question and try to shape the conversation around where the candidate feels his strengths and weaknesses lie and what he feels he has to offer that he cannot offer in his current situation.

Do younger or less experienced colleagues turn to him for advice or guidance? Does he enjoy helping other to gain experience? How does he interact with management and does he find it easy to summarise his day-to-day sales activities into a verbal or written report that can provide management with an accurate idea of the business he expects to be able to deliver in the coming weeks and months?

There are, of course, those whose motivation is simply financial – or at least that is what they will tell you.

I well remember working with a member of my sales team who simply would not consider a management position, despite being absolutely ideal for career progression in that direction.

Whenever the subject of career progression was raised he always declined to get involved with it.

Why was that? As it turns out he was very focused on one thing and one thing only – saving up enough money to put down a realistic deposit and buy a house. He had built up a decent client base through sheer hard work and repeat business was plentiful so he had set himself a timescale in which to achieve his goal and buy that house.

Interestingly, once that goal was achieved he applied for the first management role that came up – and got it!

My point is this – he always did want to progress up the management ladder but the more urgent need at that time was to buy a home for his young family. It was perfectly possible for him to earn more than a newly appointed manager because his extensive and loyal client base were producing large amounts of repeat business so a move into management, despite carrying a higher base salary, would have meant losing valuable commission.

What I failed to do at first was to recognise this fact and interpreted his reluctance to move into sales management as lack of ambition.

There are many things that you simply cannot ask at an interview and this could prevent delving too deeply into someone’s personal circumstances but I could have found out more about him and his intentions by asking about his priorities, how he gets on with management and whether he could interpret sales data in a way that would be meaningful to non-sales staff.

For example, “how would you explain your current sales pipeline to a member of the manufacturing staff, or someone working in the warehouse, or the finance manager?

If the candidate demonstrates an understanding of how his performance might impact others you may get a clue as to whether they are at least starting to think like a manager.

These are qualities and skills to look out for when recruiting sales staff who you can expect to keep on-board for a long time. Let them know that there are opportunities for development within but that they should expect to contribute more than just sales – you are looking for a salesperson that can be an interface between the management of the company and its customers and prospective customers, not just someone who can deliver a sales pitch – although that is, of course, important too.

If all of this sounds a little daunting never fear - there are specialist sales recruiters out there who can help you by supplying candidates who demonstrate all the necessary properties for making a successful move into your organisation. At Aaron Wallis we concentrate of finding the best sales professionals for your requirements so contact us today and find out more.

Friday, 16 January 2015

As Digital Marketing Takes Over As The De-Facto Standard For Most Business, How Should That Affect Your Sales Recruitment Policy?

When recruiting sales staff, most companies should bear in mind that the old “banging on doors,” mentality is largely redundant, due mainly to the changes in marketing methods and lead generation technology.

So what qualities do sales recruiters now need to look for in a typical salesperson?

I fully accept and acknowledge that every company is different and what works for one may not work for another but the onslaught of inbound digital marketing processes has caught many organisations off-guard and left them reeling.

The biggest change witnessed by many has been the change in the way that leads are generated and the degree to which the prospect has progressed along the sales process when an enquiry is made.

Take, for example, PPC, (Pay Per Click) marketing as a method of generating leads.

PPC works something like this:

A prospective customer for your product or service carries out a search on Google, (there are other versions of this for Bing & Yahoo as well as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook).

He  or she enters the search terms that are relevant to the product they are searching for, eg:

“Volkswagen Golf”

and they are shown a page of results which includes a number of ads or “sponsored messages”. These ads are small, (Google only allows a total of 95 characters in total, 45 less than a Tweet), so they have to come straight to the point, e.g:

Wide Range of VW Golf
Low prices, part exchange welcome
New & Used, call for test drive

What happens next is very important - so far, the business owner who placed this ad has not spent a penny. If, and only if, the prospect clicks on the ad and is taken to the website, does Google make a charge for showing the ad, hence “Pay Per Click”.

Now, lets imagine that the prospect is more specific when making their search:

“Buy VW golf”
“Used VWGolf prices”
If either of the above variations is used, i.e. the word “buy” or “prices” is included in the search, then this is an indication of intent. They are going to buy - all the salesperson has to do is respond accordingly when answering to any enquiry generated by this process.

Because the salesperson is aware of the search terms used he or she can gauge their response accordingly. The “tyre kickers” can be sent a simple email offering more assistance if required whereas the prospect who included “buy,” or "used" in the search phrase would definitely be worth a bit more effort, planning and a follow-up email or telephone call if possible.

Now that many organisations are generating sales leads this way, the level of data available to the salesperson is much more detailed than ever before.

Has this made the sales process easier? Well, yes it probably has but the problem is - it has made it easier for everyone, including your competitors.

So what qualities are needed in a salesperson now that were not needed before?

The main difference is in the way that people expect to be interacted with in a way which is appropriate to their method of enquiry.

In some cases, an online shop for example, there may not be any interaction, the buyer will place their order and that’s all there is to it, but this type of operation will probably not employ salespeople anyway.

In other cases however, the enquiry is just that, an enquiry. Yes, the prospect does intend to buy but they still need convincing that yours is the right company to buy from.

Enter the salesperson. This time, however, it is a well-informed salesperson, armed with a pile of relevant data about the prospect. 

