by Sally Brause, GreatAmerica Financial Services
Navigating the change that managed print services brings to an existing copier dealership or value-added reseller requires a process that starts with a solid business plan. Dealers then need to commit to building the appropriate infrastructure and systems, and develop their staff through the appropriate training.
As I spent time with dealers across the channel this year, it became apparent that finding the right talent for MPS was a struggle. An area not to be missed during this process is identifying and hiring the appropriate resources for your MPS program. To find and identify successful MPS sales personnel, you must be disciplined in following a hiring process that is consistent and uses some key tools to gain additional insight into each candidate’s behavioral characteristics.
Just as you would plug each leg of your next road trip into your GPS, I recommend you follow the following steps on your path to MPS hiring success.
Step 1: Identify
As you review all the factors to consider when hiring, remember that people are complex. When you evaluate areas such as education, experience, interests, literacy and language, skills, knowledge, intelligence, physical and health, aptitudes and styles, each of these distinct areas impacts a candidate’s behaviors and abilities to perform the job they are tasked with.
Earlier this year, GreatAmerica conducted an MPS Success Profile study to identify the key behaviors and characteristics for success in this position. The study included using a behavioral assessment tool to benchmark the position, interviewing sales representatives and their managers, conducting job shadows and receiving feedback from successful and less successful MPS sales reps.
The result of the study was a better understanding of what makes a candidate more successful in MPS versus a traditional sales profile. The following are a few key behavior traits identified in successful MPS sales representatives:
- Problem solving
- Results oriented
- Confident, independent self-starter
- Mitigated risk taker
- Fast paced
- Ability to learn
Because people and jobs are complex, there is no one magic tool or single skill that can predict 100 percent success in hiring. For example, I have had dealers ask if an MBA is required for successful MPS sales reps because they would be calling on CFOs. In practice, I have seen many successful MPS reps without this advanced degree who possess the right mix of the behavioral characteristics listed above, and they are very competent calling on CFOs.
So the key to this first step is to clearly identify the knowledge, skills, behavioral and cultural attributes a candidate is required to have to be a good fit for the job and your company. Doing this will put you in a better position to hire a successful candidate.
Step 2: Source
I am often asked about the best sources for finding MPS sales candidates. Unfortunately, there is not a silver bullet here either. In this step, you want to go to sources that can help you identify individuals who can use a consultative sales approach with C-level individuals.
When sourcing candidates, I recommend following the “rule of three”: identify three different sources to help you find a good pool of candidates to assess.
Here is a list of potential sources for you to find your MPS sales candidates:
- In-person networking
- Social networking
- Job-specific websites
- Career fairs
- Local newspaper and local online sources
- National job posting websites
- Outplacement centers
Keep in mind the time to start sourcing candidates is before you need them.
Keep in mind the time to start sourcing candidates is before you need them. Use the “always be looking” approach. The most successful leaders use the sources identified above, especially networking, to identify potential candidates so they have a full pipeline of candidates when an opening occurs.
Step 3: Recruit
Recruiting is the step that is related to getting a person interested in your position. Typically this step is a critical element for getting the passive candidate interested in your opening. Passive candidates are those candidates who are not actively seeking a different job, but whose interest you may be able to capture if you can help them see how your position fulfills an unmet need in their career. People who are currently employed can be some of the best candidates for your company.
Forge relationships with your prospective employees and create interest in the role for which you are hiring. Build relationships via lunches and staying in touch with these individuals every 45–60 days. By doing this, you will help to advance candidates into your hiring pipeline.
Step 4: Assess
When you assess candidates, first look on their resume for evidence of the behaviors you seek. Candidates who have been in this type of role typically don’t have a lot of “fluff” on their resume. They articulate their successes in a quantifiable and results-focused manner.
Next, use an objective assessment tool that measures behaviors. At GreatAmerica, we use a tool for our own hiring process, and it is one of a variety of assessment tools available for dealers. These tools provide you an effective measure of a person’s core behaviors, which helps you understand how a person will react in different situations.
I also recommend the use of behavior-based interview questions when hiring. These questions seek to elicit stories from your candidate about their past performance, which is a good predictor of future performance. An example of this type of question would be, “Tell me about a time when a customer had a complex need. What was the need and how was the solution developed?”
