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Thursday, October 23, 2014

(SALES) The Secret to Success…Hire Right, Train Right



Turnover for the year:  1 seller
Revenue results for the year so far: 37% over last year.

?Impossible,? you say?

I?ve talked to market managers, general managers, and directors of sales over the past couple of weeks. Most are knee-deep in spreadsheets trying to craft a budget that their owner or corporation will accept for next year. One that shows growth, but is achievable.

Having done that dance myself for the last 28 years, I know one thing about revenue budgets -- they must go up. Rarely will a company accept a revenue budget from a manager that is projecting less than the previous year.

So, knowing this reality and overlaying that with Albert Einstein?s quote about insanity, the obvious question becomes, ?What are you going to do differently next year??

Jeff Norman is the vice president and market manager of Max Media?s Denver cluster of radio stations. Jeff faces fierce competition in Denver, yet he?s on pace going in to his budget call being up 37 percent over last year, and his sales turn over is less than 10 percent. He?s only lost one seller the entire year.

Obviously, with that kind of success, I wanted to know Jeff?s secret. The secret to his success is: ?Hire right, and train right, the rest will take care of itself.? You?re probably thinking, ?Everybody knows that!? But not everybody knows how to do that. Here is Jeff Norman?s hiring formula:

All radio managers know that hiring the "right" Account Manager for the team is not only one of the most important elements of their job, but can also be the most frustrating. If you have been in a management position for any length of time, you have made a bad hire or two in your career.

Although there really isn't a fail-safe system on hiring the best Account Managers possible, I have found over my years in the business several tactics that can help eliminate the stress involved in the hiring/recruiting process.  

For example, I am always recruiting and interviewing possible candidates, most of the time without them even knowing.

Whether it be the salesman in the men's suit department, or the person assisting you at Best Buy (keep in mind, they don't work on commission), I'm always secret shopping for new talent to join my sales team. Chances are, if they treat you right, ask the right qualifying questions on why you are in the market for a new pair of shoes or a flat screen TV vs. the typical "Can I help you?" question, then they may have what it takes to be successful in radio advertising.

Train right. Who doesn?t want to do that? How? Jeff?s formula:

Let's admit it, as managers, we have never been more short staffed and busier, wearing additional hats inside the operation, leaving very little time for training our sales team. I quickly realized that I needed help to ensure my new sellers were trained properly. I needed to make time for regular and consistent training.

I started my team with a six-week immersion training system, accompanied by one-on-one coaching, which included a test for each daily training module. The daily one-on-one training and interaction was invaluable, not only for the new rookies, but also for vets on my staff. This system allowed me to fully gauge where each account executive was with their overall skill set, and since I personally went through the training with them, we could put the training to work in the field.

Then, I dedicated at least 30 minutes to training sellers on one topic each week. Topics that related to what they were facing today. This was not me ?lecturing? the team, but leading a discussion on a topic that led the sellers on a path of self discovery.

We as great managers can teach people to sell, but it's nearly impossible to create passion or work ethic in a person! Identify and hire a person for their passion and work ethic first, followed by experience and education last, then train them every day.

TRClark, LLC published a research project sponsored by the American Society for Training & Development called ?In Search of Learning Agility.? It was an assessment of adult education from 1957 to 2008. Three of their primary conclusions resonated most with me, and serve as a great explanation of why Jeff Norman is having such success with his approach:

? Learning has shifted from being not just event based, but for maximum results it must be constantly embedded in the workflow.
? There is no such thing as permanent competence or a fully developed skill set in either individuals or organizations.
? Clearly, organizational learning agility has become massively dependent on the organization?s ability to capture, pool, and warehouse business relevant knowledge assets.

The full report is 39 pages and it?s filled with fascinating research, information, and guidance on how to best train your team. If you send me an email, I?ll be happy to send you the report.

My partner Chris Lytle and I, along with our friend Mark Peterson, recently did a webinar for our clients called: ?Winning Strategies for Attracting, Hiring, Training and Keeping Great Salespeople.? If you send me an email asking for it, I will be happy to provide a link and you can watch the webinar free. We will even include the slide deck and materials for the webinar by request.

As you prepare for 2015 as a manager, can it really be that simple? Hire right and train right? As a seller, can it really be as simple as constantly learning and improving your skill set? It?s hard to argue with Jeff Norman?s results. The key question really isn?t should you or shouldn?t you adopt this approach. The key question is, ?What will I do if it?s my competitor who does this first??

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach Jeff at

Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

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