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Sales Staffing Part 2

Furniture World Magazine


Once you decide to fill those needed sales positions (see the October/ November issue)  you'll be faced with the problem of where to find the kind of people you need.  You will also want to establish standards of performance, compensation methods, goal management and accountability for performance. Only then can you start to teach them how you do business.

Editor's Note: Last month, after completing a four part series on sales metrics, contributing editor Joe Capillo discussed the complex issues retailers face when trying to decide how much sales staff is needed to properly serve customers. This article looks at ways retailers can lead organizational change by hiring and training the people needed to get optimal sales and revenue results.

Leading Change: The First Step is Leadership
Leading change in organizations is an all-consuming task for owners and managers. If your business still looks like it did 10 years ago (or more) you are losing ground in the 21st century business environment. If you suspect that you need to do a better job of leading and managing change in your retail organization, you should take a close look at your critical sales metrics (see previous articles in this series posted to the sales management article index of furninfo.com), and do all of the following things:

  • Introduce advanced performance tracking technology.
  • Establish a standardized selling system for use by everyone.
  • Staff the store for optimum performance.
  • Hold everyone accountable for their own performance.
  • Use a technology-based customer follow up system to increase your share-of-market and share-of-customer.
  • Follow up with both sold and unsold customers.
  • Pay your sales staff in a new way.
  • Implement a goal management program based on salesperson income.
  • Establish minimum standards of performance.

This is a lot of change to bring to an organization all at once, but each of the elements listed is part of the tapestry of performance improvement.

The first step in bringing change to your company is to ensure that you are fully staffed based on your true customer count and your well-planned service level. If you remain understaffed, and your salespeople are personally satisfied with their current level of performance and income, there is no reason for them to change the way they work. If this is your current situation, there is little chance that you will succeed in your performance improvement efforts.

Unless you are willing to make the first change and increase staffing to an optimum level, there will be minimal change in the way things are done in your store. You have to limit the available opportunities you provide each salesperson and they have to get more out of each opportunity. In other words they have to learn to be both more efficient and effective.

Finding the Right People
When you decide to fill those needed sales positions you'll be faced with the problem of where to find the kind of people you need. Here are some tips to help you seek out, hire and train your new salespeople. Later, a specific training plan will be presented that can help to support these new hires and make them productive quickly.

  • Don't try to hire great salespeople. Make them great!
  • Look for intelligence, communications skills, professional appearance good interviewing skills.
  • Have a new hire training program in place.
  • Employ the services of a good testing service.
  • The people you want are working somewhere else.
  • Beware of hiring “experienced” people. They bring a lot of bad baggage. They value their way of doing things and think you do too. They're difficult to change while you're also trying to change.
  • Don't be lazy and think you can avoid training - make the investment.
  • Make sure you spell out that they must sell your way.
  • Have new hires reveal their earnings record over last three years.
  • Verify all claims.
  • Contact all previous employers.
  • Use state police public information for background checks.
  • Employ a professional drug testing service.
  • Get everyone in your company to be a recruiter.
  • Look for people in other businesses who serve you well.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your search.
  • Make this an ongoing initiative.
  • Reward employees who bring in qualified people.
  • Continuously build a file of available people.
  • You need 20 prospects to make one hire.
  • Stay in contact with all prospects monthly.
  • Have recruiting business cards printed - give them to everyone.
  • Recruit in the store - put out large signs - don't hide it.
  • Use your reader sign if you have one.
  • If you use classified ads, spell out the two important details: Full commission and weekend requirements.
  • When ready to hire, make your selection quickly.
  • Don't make good candidates wait - you'll lose them.
  • Notify all current active candidates about your decision.
  • Never settle for a candidate because he or she is the only candidate. Delay hiring until you have more people to choose from.
  • The cost of training is too high to take chances.
  • If you have only one or two candidates, increase your recruiting efforts.

Interviewing Tips
The most important thing you can do in an interview actually comes before the interview.

Write a detailed job description spelling out all of the following things:

  • A statement that explains why the job exists will help you to quantify the importance of this position to the company.
  • All of the tasks that will be required for the job. If you want to ensure that the people you interview are the right kind of candidates for the job, this is a necessary step. Be specific. For example, if following up with non-buyers is something you want salespeople to do, put it in the job description as a task.
  • How success for this job will be measured. You'll have quantitative measurements such as sales volume or other minimum expected results, but you'll also have non-quantifiable statements such as, “all customers are greeted according to our company's selling system”.
  • Scheduling requirements are particularly important where evenings and weekends are involved. Spell it out here because many people will not qualify for these schedules.
  • Compensation range and methods. Explain your commission structure in detail right in the job description including when commissions and draw will be paid. You can include an annual commission payday schedule.

Don't oversell your company or the position until you know a lot more about the candidate being interviewed. There needs to be a balance between you selling the candidates on the company and the candidates selling you on themselves.

Remember, it's as important to find someone who will fit the role in your company's culture as it is to find someone with the background and skills you're seeking. Ask about personal hobbies or interests outside of work. With experienced people, ask questions about how they handled difficult situations with customers. Listen carefully for insights into the candidate's attitudes and paradigms.

No matter who you're interviewing, you want to know how they've handled different situations whether at school, at home or at another job. How have they dealt with difficult, demanding bosses? How have they handled irate customers? How have they handled difficult associates or dealt with people they just didn't like?

Ask everyone to give you an example of a time in their lives, in a work situation or a personal situation, when they set a goal for achievement. It doesn't matter whether or not they achieved the goal, the questions will be great mines of information about how the person thinks. What happened when they made the goal? What happened when they didn't?

Don't try to be tough just to see if a candidate can take it. Treat everyone with great respect as a guest of your business and a potential customer. Think of the interview as a PR opportunity. Be nice, you'll get more honest information from someone who feels comfortable and welcome.

Next Month
This series will continue with a discussion of how you should support and educate your new hires so that they can make an immediate positive contribution to sales and avoid disastrous consequences.