This morning I had the honor of presenting to a group of business owners and sales professionals at Ingram Micro’s Technology Solutions Conference in Buffalo. I covered material from my, soon to be released book, From Vendor to Adviser…how do sales people move from point product selling to high-involvement selling; how do they reposition themselves as an adviser. People have been talking and writing about this for decades, yet it still seems to be a hurdle companies have yet to overcome. In a sidebar conversation I was asked, how long should it take a rep to ramp up? This business owner was asking, “If I hire someone to sell, how long should I give them to start producing?” This is a great question, and one more people need to be asking. Whether you yourself are that new rep, or you oversea a team or company, hiring and getting started with a new company in sales is no easy task. Some thoughts are worth considering:
1. Watch out for Retreads. I use this term when referring to sales people who were, at one time, big hitters. They may have managed large accounts, worked for global companies, and earned significant commissions and awards; but for some reason they failed to keep pace with the industry. For the past decade (perhaps) they have been hopping from one company to the next, or maybe the company they work for continues to employ them, but they can’t seem to close. Don’t become one, and don’t hire one. The technology industry moves fast, and old experience is just that; old. I doesn’t matter how old you are, it matters that you are a learner – innovative, creative, hard working, and a student of this industry.
2. Forget the Rolodex. If you’ve worked in sales long enough you may have actually used a Rolodex. Does anyone know what this is anymore? The point here is, don’t expect to find a rep that has numerous contacts who are ready to buy as soon as you hire. It happens occasionally, but don’t count on it. Instead, your company must be prepared to help with lead generation at some level.
3. Lead generation requires marketing. If you run or work for a smaller reseller, like many in today’s session, you can’t expect to hire someone who will go out and generate new leads, with enough GP to make it big in the first few months. I recommend companies hire with a marketing program in force. Paying base salaries, benefits, and guarantees to someone who is going to start from scratch using the Yellow Pages, is a slow way to start in this business. Plan events, webinars, and other marketing campaigns, and hire people while in process. Having a list of qualified leads is the best way to help someone ramp up their territory.
4. The Mentoring Process is important. Michael Gerber in his book, EMyth Revisited, does a great job of explaining what happens when managers hire in new people without any formal ramp up process. While it may seem expensive to ride around with your new rep, send them to some training, or hire a sales coach to work with them (one who understands your business already), the cost of not doing this is higher. Hiring people who take a year to ramp up is far more expensive, and if they don’t make it, you’ve spent a lot of time and money on nothing.
5. Careful who you hire. Learning to interview is one of those things few have gone to school on. It seems like hiring is supposed to just come naturally to those who manage, but this is far from the truth. Years ago, when I was running a large consulting and sales team, I spent a significant amount of time training people to hire great people. This was one of the best investments I have every made.
© 2011, David Stelzl