Always Recruit

It’s completely possible to find great salespeople. All you really need is a commitment to always recruit.

Just as your salespeople need to be out and about to create sales, management needs to always be on the lookout for sales talent. You never should be caught flat-footed in the new salesperson adventure.

The wonderful thing about an always recruit mindset is that it’s not hard. In our everyday business lives there are tons of opportunities to recruit. Here is a list of daily activities where you can find and see salespeople as they really are.

  1. Your desk
  2. Your vendors
  3. Chamber of Commerce
  4. Networking groups
  5. Business peers
  6. LinkedIn

Your desk:

This is by far the easiest place to check on your local talent. All you need to do is commit to taking a few incoming sales calls every day. This is a wonderful way to hear how a potential new hire sells. As payroll is a business to business profession, we get the opportunity to interact with recruits as we watch them try and sell to us. This allows us to make a decision whether these recruits have the skills we want.

Your vendors:

Look to your vendors and ask them if they know of any good salespeople. If a vendor is getting worked over by a competitor’s salesperson, a good strategy for them might be to direct you to the salesperson they compete with the most. In this, you might also be able to do some baseline checking on your vendor’s performance.

Another way to handle this is to contact your vendor’s competition and bring them in to see how the salesperson tries to win your business. If you like what you see, move into recruiting mode.

Chamber of Commerce & Associations:

The real world of local Chamber of Commerce is that 90% of the people who attend events are salespeople! Once again, by getting out in the crowd we can look for people that fit our ideal profile.

The same scenario exists at Association Trade Shows. As an owner, you attend shows for information, but you should also be on the lookout for outstanding talent. Every booth is full of salespeople looking to earn your business. By walking up to a booth, you are getting firsthand knowledge of how a person sells.

Networking groups

When we regularly attend these groups we are allowed to see the many layers of a salesperson in action. Businesses to business sales require a “get after it” mentality. Look for the people that show a solid commitment to their position.

Business Peers

As a business grows, the group of people we gain access to also grow. We should constantly reach out to our peers for support and advice. Ask your business peers about the people from whom they have recently purchased. If you hear about an outstanding salesperson, see if your associate can get you connected with them.


Of all the social networks today, LinkedIn is the best at connecting people in business. By using groups, you gain the ability to see an unlimited number of salespeople whom you can monitor as a group member and learn more about their selling skills or you can reach out to them for a simple phone interview.

Why traditional hiring practices lead to poor hires:

Does this sound familiar? Your business is doing well; you want to accelerate the growth. So you make the decision to add another salesperson.

To get started you place an ad in, on your website, and in your local paper. Then you wait for the resumes to come flying in the door. Sometimes the resumes fly in the door, while other times nothing happens.

If you are lucky, you end up with a nice group of people to put through your interview process. At the end of the process, you make a hire and see what happens. Unfortunately, oftentimes what happens is that the new person falls short of everyone’s expectations. Sometimes this is the salespersons fault, sometimes it is a training issue, yet most of the time it is a hiring issue. Primarily, in our desire to grow our sales team, we hire based on short-term need and don’t spend the proper amount of time evaluating talent.

The opportunity for sales success increases when the new salesperson is recruited out of a sales position with average to above-average performance. Even in a down economy, a producing salesperson won’t be out on the street. Look at your team. If times are tough, would you get rid of one your producers to save cost?

The best method to improve your hiring is to always recruit! It should be management’s goal to conduct at least one new sales interview in your office every week. You will become a much better evaluator of sales talent, improve your hiring process, and be in a position to spend more time interacting with potential hires. Anyone can look good in a 40 minute interview. The cracks start to appear in the second and third interaction.

The reason I recommend conducting interviews in your office is you gain a slight team incentive. Salespeople know who is on the team and where they stand; sometimes all a person needs to get motivated is to see someone being interviewed. I’m not advocating managing by fear, which is the worst way to run a sales team. What I am promoting is an environment in which production is the norm and the rules of employment are clear and fair. Some salespeople have an internal fire while others need external influence to get moving.

The Owner and Sales Manager have a responsibility to maintain a healthy and productive team. Always recruit is just one step to maintain and improve overall sales team health.

Do you have a sales hiring process?

Once you have a group of candidates, what is your hiring process? Since most people still hire on gut instinct, a set process can help ensure your gut makes a good decision.

When looking to hire a new salesperson, be clear in what your expectations are before you begin the process. This will place you in a strong position when it comes to landing your ideal candidate. Most salespeople prefer to work in environments where expectations are clear and simple to understand.

