Sales Savvy

Having a strong sales staff can be the difference between whether a company has sales that sizzle or fizzle. As a security dealer integrator's business grows, it's common for the owner to rely more and more on a sales staff. Having quality sales professionals is important not just to bring in more customers, but also to properly educate the customers so that they don't enter a business deal with misconceptions. After all, you don't want to be in the position of trying to meet unrealistic expectations.

So with the stakes so high, how does a security dealer integrator go about recruiting good sales pros—and then just as important, how do you go about keeping them? Well, it takes careful planning and clear communication. First communicating what you're looking for in a candidate, and then once they're brought on board, keeping an open dialogue regarding how things are going and what's expected in the future.

Recruiting the Best

Cathy Rempel, president, The Summit Group, recently spoke at the NBFAA's Business Focus event in Indianapolis , IN. Her presentation was about how to grow your business, specifically looking at the revenue side of the profit equation, as well as the importance of actually understanding where your company is going.

Clearly defining your company and its direction can be a big help in recruiting. George De Marco, southern VP, California Alarm Association, says, “The first strategy is to determine the company's market segmentation, including mission and value statements. Developing a viable sales and marketing strategy will provide the company with the proper hiring vision while giving a clear message to the sales candidate that your organization is for him or her.”

De Marco gives this example: “If your company primarily focuses in the high-end residential market segment, then you should seek sales traits and experience that contributes to the company's high-end residential sales and marketing efforts. Failure to properly match up the right sales candidate can lead to ineffective sales results and expectations from the company and sales consultant's perspectives.”
In developing a solid sales program, according to De Marco, a company must offer a sales commission plan that provides the sales consultant with a competitive compensation plan. “However the compensation plan must be aligned with the company's profitability and operating requirements,” he continues, “otherwise it will be difficult to meet the financial requirements of the company and the sales consultant.”

Rempel agrees that the compensation plan can be key in recruiting, and she says that smaller companies (and start-ups) likely need to rely on a strictly commission-based sales force. (As companies grow, then compensation for the sales force tends to become salary-based.)

Also, when it comes to finding sales reps, Rempel says that you don't necessarily want to narrow your search to just people with experience in your industry. There might be sales reps with experience in similar industries who could end up being a great fit for your company, she says.

If you don't have any potential candidates lined up—or if you simply want to interview more people—then searching online could be a good option. Rempel notes that monster.com and craigslist.org are two commonly used websites for finding job candidates in today's business world.

Gene Prorwicz, director of special systems, Pace Systems, says that his company will find candidates internally or via word of mouth, but they also look at monster.com when searching for potential sales reps. They usually can get 15 or 20 candidates from monster.com, and then start narrowing the field from there via interviews.

Prorwicz also points out that given the nature of Pace Systems' work, the company does background checks before hiring a technician or sales rep. “Background checks are a big deal for us,” he says.

When recruiting new employees, also be sure to examine how many jobs a candidate has had in the past three years. If somebody shows a tendency to stay at jobs for only a few months, then they could be a “job hopper” who's not likely to stay long at your company either, warns Rempel.

“ Once you provide the right sales environment, then recruiting for sales professionals becomes a more efficient and attainable endeavor,” explains De Marco. “And hiring the right sales professionals into an organization has a tendency to help in the recruiting process—they can attract other sales people with similar values and sales abilities.”

Motivating Your Sales Pros

“Money is a good motivator,” says Prorwicz with a smile; and while it's a funny line, it's also true. After all, the bottom line in any business is to be profitable.

So what are some ways to keep your sales reps motivated and on the right track to make money?

“Communication,” says Rempel, who emphasizes the importance of one-on-one meetings with your sales pros in order to make sure they know what their goals are and what's expected of them; it's also an opportunity for them to give feedback and state their own concerns.

“One of the best strategies is offering a vision for the sales professional that touches on the organization's growth initiatives into existing and new markets,” says De Marco. “For example, if a sales consultant can offer more complementary products and services for potential clients, then you give him or her more tools for closing the sales while providing them an ability to generate more sales commissions and company profits.”

With regards to new products and services, a company should involve their sales and operations staff in seeking opportunities for new market applications. “This can be accomplished by soliciting their help and opinion when choosing new products and services for the company's offerings,” De Marco states. “Another key strategy is to offer training that keeps their sales skills honed and technical knowledge up-to-date, allowing the sales consultant an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.”

Open To Change

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times,” wrote Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian writer who lived 500 years ago. Despite being written centuries ago, those words seem to hold true. Likewise, the best sales strategy needs to be flexible and open to changing with the times.

De Marco, drawing on his years running The Greater Alarm Company, readily admits that he has had to adapt to changing market conditions. “Absolutely changes were made to the sales strategies,” states De Marco. “It seems to be a natural evolution of sorts, meaning that strategies need to be evaluated and tested to prove their functionality and effectiveness, including the company's direction and market conditions,”

He continues, “All these add up to a living and breathing growth strategy that drives your organization to reach new milestones. The one constant in the whole thing is to keep your employees engaged and informed, allowing them to feel part of the team and to say their opinion matters.”

A good example of this, De Marco indicates, was the new expectation in the sales consultant's selling responsibilities. “Instead of a geographical based sales consultant, they were asked to become experts in vertical markets such as apartment communities, banking or healthcare,” he says. “As a result, the sales consultant was more effective in the vertical market he or she served while increasing their compensation too.”

Competitive compensation, open communication, current training, and business flexibility all go into recruiting and motivating sales pros. It's no easy task, but the savvy owners who can pull it off will be ahead of the game—and well on their way to “closing the deal” with many future customers.

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