The exact details that they searched for, when and where they searched. Where they saw details of the product - was it Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or on a specialist website about cars, or golf, or whatever is relevant?

If a telephone number has been provided then a quick call could close the business. If no number is provided then maybe we have the email address - a quick response offering a catalogue, a test drive, or a free assessment, whatever is relevant, should clinch it - after all we already know what the prospect searched for, looked at, and responded to.

So yes, we are still recruiting salespeople, they still need to be ambitious, hard working and enterprising but, crucially, they also have to be responsive. Today’s inbound lead generation methods are sophisticated and cut out a lot of the time-wasting involved in cold calling, leaflet dropping and other outmoded methods of generating enquiries.

It follows then that when recruiting sales and marketing staff we should be looking for people who can generate focused enquiries, respond to them quickly and turn the prospect into a customer as quickly as possible. This requires an awareness of Social Media, EMail and the use of a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), to monitor and progress leads from inception to fruition. It is also useful to have a thorough understanding of how people behave on websites and the level to which they should be interacted with.

As long as you recruit sales staff that display all of those qualities then success is assured. When using a specialist sales recruitment agency like Aaron Wallis then you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the candidates referred to you will have been assessed in order to ensure that they demonstrate the right qualities for the job that you are offering.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The 3 Main Characteristics Of Successful Sales Professionals – PMA, Hard Work And Process

I’ve spent the last seventeen years meeting circa 200-300 sales people per year and often ask what particular quality, or attribute, they put their success down to.  Of course there have been many, many answers but of these thousands of sales people, they’ve commonly mentioned similar ‘themes’ which I’ve distilled down and summarised as the following three qualities:

Positive Mental Attitude
Hard Work

1. Positive Mental Attitude

Having a positive attitude  is vital in sales. If you don’t believe in your product, and more importantly believe in yourself, then why would any customer want to buy from you? Having a positive attitude  in everything that you do leads to more positive outcomes, and these, in turn, increase your chances of success.

Some people have an ‘ingrained’ positive mental attitude, but others have to work hard to develop this self-belief and to try to see the positive in every situation no matter how tough it may be. 
I used to work with a recruiter who after every cold call rejection said, “thanks very much, you’ve helped me to make it one call closer to my target today." The target client was always puzzled by his response, they questioned his rationale?  His answer was that he knew from his own stats that if he made 50 completely cold calls, he’d get 1 ‘yes’ and that’s all he needed to hit his daily target leading to his weekly target leading to the monthly target. Okay this was a long time ago and selling has somewhat changed, but he was consistently a top-performing sales person out of a team of eighty (and actually his cold call-lead rate was more 1:5 as this approach always intrigued the target clients to want to find out more!).  This approach of seeing a positive in every rejection was, he felt, the key to his success. 

2. Hard Work

Achieving success in any field takes hard work but this is particularly pertinent in sales.  No matter how sales has changed I still firmly believe in the ‘mathematics of sales’, i.e. the more that you put into the top of the pipeline the more return you get at the bottom. 

It always helps to break down the ‘big sales goal’ into manageable weekly, daily and even hourly targets.  Working hard requires discipline and dedication to take the small steps towards your goal every day. Working hard means dedicating a percentage of each day to topping up your pipeline even if it feels it is full to the brim. Working hard is keeping going no matter how many rejections you’ve taken.

In sales, it’s always tempting to ‘call it a day’ and not bother prospecting for the final hour that you should be doing.  However, it's commonly when your back is truly ‘up against the wall’ that you get that break, and everything starts to turn around.  As Seneca once said, and I’ve plagiarised and regularly quote:  ‘Luck is the crossroads between preparation and perspiration’.

3. Process

All great sales professionals work to a sales process, sometimes intuitively.  It’s amazing how many salespeople I’ve met who claim ‘I don’t work to a process – I don’t need something as inflexible to work within’ and so on.  I then ask them to walk me through a recent sale, and it’s typically ‘Seven Steps’ or ‘Needs Creation Selling’.  Perhaps they hadn’t learned it formally, but they were subconsciously following the same path or approach, in every sale that they’d concluded.

These sales processes can be sales strategies, daily plans, a workflow, a formal ‘sales technique’ or even following a CMS path ticking every step along the path as the client is taken through the buying process.

There are many advantages to utilising a sales process, and this could be as simple as learning from successful colleagues, replicating it and adding your own style.  Alternatively, it could be as complicated as formally reviewing the best practitioners in your business, what works-what doesn’t, structuring it against formal models and creating your individual process to follow.  By working a process and being disciplined to consistently use it and to add all data to a system you ensure that none of your sales leads fall through the cracks.

More importantly, however, by using a well-defined sales process, you can ensure that you prioritise and this helps accurately forecast your own performance and move your leads through to closure at a considerably quicker rate. Overall, a sales process makes planning and closing greatly more efficient. With a sales process in place, it’s also easier to measure success, get consistent results and be on top of your forecasting and your KPIs leading to that ‘big target’.

To conclude becoming a successful sales professional takes time, sweat, skill and tenacity. Of course there’s some major generalisations here as there’s no ‘set blueprint for success’ that will work for everyone.  

However, IMHO the three common ‘themes’ required for success are a positive attitude, working to proven processes and hard work/application.  Do you agree?

Rob Scott is a geek about sales and has commissioned the largest ever surveys of UK sales professionals.  Click here for statistics on the UK sales industry.