“James, I am finding it increasingly difficult to find good quality salespeople. I use a blend of recruitment agencies as well as advertising myself, but continuously find that the quality just isn’t there? What am I doing wrong?” — Mark H, Manchester
Mark, unfortunately there is no straight forward answer to this as much of what you are saying is dictated in part by how the market is trending (sales people tend to move in line with the market conditions changing to find either security for themselves or an opportunity to make more money).
When I was working overseas a few years ago, the market I was working in took quite a sharp turn and there was a real lack of quality sales candidates available on the open market. At the time, we were heavily involved in a large sales recruitment campaign for a major client of ours and refused to go back to them blaming the market conditions for our inability to deliver!
Instead, we decided to think creatively and “create” our own candidates from scratch!
We identified the key emotional skills (attitude) required to be an excellent sales person and went out to recruit by that. We then spent a number of weeks putting our new recruits through an intensive sales training program, building on their levels of confidence and positive attitudes (as highlighted in our assessment), to give them not only good sales skills, but also sales skills tailored to that particular client.
You didn’t mention the type of business you are in, Mark, but in many cases you could use graduates for this, or even people from completely different backgrounds (we have often found that ex-sport players tend to make good sales people as many of the skills we identified as key to good selling can be found on the sports field.).
So my suggestion would be to find a recruitment agency you can trust and who are willing to try something a little different (or even do it yourself) to help you identify the key emotional skills required to excel in your company in these sales positions, and then set out to find these skills from anywhere where they may exist, before embarking on a comprehensive (and tailored) sales training program for them all.
Many will tell you that you need to pay higher base salaries, or offer more lucrative commission plans, or even signing-on bonuses. Again, as we have mentioned earlier in this newsletter, you are risking employing staff who lack loyalty, or indeed who are the “best of a bad crop”.
My advice would be to take control of the market and create your own made-to-measure staff!
Not only is this good for you, but also it is giving people who may not have normally had the opportunity to do so, the chance to exercise their true potential, which in turn will help with retaining them for longer.