Entrepreneurs and leaders often complain that there are “no good salespeople” available in their market. Maybe you’ve muttered that yourself. But even if the salespeople you hired didn’t produce good results, the truth is that there are good salespeople in every market! As a leader, it’s your responsibility to attract them and get their best performance.
The best way to do that is to understand your own beliefs: why is it that you (and others) think there are no good salespeople?
One reason you struggle to hire good salespeople may be because you believe every candidate who lists a sales role or two on their resume knows how to sell. Sure, some of those employees may have the expertise and experience to succeed in a sales role. But it’s more likely that they were never properly trained and haven’t done much to learn the craft on their own.
Job history gives you a clue, but you must ask the right questions to determine each candidate’s true competencies. B2B sales have changed dramatically in the last decade, so it’s no longer enough to speak well and have an upbeat, outgoing personality. Instead, look for workers with true business acumen: the ability to lead the buyer in a process that helps them make the right decision for their business, and the maturity to manage an ever-larger number of stakeholders.
Unless you have a hiring process and a competency model to measure potential salespeople against, you’ll keep believing good salespeople are rare— and the ones you do hire will probably prove you right.
The most expensive salesperson is the one who works on straight commission. A lot of entrepreneurs use commission payments to cover up hiring mistakes or to avoid paying low producers, but that approach is ultimately self-defeating. The “cheap” salespeople, the ones who don’t earn many commissions, are incredibly expensive when you consider the deals they lose or never even create.
On the other side of the coin, hiring an excellent salesperson on straight commission means paying them a lot more money than you expected, especially over time as their build sales. This almost always ends with the salesperson moving on because their employer believe they are “expensive.”
Instead, develop some sort of base salary and commission structure that is competitive enough to attract and retain the talent you need. Getting compensation wrong will reinforce the belief that it’s hard to find— not to mention keep— good salespeople.
Salespeople often complain that their last company offered them no sales training, no development, and no coaching. Few are ever provided with a sales process or playbook that would guide their activities and help them to be effective in every sales conversation with their prospective clients. Instead, they are left to their own devices to succeed or fail, believing to the bitter end that they are solely responsible for their own success.
Here’s the truth: you are responsible for providing your sales force with the mindset, the skillsets, and the toolkits they need to succeed. Otherwise, even talented salespeople will struggle to compete and win new opportunities. By investing strategically in professional resources, including training and development, you’ll get far more value for your salespeople’s salaries.
A high-performing salesperson or sales force needs a strong leader, one with the knowledge and experience to lead a sales force. One young salesperson recently shared that he was having a tough time selling in the current environment. When I asked him how his sales leader was doing, he mentioned similar difficulties: they both think selling is really difficult and they’re both struggling to figure out how to sell their service.
The leader was hoping a salesperson would be able to help them sell, while the salesperson expected his leader to be able to teach him what he needed to succeed in his new role.
Sales roles have immense autonomy but demand equal measures of discipline and accountability, so most people who fail when hiring salespeople share a laissez-faire approach to leading a sales force. Simply put, you can’t expect to hire great salespeople if you are not prepared to provide them with a great sales leader, one who knows how to help them grow, develop, and succeed in sales.
There are always good salespeople looking for work, but unless you know how to identify them, attract them, and provide them with what they need to create and win new opportunities, you will struggle to build a sales force— and you will lose precious time and revenue you need to grow your business.
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