Even though I manage a very successful sales force, I’m not what most people would consider a conventional sales manager. I don’t have an MBA, I only own a few Tony Robbins books, and selling Mercury Network is actually the only official “sales job” I’ve ever had. Truth be told, I rely largely on what I learned from touring as a musician for over 10 years. It’s really those skills that have made the biggest difference in my career selling software to mortgage professionals, and managing teams of very successful salespeople.
The conventional sales and management techniques are pretty well documented, so I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned on the road for a different look at building a successful sales team.
How do they look on LinkedIn?
In this age of social media, the importance of checking up on an applicant’s Internet presence is implicit. I have to admit, the first thing I do when looking at the resume is to see if they have a LinkedIn profile and I check for any discrepancies. You can also usually tell a lot about the person by recent posts they’ve made, how they come across when communicating socially, and who their contacts are. It’s always my first step, and it’s an easy one so don’t forget it. A quick LinkedIn check can be very telling.
Look beyond the resume … what are they really made of?
Regardless of what their resume or online profile may say, what’s most important to me is that the person already has an innate ability to sell. You can always teach someone a product and give them the tools to sell it properly, but it’s tough to actually teach someone how to sell. I believe anyone can have this ability, regardless of whether they have a history or education in sales. I started at the junior sales level and quickly realized that my years of connecting with people on the road to build my audience (as well as pay my bills) were exactly the tools I needed to succeed. I also already knew how to handle a wide variety of personalities, and how to be truly appreciative of people’s time, whether they bought whatever I was selling or not. I advanced quickly because I sold a lot, and I sold a lot because people wanted to talk with me because I make an effort to connect personally.
I learned more about sales being a musician than I ever did in a book, classroom or even from a manager and because of that, I believe it’s pivotal to factor in real life experience rather than strictly relying on education level or previous experience in the same field when reviewing applicants.
For example, the reason I hired the person who is now one of my top salespeople had nothing to do with his education or even his sales experience. As an acquaintance, he shared with me how he’d been laid off from his banking management position and instead of collecting unemployment and waiting around for something similar to open up, he took a job hauling and unloading soda out of a truck all day. His decision to take any job he could get while still looking for the one he really wanted is what made me contact him for my open sales position. His work ethic and the fact that he was willing to tell me that story indicated to me that he was not only a hard, motivated worker, but was also able to connect with people on a basic and relatable level, an important sales quality.
Keep an open mind when learning about an applicant’s background. The innate ability to sell (as well as connect with people) are both qualities that can be gleaned from unconventional work experiences. Not everyone has these qualities and you may have to dig deep to find them, but the rewards are worth it. This also allows you to hire a wider range of people with different strengths that will improve your overall sales impact.
Look everywhere, and look often
Always be on the lookout for your next salesperson, whether you need them now or not. There have been many instances where I needed a new salesperson and would recall conversations with people that resonated, making them the first ones I called just to see if they were interested before starting to interview others. Waiting until you desperately need to hire someone creates a sense of urgency and doesn’t give you the chance to devote the time and thought necessary to bring on a truly valuable employee. Always keep people in mind so you’re not forced to hire or interview based solely on whatever resumes you happen to receive during your hour of need.
Hiring well now will make your life much easier later
Well-run companies these days are somewhere between lean and understaffed so there is a tendency to try and get the new hire up and running as soon as possible, but it’s still imperative you give them the proper time and training to make a positive impact from the beginning. One of the benefits of hiring the type of person I’ve outlined is how much easier initial training can be. Already armed with an ability to connect and sell, they just need to be caught up on the basics of your particular company. Keep in mind that when the new employee joins your team, they will most likely have little to no background about the company, the products, tools, or processes it takes to be successful.
I’ve found that it’s most beneficial to give any new hire at least two weeks of intensive training to ensure the most productivity when they start. During that time, helping them understand every facet of the company and daily operations is essential. I usually have new salespeople sit with someone in each department for a short period of time to fully understand what each department does and the role they play in the success of the company. This also serves as an introduction to other departments and employees to help integrate the new employee from the outset and make them less afraid to ask questions.
Trained employees are happier and more confident and it’s much easier to get productivity out of them if they’ve had the proper time to acclimate before starting their actual day to day duties. If they are given a couple weeks to meet, search and discover all the available resources, they will be able to find information quickly and feel more confident. Trust me, down the road you will reap the rewards for taking the extra time from the beginning.
These are a few of the tips that have helped me cultivate a strong, capable sales force that’s averaging over 100 percent growth year-over-year. I hope they’ll do the same for you, and please share your feedback and experiences by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Sullivan oversees the national sales team for Mercury Network, and supervises Mercury's largest, key strategic accounts. He has been with a la mode inc. for 11 years, building invaluable expertise in vendor management operations and appraisal compliance concerns with the largest lenders and appraisal management companies in the nation. Chris has been instrumental in the growth of Mercury Network, powering more than 20,000 compliant appraisal deliveries a day. He may be reached by phone at (800) 434-7260, ext. 708 or e-mail email@example.com.