Was it the chicken, or the egg? Much like two kids might go round and round over the answer to this question, so might your sales manager and operations manager endlessly debate which function is more critical to the organization. It seems like every wholesale distributor we visit faces this same reality: sales thinks they’re most important because they bring in the cash; but, operations thinks the salespeople are just a tad full of themselves. We say: just take the egg, scramble it, and serve it up for a company-wide breakfast!
It’s no secret that the health of both functions is deeply tied to success, and that they must harmoniously complement one another in order to maximize profit. We have a heart for operations because our consultants are most often called in to facilitate change in this area (with an emphasis on Epicor Eclipse). However, in our current economy, we’ve been pushing clients to pay special attention to sales … because people ARE buying, they’re just picking who they want to buy from. It may be the nature of sales to have fewer boundaries and less organization; but, we’ve seen that applying operational structure can significantly improve your chances of being the one that buyers pick. Not to mention that it also has an interesting trickle down impact on your operational well being!
So, scramble it up! Take some basic operational structure and principles, mix them into your selling approach; and, in no time at all, you can fry up a heartier, protein-rich, top line. To do this, we have three strategic recommendations; and, the first has to do with a logical beginning point: hiring.
Strategic Opportunity #1: Hire for Motivation, Not Accreditation
Selling in a wholesale distribution environment is a unique beast. It requires that positions be filled with the right candidates who possess the right mindset. Notice I said mindset rather than skill set. That’s because motivation should be ranked above experience in practically every sales hiring decision. After all, you can teach industry jargon, product knowledge and job site conduct. You can build relationships. But, motivation comes from a deeper place.
MCA Associates stated this well in their web article “How to Screen Out Salesperson Duds and Hire Superstars.” They say “It’s better to hire a lesser skilled person who is highly motivated than a person who is skilled and not motivated enough to APPLY their skills on a steady and consistent basis.”
I’ve seen this in my own business, too. I’ve put people in sales positions who looked great on paper: fully equipped with deep relationships and high accolades. But, after trials and tribulations, I learned they weren’t the right fit. My best closers are those who knew absolutely nothing coming in, but were interested, engaged, and motivated. They were also the employees who seemed most grateful for the opportunity. They weren’t necessarily desperate, they just had a position of humility, and a tradition of loyalty, that were intrinsic to their personalities.
Was there more hand-holding than normal? Yes. Was there more of a learning curve than usual? Yes. But, those efforts provided great opportunities to teach what I felt was most important about the business, along with my own best practices and methods for selling. There were no bad habits to break. They’re just fresh and hungry.
So, how do you achieve this? By removing some of the guesswork and subjectivity from the hiring decision, and relying on measurement and planning:
- Choose an assessment tool that, according to MCA Associates, helps you “ensure against bad hires,” because it “rates and ranks your candidate against successful people in the same type of sales discipline.”
- Observe the characteristics of your best, most highly motivated team members (sales or not). Put down on paper which personality traits are most desirable.
- Involve at least one unbiased person in the interview and approach each with the same plan … one that utilizes your assessment tools, your list of traits and any other pre-established guidelines for hiring.
- Use the results to vote in the best-suited, most motivated personality for the job.
- Whether or not you’re in hiring mode, take your new measurement tools and make use of them with your existing sales force. It will give you a better sense of the personalities that you’re dealing with and what can or should be done to train or re-orient. Hopefully, the results won’t force you to get in to hiring mode!
- Get everyone properly trained on Eclipse. A New Hire class (done individually with us or through the Eclipse Users Group) will help your salespeople establish a good foundation with the ERP, and teach them important daily functions.
We have two more opportunities for you to sell more by scrambling operations with sales; but, we’ll let you have some time to work on hiring and training the right team first. Stay tuned for parts two and three of the series to find out more.