Additional assessment best practices include the use of multiple interviewers, job shadows and reference checks. Because people are complex, we want to learn as much as we can about them during the assessment phase to increase the likelihood that the new hire will be successful.
Step 5: Offer
Leaders tend to focus on compensation when they put together an offer package. While compensation is a very important element in this phase, it is not the only consideration. Throughout the hiring process you will have learned what is important to the potential new hire, and you want to construct the offer in the context of the total career opportunity.
For example, if in the recruiting stage a candidate says growth opportunities and a flexible work schedule are important to him or her, you would then lead with opportunities for growth and a flexible work schedule if the job permits it. When you address each need that the candidate expressed during the recruiting phase, then compensation is only one element of the offer.
Step 6: Transition
The transition phase is that critical period between the time the new hire agrees to your offer and the time they come to work for you. This can be a very difficult time for the new hire. Their current employer will likely not want to lose them, and they may make it financially or emotionally difficult for them to leave. The first questions I like to ask when a new hire agrees to my offer are: When will you give your notice? Have you thought about how your current employer might react? How will you respond?
Your goal in this phase is to begin to create an affiliation with your company. You can do this by staying in touch with them using strategies such as phone calls (for example, on the day they give their resignation, call to say, “I know today was likely a tough day for you. How are you doing?”), schedule a lunch with a few of their new team members, send a welcome basket to their home, or send company information or branded clothing.
Step 7: Onboard
Once you have hired your MPS resource, make sure your onboarding process is organized and ready. Too many times, a new hire’s first day looks more like a fire drill than a warm welcome.
On day one, make sure they have a schedule and that their computer, office supplies and desk are ready to go. Beyond day one, having and following an orientation schedule will help set the new hire up for success.
The better job you do in this phase, the faster your new hire will be up to speed and producing desired results. Remember, you’ve done an excellent job being purposeful in the recruiting process up until this point and you want to continue the good momentum.
By consistently following this hiring process, you will be in a better position to identify and hire a successful, long-term employee the first time. Doing this will save your company time and money that would otherwise be spent recruiting and training employees who will ultimately be unsuccessful. Finding successful employees earlier will also help your MPS program grow at a more rapid rate.
Question: What Advice Do You Offer Dealers Looking to Hire MPS Sales Talent?
“A key piece of advice I offer peers when hiring is to know yourself and your company culture. Behavioral tools will help reinforce your instincts when hiring for positions you know, and help you change your paradigm when hiring people you are not accustomed to hiring.”
—Ken Stewart, senior consultant, Photizo Group, owner, ChangeForge
“Prior to following the hiring process, I really struggled. Honestly, I was terrible at hiring sales people on my own. I would hire a ‘nice’ person, not necessarily someone who fit the behavioral model for sales success. I also relied on running newspaper ads for recruitment and now find more candidates by also working with my local college.”
—Gary Thomas, president, Thomas Office Machines
“Gaining insight into a candidate’s fit for an MPS position will help resellers avoid hiring mistakes for their business. Having the right sales talent is a must for your MPS program to be successful.”
—Tim Brien, director, MPS sales, Oki Data Americas
“I have been using an assessment tool since 1995 and I would not hire someone without this tool. If you hire a sales rep that doesn’t fit the behavioral profile, you are throwing your money away. I am also a big believer in team interviewing and having different people interview a candidate with set questions and then follow up and compare your observations. Now that we have a formal process at ImageQuest, I feel the people we are hiring are more successful and long-term fits for our organization.”
—Milton Bartley, president, ImageQuest
“We recently started using a behavior assessment tool at Stargel. The initial benefit was being able to more effectively make hiring decisions. The assessment tool reports are a great help as we typically do not hire for experience, but rather for talent. In addition, we had our current employees complete an assessment so that we can go back and more effectively manage people.”
—TJ DeBello, vice president of sales, Stargel Office Solutions
“My top advice that I tell dealers is to hire outside the industry. Do not hire an existing copier rep for MPS! These people need to have a different mentality and they have to not be so engrained into the copier industry. My favorite place to recruit MPS reps is Best Buy and other electronics stores. In this environment you can almost give a mini-interview to see if someone has people skills and is tech savvy. Look for raw talent, pay them less and train by engaging with third-party sales trainers. There are too many good trainers out there, including many who are low cost, for a dealer to waste time trying to train MPS reps on their own.”
—Matt McLeish, vice president of sales, Parts Now!