Dare to be different, but more so

Relying on ‘industry experience’ as a major determining factor in your sales selection process can severely limit your potential to develop a competitive edge. SUE BARRETT

Sue Barrett

By Sue Barrett

Even though I have not worked as a traditional recruitment consultant for more than 14 years, many of my long standing clients still talk about those “out of the box” placements we made. Was it just the recruitment approach that made the difference. Well NO. What these savvy managers did was make sure the culture and the business could accommodate these “new” types of people.

They took their current team along on the journey to the new as well. Sure, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, but they knew what they needed to do. As we know when we bring in difference we can often cause the current people to feel uncomfortable and if not addressed they can kill off the “new” way.

So be aware.

If the overall culture of your business is not set up for excellent sales performance, all your efforts could implode. Here is an example of what I mean.

A key client came to us saying they didn’t want to hire people from their industry because they just weren’t competitive in the current market. They wanted to refresh the gene pool and bring in fit sales people who were not tarnished by the industry and its way of doing things.

They knew that in this over-commoditised marketplace that their sales people were their competitive edge. They were on the right track but didn’t know where and how to start. So here is what we did to help them find elite sales performers:

  • Reviewed sales strategy and path to markets.
  • Defined sales DNA and “ideal” role/person specification.
  • Built a structured sales recruitment process and kit.
  • Targeted the industries the new breed of sales people could come from.
  • Built and implemented the induction company sales training process.
  • Implemented a sales management support system.
  • Mapped and measured sales metrics.

The results were fabulous from a sales initiative perspective. The new breed of elites sales performers achieved a sales closing ratio of 4:3 within two months and sold annual sales budget within five months.

Now wouldn’t you think everyone would have been jumping for joy? You’d like to think so, but sadly the new team was a small part of a very large business that had been operating in an entirely different manner (slow, internally focused, transaction product selling).

Rather than embrace the new “fitter” sales way of life and find more success across the board, the broader business killed off the team because it was too successful just so they didn’t have to change.

Sadly this is not an isolated incident; many a successful competent sales person or sales manager with new ideas, a healthy can-do attitude, have been passed over for promotion or eliminated from the team because they were too different and too good. They did not fit the often buttoned down, compliant thinking, follow-the-rules-or-else culture that many larger business can have.

And what I still see, all too often, are senior managers and sales mangers recruiting from within their own industry sector, recycling the same old people getting the same old ideas and the same old results.

Relying on “industry experience” as a major determining factor in your sales selection process can severely limit your potential to develop a competitive edge in your industry and find elite sales performers. This strategy has left many businesses vulnerable today as they now struggle to transform existing transactional product focused sales teams to savvy business people how can sell.

Which raises key questions:

  • How we can we find top sales performers to refresh our gene pool and revitalise our culture, our bench strength, our results, etc?
  • How does an organisation create and the promote transparent sales performance in the field and at leadership level?
  • How do we encourage diversity, innovative thinking and outsiders into our thinking, our team and our business?

I encourage you to challenge the prevailing views and attitudes of your business and industry and really examine what your sales strategy needs by way of talent now and into the future and select and develop those people how meet your business needs accordingly.

If you do, it can really pay big dividends.

Sue Barrett is founder and managing director of BARRETT, a boutique consultancy firm. Sue is an experienced consultant, public speaker, coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating high performing people and teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. Click here to find out more

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