In business and in life we set goals; goals that determine the choices we make and the directions we go. One common practice for reaching these goals, popular with top athletes, is visualizing what you want to achieve. In my opinion visualization is one of the great keys to success in life, but it is a useless technique if you do not know what to visualize.
Let’s say you are looking to hire a new sales professional to join your growing team. Do you even know what a good sales professional looks like? Fortunately, I do – or at least I think I do. I have helped hire hundreds of sales professionals throughout the country in many different industries, and now I want to provide you my ideal profile when looking for new candidates to help you grow your business. I use some very specific examples here, based on real-world situations and candidates I have experience with; however I realize that there are exceptions to every rule, so would encourage you to use this more as a guideline versus a checklist.
I break sales candidates into two categories: entry level and seasoned professional. For the purposes of this article, we will look at the seasoned professional. This candidate is elusive by its very nature, especially when it relates to this industry. There is the obvious choice of pulling someone that works for one of your competitors, but there is also a profile outside of that. There are great sales professionals out there who have been out of the industry for more than 10 years, or maybe were never in the industry to begin with.
Let’s break down the profile of the seasoned professional.
When it comes to candidates with industry experience, from a dealer’s perspective, you want to go after anyone with OEM experience. Be careful, though, as you will want someone with three or more years at his or her last OEM, and anyone that has worked for more than three different OEMs should raise a red flag. I have often heard from sales managers at the dealer level that a rep from one of the OEMs would never work; I disagree, as these reps bring industry knowledge along with world-class training that many dealers cannot afford. The brand names of the OEMs attract a level of candidates that you yourself might not be able to introduce to the industry.
If you were to put me in a corner and ask me what the ideal profile would be, I would say it was a rep from one of the OEMs that has been there three to five years and is looking for a change. When interviewing these reps you need to look very closely at their numbers and achievements. You want a rep that has been at or above his quota year after year. You also want to call everyone you can to get a reference about this candidate. This is a very close-knit industry and a name goes a long way.
By the same token, pulling from another dealer, in my opinion, is extremely risky and I would vote against it nine out of 10 times. If you think that you are going to get a guaranteed book of business with someone that comes from a competitor you will most likely be let down or hit with a lawsuit.
My suggestion would be someone who has previous experience in the industry but is now currently working elsewhere. I choose this profile as my favorite especially if they have had success in other industries. I am sure we have all heard the saying “sales is sales,” and for the most part I would agree.
An even better candidate is someone who has previously worked in the industry and then had success outside of this field, which shows his or her ability to adapt, and then may bring in a new vertical to your business. Many sales professionals get their start in the industry with hopes of using it as a stepping stone to another sales profession, only to find that the new industry is not what they thought. Some of the best candidates I have ever found started in the industry, then left, and were looking to get back into an industry that they understand and have previously had success in. So what does this profile look like? Very specifically, it is someone who graduated college, worked five years in the industry, spent five to eight years in the medical sales industry with fewer than three companies, and is now looking to get back into an individual contributor position. You will find these candidates can learn the new product line very quickly and bring with them a new set of sales skills to add to your team.
What about that candidate who has never worked in the industry but has had ample success in other industries? How do you pick them out of the crowd? Here are some industries that I find relate extremely well to the imaging channel:
• Mailing solutions. Neopost or Pitney Bowes. In my opinion, this is one of the cousins to the office automation industry.
• Merchant services. There are many big and small name companies in this industry but they all relate extremely well.
• IT solutions. This is a very broad category and is often already interrelated, and with the direction that the industry is taking, this skillset translates extremely well.
• Uniform rentals. Not as IT savvy as one would wish but if you are just trying to move boxes they are accustomed to putting in the work needed.
There are several other industries that also relate well, but these are the ones that I have had the most success with. Be careful of the candidate that has had 10-plus years of advertising sales, as I have found them not to be a good long-term fit to this industry and often result in higher turnover. Also, anyone that has been in insurance sales for more than five years tends to not work out as they have developed habits that don’t necessarily transfer well to the imaging industry.
One of the biggest things you want to look at when trying to hire a seasoned sales professional is consider what vertical you want them to cover. Often you can find someone who has never worked in your industry but has sold to your target clientele for the past five to 10 years. These candidates can be extremely profitable as they have all the right connections as long as you can train them on the new products.
Now that I have tried to explain why one seasoned candidate is better than another, let me give you a real-world example to use. Let’s say you are looking to hire a major account executive to focus on the health care vertical. What do you look for? Yes, you could pull another rep from your competitor, but I would advise you to go a different route. I would look for someone who worked in the industry early in his or her career (maybe at IKON. I am not sure what it is about IKON but I have found that anyone who worked there for more than two years is hired almost every time). This candidate then went on to the health care field and has worked for Merck or Striker for the past 10 years, but was laid off due to recent government mandates and is now looking to get back into the industry.
A critical thing to remember is that no matter what outsiders say, the industry is not dying, it is evolving. With product lines such as 3D printers or network devices you will attract a new brand of sales professional looking to conquer a new frontier. You need to be open to letting some sales professionals back into the industry or introducing them for the very first time. This candidate profile has been around the block and is not looking to job hop, but is looking for a place to hang his hat. With the right compensation plan and management in place you can use their years of experience and network to benefit your company.