What are the root causes behind the difficulty in allocating good sales people and what capabilities organizations are left with?
Seven years ago, with few humble years of experience in my pocket, I was suited and booted, sitting among thirty or forty other refined and well carried sales candidates with my heart beating fast. It was my first group interview experience that was followed by a very challenging panel for final selection. Three years later, as a business development manager and a sales consultant within Kawas Consulting – the consultancy firm that was behind the execution of this prior professional methodology – I had the opportunity to look at the process from a different angle. This time, it was more challenging, clients are more demanding. Inviting the same caliber of candidates became much more difficult, and allocating good candidates that are willing to take the sales career as a profession became our nightmare.
“If I could find good sales people, we’ll be a in a perfect position.” This is what I kept on hearing throughout meeting Owners, CEOs, General Managers, and HR Directors, overwhelmed and clouded with many excuses such as: “we can’t afford to hire fresh graduates and train them to leave us soon after, good people are abroad, or in worst case scenario good people are demanding above the market price.”
But what has changed and why these challenges are progressing?
Applying science and analysis for finding the root causes of the problem, I would say “It is much deeper and the difference is crucial”. These challenges will keep on progressing until setting the discipline of getting things done.
Employers are more demanding by the quick results:
To shorten the story, different economic, political, cultural and other factors made our society much result oriented. Entrepreneurs, organizations and management are excused in becoming more concerned and demanding by the short results. But this orientation lost their sight on their long term strategy and vision, creating much of an inter-related factors and long-term causes like swimming in oceans, and shrinking the sales force community.
1. Unhealthy stressful sales environment: Where junior sales people are not being able to handle. They drop out on early stages irrespective of their potentials. They might become capable of selling stripes to a herd of zebras, if coached properly and strengthened their will.
2. No structured process:Employers and managers are not having the time to sit aside, watch and analyze their sales department from a macro level and accordingly set a solid foundation and structured standardized process. But rather, they unconsciously implanted a scattered gun approach culture within their sales individuals. This makes it difficult for average sales people to progress. Managers in their turn rely on their stars letting others feel left behind without being able to understand their challenges and capabilities for development.
3. Not investing in sales teams: This is making it more difficult to recruit or headhunt sales people. Candidates today take different factors into consideration when joining any organization. A key factor they consider is, how much the organization invests in them and what is the internal sales culture.
4. No new recruits: It’s like premier league clubs not adopting new British young goalkeepers to train them, coach them, and invest in them before graduating them as key players. It ends up with no new good national goalkeepers. Employers today are searching for experienced sales people with a good portfolio, so they could directly generate income when hired which is difficult and riskier than investing in fresh graduates.
Fresh Graduates are less willing to join the Sales Profession:
With the stressful environment and the current sales cultural implanted at organizations coupled with the academic program inherited at schools and universities that doesn’t deliver any sales understanding, selling vs. marketing or leadership skills, fresh graduates are deviating from this profession. They feel undermined joining this career. They envisage themselves only holding their brief case knocking on doors, applying none of what they have learned at universities.
Current Sales People are not investing in themselves:
While employers are demanding more from new sales comers and sales people, they are always facing tight schedule, with not much time kept for investing in themselves, reading, learning, or strategizing for new ways and tactics in selling.
Good Sales People are difficult to headhunt:
Good sales people are people with proven records, always achieving their numbers and have a good behavior; thus their management takes good care to retain them. This is not to eliminate the fact that they fully understand that moving from a company to another would make them lose part of their portfolio and clients, in fact good part of their commission too. Furthermore they look at the annual income rather than the basic salary. Thus a partial increase on the basic salary will not motivate them to move especially that they don’t trust the forecasted commission discussed in a recruitment day.
With some of these root causes stated above, employers who are looking forward to expanding their sales activities are left with few choices:
Investing in the current team:
This goes with putting science into practice, the methodology of no more relying on the gut feelings and the natural sales talents of rainmakers, but rather on strategies, analysis, disciplined processes, guidelines, frameworks, maps and tools that bridge the gap between rainmakers and the other sales team. For further information refer back to Issue #1: “Science into the Art of Selling”
Investing in fresh graduates:
Developing fresh graduates is of a great value as they will be molded to the internal selling process and culture. We have to push the bars, not to be governed by them. Setting a solid structured sales process followed by a solid training and coaching foundation is the key to further retain new comers and diminish the drop outs. Moreover it develops faster their selling capabilities and understanding.
Hiring a professional headhunting firm:
This step fits best in the case of a vacant senior position rather than in the case of expanding. As stated above hiring good sales people is a very difficult task, and in order not to groove in time, professional headhunters would be of a good choice. Their role is not to find the tall ships on horizon but rather to catch them, attract them and tie them to the dock. It’s the head hunter job to understand the real motive of the candidate for joining his client.