What should I expect from sales people?

I am about to start a round of recruiting, expanding our sales force by four people. Our staff retention rates are not great and it seems like only one in four people we hire turns out to be any good. Is this fairly standard and something you just have to accept with sales people? How can we identify which candidates are most likely to benefit the business?


A. Tony Reeves of the Hot Group writes:

Sales is notorious for high staff turnover and although a retention rate of one in four might be the norm, those companies who better these averages will see their bottom line profitability significantly enhanced. Sales is a low cost-of-entry business with a rather glamorous appeal for first time job seekers and young people who have suffered boredom in their first job. Much of the high turnover in recruitment can be attributed, not to the experienced recruitment consultant, but rather to those who quickly find that there is nothing glamorous about being a salesperson and that most are paid on individual results.

To retain an experienced salesperson, several aspects of their employment are becoming increasingly important. Firstly, a clarity of their commission scheme – it is important they can see clearly how they will be compensated for their efforts without any so-called corporate head office adjustments. Secondly, as in almost all other forms of employment, creating the right working environment helps the retention rate. If you create a fun working environment with a minimum of bureaucracy and virtually no hierarchy, productivity will increase and more importantly so will company loyalty.

As far as the job seeker with no relevant experience, it is far better to explain before they accept the job that to be successful and earn the money they seek takes a lot of hard work and some luck. It is far better to play down the amount they can earn in their first year, rather than to encourage them to accept the position based on false hopes.

I have always found those individuals who, after you have explained all the negative aspects of the job, are still passionate to take it, are likely to be the most successful. And indeed, looking back at the most successful sales people that I have ever recruited, significantly they have been the ones that have taken a cut in their basic salary because they believed in the philosophy, culture and the strategy of the company, which I go into great pains to explain.

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