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We all know that finding and hiring good salespeople has become quite a problem. There are just not that many good ones out there right now. They're either retired or gone to work in other fields; or like the old general themselves, just faded away.
What are you going to do? You need salespeople. You need more feet on the street and you need them now. The solution: grow your own.
I can guarantee that there are a number of very good salespeople in your company right there under your nose who are just sitting there hoping that someday they can be asked to be added to the glorious ranks of outside sales.
All you have to do is identify them. Talk to them and get them on track to becoming good outside salespeople. Here's how you do it.
The first place you will need to look into is your inside sales team. By all rights, this should be the training ground, the farm team for your future outside salespeople. This is not always the case. There are many inside salespeople who like what they do and want to keep doing it for life. But there are others, always at least one who is chomping at the bit to get out there and get into inside sales. You know the one. He's often not even as good at his job as others in his department are, but he has the gift of gab and he's almost always the favorite of the outside sales team. This is the person you need to talk to and start grooming for outside sales. Not today, mind you, but in the future, because there's still work to do.
Then you should also look at your engineering people. Look for that person who is good with customers; the person who seems to have a better working relationship with your customers. He's the one who always seems to be mentioned in those customers' companies for how helpful they are. This is the person who always stands up for the customer, and this is the person who's a favorite of the outside sales team.
The same characteristics apply to anyone in the company, even quality and operations people. Once you've spotted your likely candidate, start the process. Sit down with him or her and talk about his or her career path.
You should be doing this with all of your employees anyway. You'll be shocked at how much talent you actually have in your company. Is he interested in a career in sales? Start grooming him for that position. Do a long term plan for her. Figure out how long it will take and start the training, then start by developing a full blown training plan. This plan should include learning all aspects of the company so the person has a complete understanding of the process, how boards are built from the beginning to end; and exposure to all other front end departments, especially engineering and cam. Spending time with the inside sales team—not only watching what they do but also doing it well. Learning how a board is quoted and priced, and how the customer is approached with that price, and becoming familiar with how the quote is written up and delivered to the customers.
Merchandising and negotiating directly with the customer. Learning how to up-sell. Learning everything possible about the company, how it started, its history. Becoming familiar with the company's sales strategy, marketing and branding plan, including all of the collateral materials and advertising—everything they need to know.
Teach them how to sell for the company. Have one of your best salespeople teach them how to sell. Get them involved in ride-alongs with salespeople. Have them attend a local trade show and see how they do. You should be evaluating them all along the way, checking out to see just how into it they are. This is a great time to not only see how they do, but if they're well suited for an outside sales position.
Then, when he or she is ready, assign him/her a territory and wish him/her well, and start the process all over again with a new candidate. In the end, this will all pay off.
In some cases you'll dodge a bullet by discovering that a person is not well-suited for a sales job, but in many cases you will be developing a well trained loyal professional salesperson, one that will make your company proud. You'll not only have developed a great salesperson, but you will have launched a person on a good and productive sales career as well. Now, all you'll have to worry about is treating that person well enough that he stays with your company. It's only common sense.