Find the Right Lid

It’s July and your company is calculating its mid-year financial results.  For many companies, whether you will hit your 2016 revenue budget has possibly been determined, and the sales pipeline further confirms that your new business goals probably won’t happen.

Over the weekend I was looking through my pantry for the right lid to a Tupperware container I was holding – and it wasn’t easy to find.  I have many different size containers for different uses, and I kept searching to match the right lid to the container – it took me awhile, with a lot of frustration, to find one that would fit.

Finding the right sales person for your organization is very similar to trying to identify the right Tupperware lid. This is because companies are different, growth goals vary, and job descriptions are seldom specific enough.  Companies keep trying to hire the “best squirrels” to climb the tree, failing to confirm that it’s the right squirrel for your company and the role.  A strong desire to hire top sales talent is not enough – organizations need to do their homework to fully understand the role, and your unique sales process and organization, to create a successful outcome.

So now that it’s time to begin your 2017 sales budget and resource planning process – fast-forward the movie – do you have the right lids?  However, before confirming whether you have a “sales talent problem,” maybe the issue is that your recent sales hires really didn’t match the job or company goals – because the job wasn’t well identified first.

Sales roles, and their necessary activities, are very different – inside or outside sales, small or large account hunting, territory size, account managers, and product or industry specialists.  Do you need a door-opener or closer, a specialist who can speak to other client specialists, or someone with the experience and skills to target and negotiate larger deals?  Don’t say, “All of the above!”  Your candidates need to match the specific job role.  Too often companies fail to focus on this critical issue and recruit sales people regardless of whether the lid fits.

Here are some tips to reduce future hiring mistakes:

1. Draw up a very specific job description including needed experiences, behaviors, and most importantly skill sets specific to the sales role itself. Don’t be caught up in requiring experience in your industry. Focus on finding good sales people and then provide further sales and industry training.

2. Build a new revenue plan matching your sales strategy, taking into account your new client on-boarding and operational capabilities. Ensure a strong understanding of expectation. What responsibility does the sales person play in prospect identification and lead generation?  How much support will senior management provide in the sales development process and creation of the pricing and solutions?   Is the sales person needed to facilitate client on-boarding? Do they pass off the customer to operations right away, or will you need them to support operations for months?  The sales person’s required involvement to support other company functions to win and implement new business could be very detrimental to their effectiveness.

3. Design an effective compensation package which creates and rewards the focus and behaviors you are seeking. Make sure that the plan generates sufficient incentive, and consistently rewards good behaviors and results throughout the year.  Increase the reward payout percentage as performance increases to celebrate the success.  Don’t be afraid to be creative to reward what you want to achieve.

Hiring for the sales position is complicated and difficult – because of the wide ranging responsibilities and the independence of the position.  Hiring is further complicated by the strengths and weaknesses of your organization.  Ensure you are seeking the right lid to match your company needs to greatly increase the likelihood of hiring a great sales person!