The best method to ensure a good hire is to spend time with the candidate. It’s often impossible to spend days with potential hires, but you can maximize time with candidates by seeking multiple opinions within the office. Here is a process I have used in the past and one that might help you on your next sales hire.

First interview should always be on the phone:

Sales is a communication position. Salespeople spend a lot of time on the phone. Because of this, you should incorporate this communication medium into at least one part of the interview process. I prefer to conduct a phone interview first for the following reason: if they can’t talk on the phone, they can’t sell on my team; I want to discover this before inviting them into my office. A second benefit is that on the phone, you are more likely to not allow physical appearance to cloud your judgment. The prettiest salesperson is rarely the best.

Baseline questions:

You need to use a standard list of questions so that you can fairly compare one candidate to another. Free-flowing conversations are important, but at some point you will need to make a decision; using a baseline list of questions will help with that decision.

Repeat questions with hiring team:

When involving other people in the interview process, they should ask some of the same questions so that you can compare notes. If you have a critical characteristic that you always want within your sales team, create questions that help you evaluate this trait and ask it more than once. All of us can get fooled once.

Personality or Sales Profiles:

These are a must. You can get a high quality profile for a few hundred dollars. I use profiles to help me confirm my gut feelings and plan additional questions for the third or fourth interviews. Today I use the Caliper Profile and find that it gives me more than enough information to help guide the selection process. The expense of putting 3 – 5 candidates through a profile is minimal when compared to what a poor sales hire costs your business in hard dollars and missed opportunity.

Profiles are not a magic bullet. They offer additional insight that you can use to make better hiring decisions. Many people can be good in sales, but are employed in the wrong type of sales. A profile can help you see which type of people can be successful in a rigid sales environment and which salespeople will be successful in a flexible environment. Profiles will also give you great insight in how to properly manage and coach the successful candidate.

To give yourself a proper reading of a sales profile, have your existing team, including yourself, take the profile you chose to use. This will only help you better understand the numbers and give you a better idea of the sales personalities identified by the profile.

Work history:

When I look at and talk with salespeople about their work history, I find it best to start at their first jobs and work toward today. In doing this, you will go outside the candidates’ prepared response zones. In doing this, I find it easier to spot personality problems while also discovering the people that have the “IT” factor to be successful in sales. Always explore why they took each job and their reasons for moving on.

Only hire the right candidate:

My worst hiring decisions have one thing in common –my gut said no, my arrogance said yes.

Only hire when your gut says YES!!! If someone can’t get you to that point, do you really think they can make potential customers leave their current provider? Seriously look at that last sentence because that is what you are hiring. We only want YES; anything less will be a time-consuming-slow-money-sucking-time-wasting lesson in business. As I said, many people can sell; they just need to be in the right position to leverage their talents.


You can’t sell if they won’t talk

We can't sell if they won't talk.A simple observation throughout my sales career is that if people won’t talk to us, we can’t sell them anything. Another observation is that many salespeople know how to talk, but don’t know or understand how to listen.

To sell, we need to engage people in simple conversations. To be in a conversation, we need to allow or entice the other side to talk. Salespeople need to understand when to shut up.

The path to a successful conversation is basic conversation development questions. Most of the time, you only need 3-4 good questions to kick start a conversation.

A crappy appointment involves either too much talking on the part of the seller or too many questions that lead to nowhere. We all know when a meeting goes well; it’s not hard to figure this out. If the other party mostly talked and we have an agreed upon follow-up meeting, that was a good meeting. On the other hand, if we mostly talked and we walk out with an “agreed” upon follow-up call, 8 out of 10 times that was a complete waste of the buyer’s time.

In sales, we have questions that give us the facts of the prospect’s world. (e.g., Who is your current provider? How long have you been with them?) It’s OK to use one or two of these questions just to help you and the prospect start talking. However, our big or primary objective is to give the prospect a stage so that she can tell us HER story about what it is she does, how she feels about her environment and how she thinks we can help her improve HER life.

The easiest way to do this is to ask broad questions that encourage the prospect to tell us a story. By listening to her story, we will gain all of the information required to qualify and move our position forward. A salesperson’s job is to tactfully guide people to talk. When they are done speaking, we should have a complete understanding of them, their company, the environment they work in and areas they want life to improve.

When people tell a good story, they interact with their audience. Many of the best storytellers actually don’t start the story; they enhance it with their own experiences and then give the stage back to the original speaker. This is how a sales conversation should work — we are the unknown director.  Our time on stage is short, yet powerful.

