As the economy trends downward we are seeing multiple companies shrink their sales force and cut the fat in order to save costs. Most companies right now are looking to eliminate their lowest performing sales representatives and even their sales managers to ensure a higher return on investment on their sales team. This scenario leads to hundreds of thousands of sales representatives and other sales professionals hitting the bricks for one of the biggest sales of their life; their employment. So with all the salespeople in the job market today you would think that this makes it easier to recruit top level, high performing sales talent, right? Believe it or not, it actually makes it harder and more time consuming. Not only do you have way more applicants than you would usually have, you have a much higher percentage of underperformers. It takes longer and requires more attention to see past the smoke screen put off by your applicants. Keep in mind that you are interviewing professional, job hungry sales people, even bad ones know what you want to hear.So what sales tips can I share with you to help ensure that you aren’t hiring sales representatives that have been cut due to their performance? First, you’ll need to look at past sales history. Did this individual obtain their monthly quotas, are there any awards or spiffs that have been given to the individual. Do they have anything to back up their claim that they were a top performer at their last place of employment? Believe it or not, I once ask this question to a sales representative who was interviewing for an online advertising sales job that very question. He opened his wallet and took out a paystub for a $10,000 bi-weekly commission check. This check was 8-10 times what a usual representative would make at the candidates previous employer. Another thing you can do is role play with the sales representative to get an idea of their sales process or sales techniques. I’ve asked sales people to try and sell me the pen that was in their hand. I would off objection after objection and listen to their rebuttals. It also let me know if they were taking the interview seriously, if they wanted to job and how they acted under pressure. As silly as it sounds this was often one of my favorite interview tools for sales people.Even with the most elaborate sales testing or career testing it is absolutely impossible to predict how a sales representative or sales manager will perform in your company. These interviewing techniques for sales representatives only help so much. In the end it will come down to the sales representative’s personal drive, ambition and talent, among other things. On the other hand these tests will help you discover the sales representatives with “red flags” or obvious warning signs.
Are you and your sales team impacted by the current downturn in the economy? Congratulations to you if your organization’s sales are still going strong because many are struggling today. The majority of business owners and sales people have already experienced some degree of reduced sales.No matter how the economy is affecting you and your team, it is your job as their manager, coach or leader to help them meet their targets and/or increase sales.What does it take to lead a sales team toward maximizing their sales results in a weak economy?You know the answer. A weak economy demands a disciplined leader who can demonstrate the appropriate behaviours. These are astute behaviours that you intend your sales people to follow by example. A strong leader must now invest more time with his sales team, engage them in keen discussions, ask more questions, coach them enthusiastically and guide them through these tough times.As a sales team, there is a need to be more proactive; build and maintain strong relationships; work harder and smarter than your competitors; and accomplish all this without increasing your cost of the sale.Of course this is easier said than done. The ability to get a sales team to be more proactive or to work harder and smarter becomes even more challenging during a weak economy. Sales representatives tend to be easily influenced by external negative factors in the marketplace and these factors are not usually within their control.It is common knowledge that most people are inclined to buy for emotional reasons and sales people tend to be rather affecting.Sales people work hard and are justly excited when times are sound and everyone’s buying. Nevertheless, they’re also the ones who tend to be affected detrimentally by any down-turn in sales.As a disciplined sales leader, I have always understood when times get tough, the tough get going. Undoubtedly, this is the time to step up and do more.Conversely, when markets get tougher most sales people tend to get depressed, work less and become reactive instead of more proactive. In other words, sales people, like anyone else, become a product of their environment.As a leader, what kind of environment are you providing? What is your mental state and that of your sales team? Is the sales team engaged and proactive? Is everyone working harder and thinking smarter? Are you and your team able to perform better than the current trend?Your answers to these questions are important as it reflects back to you.How do you propose to increase your leadership efforts during this weak economy and challenging sales environment? Remember your team will learn by your example and to coin a phrase: “monkey see, monkey do”.Demonstrate appropriate behaviours and “do what you have to do even when you don’t want to do it.” This is a disciplined leader!