A High-Performance Team
More and more restorers are seeking to build an outside sales team in order to generate day-to-day leads that are not from programs, weather or luck.
They do this by calling on agents, adjusters, plumbers, property and facility managers, etc.
This is entrepreneurial activity at its best. If the work you need isn’t coming to you, go out and hunt for it!
Unfortunately, most owners of restoration companies have little, if any, direct selling or sales management experience. It’s no wonder that building a high performance-team of salespeople (marketing reps) is such a challenge.
Many have tried and have given up. They have been burned too many times by the salespeople who interview like superstars, who provide the “We are almost there; the big one is just around the corner” happy talk, month after month, until the deal suddenly vaporizes through “It’s not my fault.”
The key to any successful sales program is the right salesperson. But there are other very important factors to consider without which even the best salespeople will struggle to be successful.
These include how your salespeople will differentiate your company from the hundreds of competitors calling on the same targets, creating a unique value proposition so their sales team has something to offer — specific sales processes with accountability, coaching and sales management, just to mention some of the most important.
Still, the heart of any sales program (and a restorer’s ability to drive the growth of his or her own business) rests on its ability to hire qualified salespeople.
The good news is that hiring successful salespeople is a science more than it is an art. In our experience, there are four crucial elements for success. These are desire, commitment, responsibility and outlook.
Let’s analyze all four.
Desire is extremely important because it tells us how badly the candidate wants to succeed in sales. People without the passion or desire for greater success in sales are not people you want driving the growth of your business!
Commitment means doing whatever it takes to succeed. Commitment is strongly related to terms like persistence, tenacity, perseverance… and even faith. Building a referral network takes a lot of work and a fair amount of time before substantial results are obtained. For these reasons, you need salespeople with as close to full, unconditional commitment as you can get.
The ability to take personal responsibility for success or failure is a hallmark of great salespeople. When salespeople make excuses, they’re actually selling themselves short.
Regardless of the excuses they make, it comes down to the fact that they aren’t taking full responsibility for their results. It’s like that old saying: The first step in correcting a problem is admitting that you have one. Until salespeople take full responsibility, they aren’t likely to make any changes that would improve their effectiveness.
Outlook tells you how people feel about themselves, the work they do, whom they work for and whom they work with. It is similar to attitude. When people are between jobs, it’s not uncommon for them to have outlook issues because they are going through a difficult time. The goal is to determine whether or not the outlook problem is a temporary or chronic one before inviting them onto your team.
When selecting salespeople, you want as much of the four crucial elements for success as possible in their make-up.
But you also want to consider to what extent they have the five major weaknesses, which are need for approval, emotional discipline, supportive beliefs, supportive buy-cycle and ability to handle rejection.
Let’s analyze all five.
Need for approval
Salespeople that have a strong need for approval often feel being liked or getting the love and approval of a prospect may be more important than getting a meeting or the business.
Salespeople with this issue hurt you in that they can’t close or ask for the business. They can’t ask the hard questions. They can’t confront respectfully and are allergic to the word “no.” This leads to “happy ears” and a pipeline full of phony deals, chasing deals that are long dead and people that waste your most precious commodity — their time and the company’s time.
This is a very common weakness. Salespeople with this issue have a tendency to panic when they get thrown a curve ball or an objection. This panic is essentially the salesperson talking to themselves — thinking, strategizing, worrying and panicking in the middle of a sales call.
When this happens, they are focused on the voices in their own head rather than listening to the prospect.
This means that the way a salesperson thinks will actually support their selling outcome. When those beliefs are non-supportive, they will sabotage their selling outcomes. So they question whether their beliefs are positive, supportive or damaging, such as:
- I am terrible at prospecting on the telephone.
- Nobody wants to talk to me anyway.
- I can’t dislodge incumbent vendors.
- I don’t like making cold calls.
- My list stinks.
- I can’t call on owners.
This is one of the most important weaknesses in that candidates with a non-supportive buy-cycle are typically comfortable with prospects that don’t make decisions. Because of the way they make major purchases themselves, they “understand” the need for endless research, checking out the competition, “thinking it over” and fundamentally not making decisions.
Good salespeople understand that “Yes is OK,” and “No is OK,” but the “maybes” are the productivity killers. Good salespeople are able to help prospects make decisions instead of accepting put-offs, stalls and objections.
There is no selling without rejection. In today’s world, there is a lot more passive rejection in which people simply don’t return your calls or emails and this can affect a lot of salespeople in a serious way. The key is not whether they get rejected or fear rejection but, rather, how long it takes them to recover when they do get rejected. The ideal salesperson is rejection-proof or at least rejection-resilient.
The hiring process
It is critical to understand whether or not your candidates have enough of the four crucial elements for success and the right amount and combination of the five major weaknesses as well as a host of other characteristics.
The only way to do that is with a screening tool designed specifically for consultative salespeople that looks at the concrete, job-specific skills, competencies and capabilities, which we really need to understand about a salesperson’s abilities.
A sales assessment tool is the first hurdle that any job candidate must overcome to even start the interviewing process. Simply put, if they don’t pass the initial assessment, there is no point wasting time interviewing them!
The rest of the hiring process consists first of a brief phone screening designed to put the candidate under the same sorts of pressure that they would face in real-life selling situations. This quickly sorts out the real salespeople from the estimated 70 percent of salespeople who are terrible, who go from one failure to the next during their entire careers.
The next step is a face-to-face interview. Again, this is a pressure test designed to determine whether the accomplishments and experience on their resume reflect real life or fantasy. Putting the salesperson through their paces with role plays and asking them the hard questions most interviewers balk at again reveals the skill and quality of the candidate.
If the candidate gets past the first live interview, they are now among what is typically a very small group of people you would be willing to hire. The next interview is much more traditional in nature. The pressure is off; you are warm and welcoming, and this is where you paint the picture of the opportunity for the right salesperson at your company.
Ideally, you will have a pool of two of three finalists to choose from. The last interview is their opportunity to make their case as to why they are the right fit.
When we hire salespeople using this process, we are highly confident that the salesperson can do the job. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they will do the job. No matter how stringent the process, you can’t anticipate failing marriages, personal crises, drug and alcohol dependencies and the occasional sociopathic liar who can beat the system.
But what is more common and perhaps more disappointing is when good salespeople who are hired and then fail because they were not given the proper sales processes and training required to be successful, not given a tracking and accountability system (CRM), not coached and definitely not properly managed in order to clearly understand what they had to do in order to achieve success.
Like most other business activities, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Tim Miller is the President of Business Development Associates Inc., a marketing strategy, recruiting and sales force development training company. BDA helps restorers drive the growth of their businesses by building referral networks so that they are not overly dependent on program work, weather or good luck. To learn more and to receive a free assessment of your marketing rep or estimator/project manager, contact Miller at (847)386-6556, or email him at [email protected].