Building a Successful Sales Force
01.24.11 | Sales Recruiting | Dan Fantasia, Founder and CEO of Treeline Incorporated
The 5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building a Sales Force
Companies are aggressively hiring and many are finding pitfalls along the way
By Daniel Fantasia, CEO and Founder of Treeline, Inc.
The sales job market is picking up aggressively and hiring managers are urgently trying to find the right sales professionals to attain this years revenue goals. Many of our clients are still mindful of the last couple of years and the volatility of the economy, but nonetheless they are ready to take 2011 by storm and get back into the game.
These companies are confident and looking to ramp up strong sales organizations in the first quarter. They have set the bar high for their revenue goals. Their belief in the market assures them that their goals are attainable.
Now it is all about human capital. The only way to achieve the revenue growth required is by having the right bodies in the right seats. Companies are aggressively on the move to hire and many are finding pitfalls along the way.
The 5 pitfalls to avoid when building a sales force:
1. Assumption: With the influx of sales professionals looking for a new job, many hiring managers assume that they will have the pick of the litter. Yes, there are plenty of people searching for a new opportunity, but the strongest sales representatives are not on the market for long. Never assume you have unlimited time when managing the interview process. If you qualify a candidate and know they are a strong fit for your company, do not play games, make the hire. If you do not make a hiring decision, realize that there is a very good chance you will lose the candidate. If you have a talented well qualified candidate in your pipeline, make sure you move the process quickly and close the deal. Don't waste time. Push through all internal road blocks to get the hire. Imagine if one of your Sales Representative showed the same lack of urgency to close a prospect - you would likely explode. Do not treat hiring any differently. Your job is to hire talent so make sure you do it. If you need a hire, don't assume candidates will pine for the opportunity to work at your company and never assume they have nothing else in their pipeline. If your plan is to hit your revenue targets this year, then make sure your headcount and hiring practice support those numbers.
2. Inconsistent Funnel: When hiring sales professionals remember one thing, a sales representative is not hired until the day they start. Keeping a consistent pipeline is the basics of sales. In Sales 101 you learn to drive activity and focus on a consistent pipeline of potential customers. It is easy when you have nothing in the funnel. It is easy because there is only one thing for you to do - fill it. Do not get distracted and do not be deceived. When you fill your pipeline, and find your perfect match, continue to search and keep your pipeline full. Do not emotionally connect with any one candidate. Strong sales professionals will sell you, they will close you, and they will ask for the job. However, that does not mean they will accept your offer. Realize that talented candidates have other companies vying for their employment. This means that you always have to keep a consistent pipeline regardless what a candidate tells you. Continue to interview and do not stop the flow of qualified candidates until your employee starts. There are many variables and no guarantees. Keep a consistent funnel and remember that a hire is only a hire if they start.
3. Over Processing: You have defined your process, identified what you are looking for, and know your time frame to hire. You fill the pipeline, but struggle to make a hire. You get distracted and lose your direction based on an emotional connection and intangible qualities that you like. As a result, you struggle to make a decision and your timeline pushes out. Thus, pushing out your candidates and ultimately losing them in the end. You're surprised when your top two candidates decline to complete your interview process and find yourself scratching your head as to why. Know what you are looking for and be decisive. Don't get distracted. Hone in on the skill set you need to build a strong sales organization. Time kills all deals so move swiftly. Any interview process that is extended will result in a no hire 95% of the time. The energy and momentum is lost and more competition has entered the playing field. The competitive landscape is aggressive right now and you cannot afford to over process. If you do, you will likely find yourself failing to hire the real talent and the top producers that can help you build a high output sales organization. Instead, you may find that the only ones interested in your job are the B players that can afford the time to make it through the process. Don't be forced to settle.
4. Timing: The timing should almost never be off in the hiring process. If you are interested in hiring a candidate your first step is to qualify them. Ask them if they are interested in your opportunity, whether they are considering other opportunities and if so, where they are in the process with other companies. If a candidate is strong and pre-qualified, your job is to move along the hiring process and "make it happen." The most successful hiring managers create urgency and hire great sales people. Hiring top talent is their first priority and those managers always hit their numbers. The point being, if you want to make a hire, find flexibility to get the job done. Do not make a candidate wait or pro-long the hiring process. Think about this, if a candidate makes you wait while you are in the midst of a search I guarantee you will get frustrated and most likely be turned off. Well, this is a two way street. Make a candidate wait and they will get frustrated. They will never tell you this, they will show up to every interview with a smile on their face, but believe me they are frustrated. Sales people have egos and although they may hope for the offer they will also keep their pipeline full and continue to look for the company that is the right fit for them financially, professionally and culturally.
5. Feedback: As you ramp up your sales team in 2011 look at your KPI. Analyze your metrics and look to see where your weaknesses are. Then ask for and listen to feedback. Review your 2010 metrics. How many people did you need to interview to make a hire? Rank those candidates. Now figure out of the top 10. How many did you hire? If the answer is 0 then rework your process. If you find that you made the hire and the rank was any greater than number 2 reconsider your hiring process. If you find that you are really not hiring the best, look at your process because it is broken. Ask for feedback. Talk to candidates and ask for an honest review of the hiring process. Once you get feedback do not disagree. I find that many managers disagree with the feedback from candidates. This is a critical mistake. If you can get honest feedback then listen to it, tweak your process and start hiring top performers.
If you avoid these 5 pitfalls you will successfully hire top performers. As a result, you will achieve the growth necessary to meet your company revenue goals. Have you recently hired a sales professional to join your team? What are some of the obstacles you encounter when hiring sales professionals?