Here at The Brooks Group, our clients in industrial distribution are constantly telling us that it’s difficult to find the right people for the sales openings they have.
They find that it’s typically very easy to find a candidate who has the technical knowledge required to understand the products; however, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack to find a candidate with technical knowledge AND the traits required to sell successfully in the highly competitive industrial environment.
To stay ahead of the competition and replace baby boomers nearing retirement, industrial sales leaders must be willing to embrace the shifts in the sales landscape and develop a strategic process for finding and keeping qualified sales talent.
Follow these four tips to find salespeople who can complement their technical knowledge with the sales skills and acumen needed to sell value, not just product features or a low price.
1. Find out what type of selling skills your people will need in this new environment
Times have changed and the experience and skills needed to be successful in industrial sales have changed as well. Relationships and product knowledge are no longer enough. Take your company’s growth strategy into consideration, and determine the selling personality that’s required to take you into the future. Do you need people who are proactive or reactive? Farmer, hunter, or pioneer?
An ideal sales hiring profile allows you to build a solid template for the type of candidate you’re looking for.
2.Build your brand and make the benefits of working in industrial sales known to candidates
A career in industrial sales can be both rewarding and lucrative, but it may not immediately come off as sexy. To attract young, intelligent, ambitious talent, you need to be actively building your employer brand.
The hard truth is that employer branding isn’t a quick fix. If you want your company to be perceived a certain way, you must live up to the claims you make. Highlight growth and advancement opportunities, and make sure your selection process correctly matches candidates to the position requirements. If you do, your people will find fulfillment doing a job they’re truly wired for—turning them into evangelists for your brand.
3. Target graduates from colleges with sales certificate programs
More than 70 colleges and universities now offer programs to train students in sales skills. The graduates of these programs already have a base knowledge of how to sell value and handle objections, and will come into an industrial distribution company a step ahead of new salespeople with technical or engineering knowledge only.
Graduates’ knowledge of the basics will help them pick up your standardized sales process with ease, and contribute to results much faster.
4. Assess industrial sales candidates to make sure you’re putting your money & time behind the right people
Creating job descriptions, posting ads, conducting interviews, onboarding — the whole process takes a lot of energy and resources. Most importantly, it takes away from valuable productivity time. While there’s no way around that, you can use validated hiring assessments to dramatically reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person, and to streamline the process so it’s one less headache for you.
Build a hiring process that includes assessments and stick to it. Things have to be done consistently if you want to see consistent results.
Lisa Rose is a Regional Vice President of Sales at The Brooks Group. With 26 years of media/communications and entrepreneurial expertise, Lisa boasts a background in developing all types of people and managing quota-busting sales teams.