Hunting and farming are familiar terms to anyone who owns a business or is in sales. They’re commonly used to describe different types of sales roles-with hunters as those who search and secure new prospects and deals or farmers for those who cultivate relationships and sales opportunities.
We can use the same terms for our approach to hiring sales reps- we can hunt or farm for new team members.
The demand for sales reps is high and the compensation to attract top talent is skyrocketing. Every company I know is searching for sales reps. The hunting parties are big and the pockets deep for the large companies to “bag their catch”.
How do you compete when:
- your company is not a well-known name
- you can’t compete with the comp wars
- you sell a niche product
- are in an industry without a large pool of talent to pull from
- the geography isn’t exactly one of the “must live” places?
You tackle the giants with a proactive approach and grow your own!! Create your own farm to cultivate the reps you need.
It’s not as hard as it seems and there are many ways to approach the home grown rep. The specifics will depend on your size, budget, and time availability.
- A client had scrambled and searched every year for new sales reps in a shrinking industry where the average age of experienced sales reps is in the mid to upper 50s. They believed that it would be virtually impossible to hire someone without experience in their industry or someone directly out of school because “experience” is what the customers demanded.After a 9month fruitless search, they agreed to an experiment. They hired a close-to-graduation college student as an intern with the option of a potential job offer upon graduation if it was a good fit. For the internship, they partnered her with a near-retirement rep so she could shadow and help him with orders, follow-up, and even complete research on prospects. It was a smashing success leading to her accepting a full-time role after graduation. She is now a confident and successful sales rep whom customers appreciate.
- A larger company grew weary from the price wars and non-compete barriers of stealing reps from competitors. Using their internal training department, they created a 9-month onboarding program to teach fresh engineering graduates all they needed to know about the product lines, scheduled projects and ride-alongs in the field; and developed specific sales skills with a robust training curriculum. They are now producing 3-5 ready-and-able reps each year., with50% of these new reps achieving top goal awards in the very first year.
Creating your homegrown sales rep process takes forethought, resources including time, and a change in paradigm, but the benefits are many:
- Better chance of a culture fit. Just because a rep is a top performer in one company, not all things are equal, and if your culture doesn’t provide the same things the last one did, that rep may not be as successful in your company. For example, if the previous culture and environment provided an abundance of leads that were qualified and yours does not…the rep may not be effective in bringing in new business on their own.
- Loyalty. A big fear for many company owners is that they will invest time and energy into this training only to have the rep leave for greener pastures. Rest your fears, they won’t leave if you continue to provide them with growth opportunity (challenging work, compensation, etc.); they are valued; and they know they are making an impact. These homegrowns are often more loyal than the one you were able to woo away from someone else. In other words, another company may be able to woo them away from you.
- Cost effective. The cost of the hire and training is less expensive than using headhunters and then you wouldn’t have to pay the high comp tag with sign on bonus you might need to for an experienced rep in your industry.
- Less stress as you are now in control of your future sales team. This proactive and purposeful approach addresses the gap of available talent for your organization. You eliminate the hope and pray method that you can find a qualified candidate when you need one.
How can you get started?
- Identify the number of sales reps you need to add to your team in the next 12 months and include:
- Look inside your company for potential candidates who can be developed and don’t get stuck in the paradigm that it has to be someone from customer service. Look for the qualities that will make a good rep for you and who is demonstrating those qualities in their current work. Maybe it’s Carrie in accounting! Many high performing sales reps never considered a career in sales until they were approached, or desperate for something else.
- Develop university relationships in the disciplines you need. Many universities now have sales programs to give you a head start.
- Gather a team, including an existing rep, to brainstorm how you might take either a non-sales person within your company or a fresh graduate and provide the learning opportunities for them to start their career in sales.
- Assign someone to head the initiative – if you have HR or training, great! If not, who else might find this a challenge? Your assistant perhaps?
While hunting and bagging an experienced sales rep, who can come in and just run, is ideal…the reality is that option isn’t typically available when you need it or at the quantity you need.
Instead, you can “grow your own”. What you plant and sow in a homegrown approach may keep feeding your sales needs for many years to come.
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