To get into sales conversations that sell, we need to step back and look at our services. Review how our services benefit current customers and create a list of questions that might bring up these benefits during the course of a conversation. Some of these questions will be broad while others are laser focused. Our skill is determining which ones to use first and when to use which questions.

The dance is to keep information following from the prospects’ side of the table as much as possible. A poorly placed question can stop a good story in its tracks. Conversations are built on trust and if you violate the trust given to you buy the speaker, the conversation is over.

So is there a magic question? No. Each prospect is a little bit different. While there isn’t a magic question, there is one thing you can do to create conversations: Organize. Prior to engaging a prospect, we need to give her the framework of the meeting. This will help her mentally prepare for her side of the conversation. The easiest way to do this is to send prospects a simple meeting agenda; failure to do so is just stupid. Be professional; take 3-5 minutes and create an agenda

Time — the Ultimate Villain!

Everyday is a race against the clock. Some days we want more leisure time; some days we want more selling time. The only thing constant is that time moves forward whether we are ready for it or not.

A challenge that some salespeople encounter is that they work in a space that offers almost unlimited potential sales. An example is if you are a sales person in Dallas, TX and you are allowed to sell to the entire market place. If you’re not careful, the volume of potential can become a rep killer.

The more focused a salesperson is, the better she will perform. The best producing Major Account Reps work with a limited set of accounts and dig deep into these accounts. Effective territory/retail salespeople are experts at focusing on sections of their territory.

Salespeople in geographic territories should use a basic plan to maximize their selling time. As technology has advanced, territory reps can use online tools to increase performance. However, we still need to get out in front of customers. How you choose to manage your face-to-face time is critical in becoming a successful geographic rep.

Here is a simple, tried and true (aka, Old School) method to increase selling time:
Create a nice wall/cube map of your entire territory. If you need a zip code map, use the following link: You may need to print off your territory across several pieces of paper. Once complete, use scissors and tape the final map together.

You will know which areas of your territory hold the highest concentration of business. Now divide the physical area into 4-5 sections. The goal is to get an even spread of potential business into each section of the map.

Now that your map is prepped, you assign each section a number. Looking at your calendar, assign each section to a day of the week (Mon-Fri). We are creating an outline that you can commit to in coordinating your outside selling time. A simple plan is to spend an entire day in each section, but that is not the best method.

When you look at the map, certain areas will always be on your travel corridor to and from your office or home. The area in the travel corridors allows the greatest amount of flexibility for meetings. A good practice is to plan your mid-day and early afternoon meetings in the areas farthest away from your office. Areas closest to the office get morning and late afternoon meeting slots.

By focusing on sections and travel corridors, you will gain more selling time. In addition, you will gain a much better appreciation of the businesses in each section and be in a more solid position of creating connections between your current customers and prospective customers. A referral from a business down the street will usually carry more weight than one from customers across town.

Be true to yourself. It’s easy to take a meeting when a prospect tells you the day that best accommodates her, yet as salespeople we must focus on our entire business. It’s OK to say that a meeting won’t work even though you have an open time slot. Great salespeople respect their own time just as much as the customers.

The summary of this post:

  • Create a wall map of your Territory
  • Divide it into 4-5 Sections
  • Assign each section a day
  • Know your travel corridors
  • Develop meeting slots for each section
  • Respect your time too

This is another example of the value gained when we chunk things into manageable pieces. Give yourself one flex day a week. Start with larger sections and break them down into smaller pieces as you get to know your territory.

Listening and salespeople. An interview with Lisa B. Marshall and Chris Murphy

Lisa B. Marshall The Public SpeakerOver the last three months, my company (MCC) developed our Business to Business sales workshops. Our first session is May 25-28th. We have a great group of salespeople attending and  we are really excited for the sessions to begin.

In researching ideas/methods to improve sales listening skills, I reached out to Lisa B Marshall. Many of our visitors will recognize Lisa as the public speaking expert at Macmillan’s Quick and Dirty Tips Network and may already subscribe to her Pod Casts in iTunes.  As a communication specialist, Lisa B. Marshall helps organizations and individuals share, present, and discuss ideas in a compelling, concise and cost-effective manner.

Lisa offered me some wonderful tips that can help Salespeople improve their communication skills. Lisa invited me to an online “face-to-face” interview to discuss  my views on salespeople and listening. I had a great time doing this interview and look forward to working with Lisa on more projects in the very near future.

The complete interview is here.

Email is completely crazy!!!

