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Sales Staff Retention Secrets

Good successful sales candidates are hard to find which is why Success Moves is never short of business. At interview you will find there is a very limited number of those that are good now looking for a move. A bigger population is those that can be developed to be good sales people. Many try to recruit only those with industry experience not appreciating how limited a game of musical chairs this is. Developing new entrants will always offer you far greater scope if you can develop them. What is even more frustrating is that once you have found them, experienced or new entrants, they can be even harder to retain. This blog highlights the differences so that you can make changes and reduce staff turnover.
Let me outline a clear path in stages.

1. The first way to retain staff is long before you even think of recruiting. You must have your business ready with all the support infrastructure ready. Telephone systems, CRM, source of leads, sales scripts. A clear market, price, promotion all marketing and research done. You should not use sales people to test the market, although the wise company should always listen to feedback and adapt accordingly.

2. The next thing you have to do before you commence is an audit of your corporate culture. This is the part most forget, because they don’t realise how important it is to a new recruit fitting in. When we ask companies what sort of candidates they want, we get answers like. “Young, money hungry, positive, motivated, keen to learn.” That is not enough, we are looking for a far more comprehensive answer. (My next blog covers how to ascertain and recruit to fit your corporate culture in more detail.)

3. Still before you recruit you should design a staff induction and development programme. Much is written on this elsewhere. The key thing to bear in mind though is that until a new person has made their first call their confidence level will be vulnerable. Get them as soon a possible to make some calls, albeit at a basic level. It will build confidence. Many companies lose people early on because it is week two before they have made their first call and fear builds up.

4. When you recruit make it a tough selection criterion. One because you should filter accordingly but also to set up positions within your company as valuable and elite. Too many sales managers have the attitude, ‘If he looks and sounds reasonable give him a chance is the best way to seeing if he is any good. That recruitment plan increases the drop out rate.

5. When they start realise all sales candidates, however tough and experienced, will be vulnerable to negative influence in the period before their first deal. Loss of confidence, self–esteem can be shaken very easily. Be very careful of giving criticism especially whilst they are learning. Always ensuring that the person is fired up after your talking to them. I see managers and employers ‘knocking them down before they are even on their feet’ then being surprised as to why they have low morale, low sales and a high drop out rate.

6. Take responsibility. If you get high drop outs consider it your fault not the person or the recruiter. That way you can make changes. Ask them what went wrong and ask yourself the same question. Then work on what you can change to improve. Doing the same old things again and again will get the same old results.

7. Do not make the common mistake of thinking sales people motivation is all about the commission scheme. What your pay scheme is will never be more than 10% of what motivates consistently any sales person. They will all tell you they are money motivated but in reality their motivation is far more complex. It is a big subject. Recruiters get tired of hearing. “ We want positive money hungry individuals………….’

8. Genuinely care about your sales people. If you see sales people first and last to put money in your pocket they will leave you. Nobody is motivated to work for someone that just sees them as an ATM. Good sales people by definition will be sensitive good listeners and always pick this up. They will also be good enough to pick and choose who they work for. Good sales people are never short of work and are always being headhunted. You should be so confident in your business, products, management that you have no fear of your sales staff being approached by headhunters. In fact they should have such a formidable reputation that you expect it and do not fear them considering leaving.

9. Work very hard to make at least one person in your team a very high earner and achiever. All sales people need a role model who has achieved what they seek. He or she is proof of what is possible and every good sales person will want to equal and then beat the number one.

10. Call Success Moves and get some quality candidates!  Call us now on 0203-675-9099.

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How to Recruit Sales People That Can Close

Companies regularly ask us our advice on teaching their sales people how to close deals. We also get much feedback from the market generally saying that few of the people that they recruited into trainee sales roles can progress to close deals. Many start as ‘account openers’ where the emphasis is on rapport and ice breaking skills. Yet when promoted to closer positions they fail to bring in orders.

A deal closer is a different skill and mind set to opening accounts. Many who move into sales as ‘openers’ find even that to demanding a role and revert to positions where rapport skills are still paramount such as customers service, inbound call centres, recruitment etc. This is because although rapport is the main skill in customer service or opening accounts the latter is more assertive, requires being proactive and persuasive. For some even customer service is wrong and they are better suited to analysis type role with minimal people facing. So my point is that rather than training their current people to close, they need to look at their recruitment policies. Candidates on interview have a strong tendency to try and answer what you want to hear and finish up talking you into offering them the job and themselves into taking it. The result is someone who drops out somewhere between day one and end of the first quarter or at best never makes it to closer. It isn’t where their career should be heading. A sales jobs offer high income, especially to young people they are always going to attract interest, but often the wrong profile of person.

So, the training often needed is on recruitment and interviewing skills. The key question that follows then is how can you spot a good potential closer at interview? Closing deals is a role for a leader not a follower. Most people are followers who wait to be told what to do, takes orders, literally. Followers will expect you to lead through the interview and stay silent until you speak. Leaders will diplomatically take control. Closers need to be strong and assertive. Yet this is just one trait which is rendered useless if not accompanied with some very soft and sensitive skills. To close deals without rejection, or buyers remorse, a sales person needs to ask the right questions and be very sensitive to the answers. Listening is essential but not enough. She or he has to read between the lines, read the tone and body language and make an assessment of the corporate or personal environment that surrounds decision making.

First and foremost the deal closer needs to gather key information. Yes there are key questions to ask and the listening to the answers. But how many people will admit they don’t have full authority to make a decision? How many people are more concerned about losing face in their organisation by making a mistake? There is an old saying amongst computer system buyers, “No one got fired by choosing IBM. “ What are the true motivations of the prospective customer, which is rarely just what that they say it is.

Even when a prospect has been sold professionally it is not enough. Sold professionally I define as establishing the needs and matching them clearly to the product offer. Then asking for the business. That is rarely enough because people do not like making decisions and have a strong tendency to avoid them. They want to stick with the status quo. All of us are averse to change by varying degrees and a sales person by definition is always promoting change, a journey to new unfamiliar territory.
Offering discounts or promising the earth with no hope of delivering are not closing techniques. No amount of training will change someone whose nature is to do just that. Your sales people have to be strong and ethical to resist these temptations and complete deals in everybodys best interest.

Before interview on a CV look for evidence of taking initiatives, leading.  Job hoppers avoid, someone who gives up quickly when it does not work out are not leaders. Look at the interests, Captain of local Football Club, (Leadership), Played Guitar (good listening skills), Black Belt Judo (Doesn’t give up.) The clues are all there.

At interview you need to ask candidates questions like:
Give me an example of a situation where you took charge? (Are they natural leaders?)
If I rejected you right now, what would you say? (Clue: Closers do not ask for feedback they get to the core reason and turn it around!)
Also ask them about their background influences. Has their upbringing been one where they have to take initiatives or someone looked after all their issues for them.

Get your recruitment and interviewing policies reviewed.

My next blog will be about the best sources of potential closers and how to structure a training programme to make them productive very fast.

Author Alex McMillan For contact please email