A strong IT services business needs top level sales talent to drive revenues. Here's how to attract, recruit and hire the best sales professionals. Plus, we'll share what you need to do to retain these in demand employees.
You’ve probably noticed how hard it is to hire good sales people.
And there’s a reason for that. Even in a job market that remains far from spectacular, sales professionals are in high demand. CareerBuilder’s 2014 forecast rated sales the number one area in which hiring managers plan to recruit full-time, permanent employees. Number two? Information technology. (We’ll deal with that employee category in our next guest blog.) Not coincidentally, sales and IT are the fields where employers plan to offer the largest salary hikes, according to CareerBuilder.
Needless to say, hiring becomes an arduous task when your competitors all seek to tap into the same, limited group of top-quality sales people. But you should resist the temptation of recasting tech personnel as sales staff. That’s a shortcut that could result in some fairly serious misalignments. Here’s why: engineers and sales people tend to reside at the opposite ends of the personality spectrum, with the former given to introversion and the latter typically rating strongly on the extroversion scale. Using Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality types as a rough measure, engineers may fall into the INTJ (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judgment), bracket, while sales people may occupy the ESTP (Extroversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving) category.
The categories don’t have much in common. That’s why it’s almost always easier to train a sales person on technical nomenclature than to turn a tech into a sales champion. A sales person doesn’t have to alter his or her personality to learn the nuances of the MSP trade, but getting your techs to adopt a sales persona could prove a real chore.
What To Look For
Now that you’ve committed to hiring a sales person, what should you look for? In general, the key characteristics include:
- A high energy level.
- A strong personality.
- A positive attitude.
In general, you want someone with excellent interpersonal skills and an infectious enthusiasm that engages your sales prospects.
While personality is important, so is a solid work ethic. Sales is a demanding field and one that calls for endurance. Indeed, Forbes contributor David K. Williams wrote that companies should fill their rosters with “athletes.” Here, he means not necessarily actual athletes, but employees with athlete-like characteristics.
“They have the drive to practice a task rigorously, relentlessly, and even in the midst of failure until they succeed,” Williams noted.
A distance runner needs the drive to grind through miles of training, dodgy knees and muscle cramps. Similarly, the sales athlete has to last through hours of teleprospecting, which, as previously noted in MSPmentor, is no walk in the park. And the ultimate objective -- closing the deal -- requires a certain amount of grit and tenacity.
Attracting and Retaining Talent
Now that you know what you are looking for, the next step is recruiting and retaining the talent. A strong compensation plan can bring in the sales people and keep them happy. Money, naturally, ranks among the top motivators for a sales professional, so you can’t be stingy and expect masses of sales people to sign up.
Companies typically offer a commission-based comp plan, but some observers believe providing additional benefits will increase your chances of landing sales hires. Sabrina Balmick, marketing manager for ACA Talent, a recruitment process outsourcing firm that focuses on sales and works with technology clients, suggested that commission programs become more alluring when they are bolstered with additional incentives. Balmick, writing on the ERE.net recruiting website, cited several such incentives including car allowances, cell phone allowances, 401(k)s and flexible work environments, among others.
Here are a couple of other tactics to consider:
- Lead generation: An inbound marketing program, which could cover anything from blogs to social media marketing to search engine optimization, can provide leads to start the sales team on its way. A sales team with no marketing support is like having a group of wide receivers with no quarterback. It’s difficult for sales people to “throw passes to themselves” and staffers are more likely to stay if they have a steady supply of warm leads. A stable sales team reduces your recruitment costs.
- A collaborative environment: Set sales team goals, as well as individual goals, to promote cooperation in the workplace. Competition among sales people is inevitable, but you want to direct some of that energy toward a shared objective. When the team hits the mark, be sure to share the news with the whole organization. Recognition may not be as important as money, but it still motivates.
- Stay in sync with your team: Start with identifying your best talent and asking “who could you simply not afford to lose tomorrow?” Is your team well compensated and happy? Be sure to set short and long-term goals that align your business objectives with their career goals. Review these goals regularly – monthly or quarterly. Determine if they have buy in or just showing up every day.
Time To Build The Sales Team?
If it isn’t already, sales will become the life blood for your organization. Eventually, an MSP will need more than referrals and word-of-mouth endorsements to keep growing. Taking the time to hire the right sales people is an investment in your company’s future.
Ray Vrabel is Director of Technical Account Management at Continuum, a leading provider managed services solutions that power MSP growth.