When I was in college, email was just getting started. I actually didn’t use a real computer until after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. Guess what? 1995 wasn’t all that long ago.

Since 1995, email has progressed from something you accessed only from your desktop computer, to something you accessed from a laptop, to something you access all day using a smart phone.

The advancements made in how we digest our emails cannot be overlooked. Today more and more emails are viewed on a screen 3×4 inches in size! I use an iPhone and in the past I have also used a Blackberry. 60-70 % of my emails are viewed on these devices.

Smart phones are hugely important and probably one of the best things to happen to communication. Why?

Most salespeople try and put too much information into an email. Emails can be dangerous. They last forever. Typos make you look stupid. In one click, a person can forward your information to hundreds if not thousands of people. Even more than a written letter, an email has the ability to take on the reader’s emotions.

Salespeople need to use basic common sense when using email. Today, emails must be short. We need to assume that most of our emails are going to be viewed on a smart phone. Rarely should your email be more than three sentences. Your subject line can make or break your email — don’t take this for granted; if it looks like spam, it will not be read.

Emails today should be short, clear, and contain a call to action. That’s it. If you can’t fit your message into a smart phone screen, you need to re-work the email. If the message must be non-verbal, consider a letter – yes, I actually said a letter. Letters are still useful, especially when you make them personal. Handwriting is so underused that when people see it they almost fall out of their chairs, frame the letter, and run around their offices screaming, “Have you seen this? It’s a handwritten letter!!!”

In sales, we need to stand above the crowd to earn the right to engage people. Ronald Reagan is remembered almost as much for his habit of sending handwritten notes as he is for being President of the United States.

Back to the basics is the theme of this post. Email rules to follow in sales:

  • Remember the size of THEIR screen
  • No more than 3 sentences
  • Use to drive verbal communication
  • Links can supplement a long email
  • Subject lines matter
  • When all else fails, pick up the phone and call

Customers. Why don’t you spend more time learning from them?

Our customers hold the keys to the Castle, yet most of us still refuse or are reluctant to talk with them.

We can and should lean on our customers to help us shorten the time it takes to get up to speed as a new salesperson and also to help a tenured rep out of a sales slump or general funk. Against my worst judgment, here is how you can do this:

Go and see your customers on the days they use your service the most!!!

WOW! (I know you are thinking “WOW”, because you already get what I’m saying).

Our customers work with us because they like our stuff! They are the ones that pay to hang out with us, so it only reasons that they can tell us what is cool about what we offer. They can tell us about how cool Sally on the support team is. They can tell us how our service saved them from staying late. They can tell us how when they figured everything was lost, Sally from support talked them back from the edge and made the unimaginable happen.

Yes, they can give new hires everything they need to be successful in sales. Yes, they can show a tenured rep why she ROCKS and how more people should be working with her.

It’s not ENOUGH to just call up your customers or email a survey to them. Get out amongst them and watch how they interact with your service and support team. I advocate 1 -4 Sales Touches to current accounts a year. New hires should spend 5-10 days of their first month on the job watching current customers use your services. Experienced reps should spend a minimum of 1-2 days a quarter watching their major accounts/partners use the services they sell.  This experience is a win-win for the customer, salesperson, support team and company.

The message is clear: Don’t fear your customers. Get off your butt and give ’em a hug. Chances are they reward you with a 30-40% increase in sales production.

Don’t believe me; give it a try this summer. Your holiday budget will thank me!

Take control of your website! It’s easy, really it is.

Technology is getting easier to use by the minute. From a marketing standpoint this is enabling more and more business owners the opportunity to take internal control of the content on their business website.

Using the right technology you can very easily create, modify and delete website content without knowing a single piece of code. The ability to do this will give you more power to influence how your business is viewed on the internet. This should improve Marketing, Sales and Support delivering a much better customer experience.

To take control you will need a Web Content Management System (WCMS).

In a nut shell a WCMS is an online application that allows you to make changes to your site anywhere any time of day. This includes adding pages, pictures, forms etc… A good WCMS allows you to do these things using tools which you are already familiar with and probably even use every day.

Getting started with a WCMS usually entails working with a web company to first convert your existing site to run on a WCMS and than a quick 30 minute training session.  When looking to WCMS focus on usability for you! If the WCMS feels complex than you should continue looking until you find an application that fits your user level.

You will know when you’ve found the right WCMS for you. The WCMS I use is called the Site Management Console (SMC) modifying my web content is as easy as creating a document in MS Word.

Here is a short video I made this morning showing how simple it is for me to modify an existing web page.