How to Hire Sales Reps Who Will Produce
One of the most challenging aspects of managing a sales team is figuring out how to hire sales reps who will not only produce, but keep producing long-term. In fact, a recent survey by the online job site Careerbuilder.com, as quoted in USA Today, found that 35% of sales managers were unable to fill open sales positions in 2013, up from 24% in 2010.
The competition for top talent can be brutal, and the ongoing specter of sales force attrition can make the quest to hire sales reps seem like a never-ending battle. However, there are ways you can set up your recruiting and hiring practices that will help streamline the process and make it less painful.
Independent Contractors or Employees?
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the first thing you should do is take a look at your employment structure. Does your company hire sales reps as independent contractors (1099) or as official employees of the company (W-2)? The difference between the two is more than just an arbitrary tax designation. Although the 1099 route may seem tempting, because it involves less risk and less paperwork to your company, the message it sends to potential hirees is that they are expendable, and your company is not willing to invest in them.
When you hire your reps as W-2 employees of your company, you let them know that they matter to you, and that you believe the relationship has a good chance of working out. Going the W-2 route also gives you the right to control their working hours and supervise them closely. When you hire sales reps as W-2 employees, you also give yourself the option to provide benefits to them, one of the major ways to attract them to the job as a long-term solution, rather than just an interim job until something more permanent works out.
Be Realistic About Required Qualifications
Do you really need every qualification on your list? If you're not finding enough qualified potential reps, you may not be casting the net wide enough. Take a look at your list, and see if there's anything you can knock off. For example, are you requiring a bachelor's degree? While most employers would agree that a college degree is desirable, it's really not a prerequisite for being a good sales rep, and requiring it can leave a lot of great potentials out in the cold.
What about industry experience? Yes, it would be nice if every rep came onto the job fully trained, but that's just not the most realistic goal. If you're following suggestion one and planning for your reps to stay long-term, it's worth investing a few days or weeks in bringing them up to speed with your industry and product. Solid sales skills are far more important than industry experience, and transfer very well from one industry to another. If you drop the industry experience requirement, your hiring pool will be much less susceptible to the vagaries of the employment market.
If you want to widen the pool even further, take a look at beefing up your training program. If you lack the resources for an internal training program, consider bringing in an outside sales training company. With a robust sales training program, you will be equipped to hire relatively inexperienced but promising sales reps, such as those who come out of inside sales, retail, or customer service roles. In fact, many companies prefer hiring and training less experienced reps, because it allows them to mold their reps from the beginning, preventing bad sales habits and unethical practices.
Remember, Your Employees are Also "Hiring" You
One of the keys to a successful sales program is developing a positive and energizing sales culture in your organization. Before you even hire sales reps, you begin to form and promote that culture. From your very first contact, your potential sales reps are evaluating you and your company, and what you can offer them. They are looking for a good opportunity, an exciting salary, commission, and benefits package, the chance for growth within the company, and a working environment where they can thrive and succeed.
Your initial job posting matters. Make it sound exciting and solid, while avoiding red flags and buzzwords that mark you as a lightweight or scammer company. Make sure that you and anyone else involved in recruiting and hiring are positive and upbeat in your communications with potential sales reps. Sell the opportunity to work for your company. Make the benefits clear, and help potential recruits picture themselves succeeding as a part of your team.
Finally, ask for feedback. When a rep turns down the opportunity, ask why, and be clear that you're interested in the real reasons. Or consider sending an anonymous survey to candidates who have turned down the position. You'd be surprised how many people are willing to let you know exactly what you did wrong. That knowledge is power, and if you listen, you can fine-tune your job offering and approach.
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