By Victor Arocho, an EO South Florida member and president of
In every sales team, there are usually a handful of top performers … and then there’s everyone else. Imagine how much more successful your organization could be if every salesperson was a top performer. Think that’s not possible? Think again.
In other areas, we see groups of elite people who band together for a common goal or purpose: football teams, Navy SEALs, top-rated symphonies, etc. In any of these groups, you don’t see one or two people doing all of the work, outperforming their peers or being the lone superstars. Rather, everyone on the team is an elite member. The group as a whole shines because each member contributes greatly, plays an integral part and gives 110% at all times. If it’s possible with these groups, then it’s possible for your sales department, too.
But creating an elite group of salespeople involves much more than posting a “help wanted” advertisement on an online job board. It requires a specific hiring process that attracts only the best of the best. Over the years, I’ve developed a three-step system to building—and maintaining—an elite sales team that’s hungry for success.
STEP 1: Make joining your sales team difficult.
You can’t create an elite sales team if becoming a member is easy. Would a Super Bowl team be spectacular if they let just anyone with a helmet onto the field? Of course not. In order for a team to be considered elite, there must be a stringent joining process. While it’s important to advertise open sales positions, conducting a single interview prior to bringing someone on board is not enough. In my experience, you’ll want to conduct multiple interviews, especially with the sales manager and other executive-level people. The key is to look for people who believe in a team spirit, have a positive attitude and display a keen sales demeanor.
Another tip: Whatever you do, don’t have your HR department be responsible for hiring salespeople (I learned that the hard way). Their only role when it comes to hiring salespeople should be to process the paperwork. Finally, and perhaps most important, make sure anyone you decide to bring on board realizes that getting past the initial hiring process is the easy part. Now they must prove that they have what it takes to be an elite player. How? By completing step two.
STEP 2: Create an intense “new hire” training program, where no more than 60% of the people pass.
When I share this step with my clients and EO peers, I stress that for every three people who make it past the initial hiring process, only one of them should become a salesperson for your organization. While this may initially sound like a waste of time and money, it’s really an investment in making your sales team the best it can be. Realize that the only time you really waste your energy and money is when you allow low-producing salespeople to be a part of your organization. The best way to avoid that scenario is to ensure that those who are in a sales role have been thoroughly trained and are the people who really want to be there.
Having an intense training period is the same approach used by colleges and the military. For example, for every 100 men who start the Navy SEAL training, only 17-20 succeed. That’s a success rate of only 17-20%! But think about it— who do you want carrying out the country’s most dangerous and critical military missions? Only the best of the best, right? Well, who do you want being the face of your company, representing your products or services and interacting with your clients on a daily basis? Again, only the best of the best will do. Your training program for new hires should cover the following key areas:
• Product knowledge – Go over your products or services thoroughly to ensure that the prospective salesperson comprehends them inside and out.
• Role-playing – Go over typical sales scenarios, as well as the most challenging sales situations you can think of. See how the person responds when things go wrong.
• Sales skills – Even if the person has prior sales experience, you’ll want to give them all of the skills and training they would need to be successful, and then make sure they know how to implement those skills.
• Company structure – Teach them all aspects of the company, so that they know the intricacies of the business and understand what happens before and after the sale.
• Research – Put them through the tedious information-gathering work. Make them research the market, demographics, competition, etc. of a potential client. If they’re not willing to do the details, then they’re not a fit for the role.
This intense training program will weed out the people who don’t have what it takes to be part of an elite team. In my experience, about 20% of the people will drop out by week four. For those remaining, offer them a choice to stay or go, as in: “I’ll give you US$1,000 right now for you to leave the training and the company, or you can elect not to take the money and stay.” Those who take the money aren’t the type of people you want on your sales team. It’s better to pay a small price now to find that out than waste a lot of time and money down the road on a bad hire. By the six-week mark, only 60% of those candidates who started the training should still be standing strong with you. These are your elite team members. If you have more than 60% of the people making it through the program, then your training is too easy. Anything that’s too easy has no value.
STEP 3: Have consistent, ongoing training.
While the intense training period is a one-time thing, all salespeople should attend regular (less intense) monthly training sessions. I’ve found these sessions to be the most effective when you conduct role-playing, train on specific sales skills and discuss key challenges your team is facing. These ongoing training sessions should also be used to create bonding experiences for the sales team. Have them help each other solve problems, offer suggestions and share best practices. Why? Because the goal is to continually develop a team, not an individual. As Tecumseh, the Shawnee Indian chief, once said: “A single twig breaks easily, but a bundle of twigs is strong.” By bringing your salespeople together on a monthly basis, you’re creating a strong and elite sales force that can’t be broken.
If there’s one thing I learned in the sales industry, it’s that to be the best, you need to recruit the best. Sales isn’t an easy profession, so joining an elite sales team shouldn’t be easy either. That’s why the focus should shift from filling a sales position to building an elite sales force. After all, your sales team really is the face of the company. Shouldn’t only the “best of the best” be representing your brand?
Victor Arocho is the president of Potential Sales & Consulting Group, and serves as chief sales officer of Touchsuite, which reached #105 on the 2013 Inc. 500 list. Fun fact: Victor is a former college football player who brings his passion for winning on the field to the sales floor. Contact Victor at firstname.lastname@example.org.