Thursday, April 28, 2011

Successful Sales Programs Are Built, Not Hired

A recent conversation with a client I’m helping launch a high-volume and scalable B2B inside sales program reminded me that those who don’t touch the sales process tend not to think of it as a process at all. Rather, sales success is viewed as correlating directly to one’s talent for charismatic persuasion. Sure, a gift for talking people into making good decisions can help you close more deals, but it’s not something you can build a team around. Coachability tops swagger as a sustainable recruitment priority, especially in the early stages of a sale career. 

Founders of growing technology companies often struggle with hiring the foundation of their rank-and-file, because they make their own choices by not thinking like foot soldiers. Leaders capable of taking on management responsibility will emerge in due time as the company matures. In the meantime, you should absolutely hire likable, money-motivated and energetic sales talent all day…just with one eye on long-term fit and the other on management potential. 

There’s more to a first sales hire than posting on a job board. A documented methodology is needed to recruit, train, coach, monitor and compensate the first sales hire and improve the chances of success for every subsequent sales hire thereafter. Keep in mind we’re not talking about team members responsible for creating long-term strategic business alliances. We’re talking about your bread-and-butter sales team who predictably sell your core product to a target market in order to bring in the revenue that keeps the doors open. Predictability is actually the goal of an effective sales program, and it can only be achieved through process, not talent scouting on its own.

In case this seems too nebulous, let me break down the elements of sales program that need to be in place before the first prospecting call can be placed:
-          Recruitment strategy
o   Job description
o   Where to post / which recruiters to work with
o   Interview process
-          Compensation plan
o   Designed around expected activities and results as they relate to target earnings
-          Sales process from cold lead to closed deal
o   Daily expectations
o   Lead tracking (see CRM)
o   Call structure
o   Competitive analysis
o   Management reporting procedures with management
-          Customer relationship management (CRM) system
o   Technology sourcing
o   Lead importation
o   Activity reporting (calls/emails per rep/account)
o   Deal flow tracking (lead status and closing probability)
o   Revenue forecasting
o   Quota reporting (for commissions)
o   Email templates
o   Customer support ticketing
-          Sales scripts
o   Initial conversation structure
o   Email templates
o   Voicemails
o   Objection rebuttals
o   Follow ups
o   Closing
-          Sales collateral
o   Product/service description
o   Differentiating value proposition
-          Training Guide
o   Product and market education
o   Basic sales execution training
o   Sales process introduction and coaching
o   Performance expectations and compensation review
o   Role playing/practice

As you can see, the gift of gab is just an (important) aspect of the recruitment process, which is only a piece of a larger commitment to building a winning sales team. Talent is great, but it shines brightest in the context of a scalable process.

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