Hire the Best Salesperson with One Simple Change.
Hire the Best Salesperson with One Simple Change.
NOTE: Jason Lippman of nFusion Capital contributed heavily to this piece.
“We’d love to put in a new fence for you, but we can’t even look at getting to you for 4 months. We are booked up, and just can’t get new people to fill out additional crews.”
That’s the conversation I had with a fencing company a few weeks ago.
Everywhere you turn, you’re hearing about the struggles of filling jobs.
You’ve seen the signs, too. Not just the long wait times at restaurants, but the physical signs offering signing bonuses at retail establishments, plants, and businesses everywhere.
Companies are needing people to execute, and the robot saviors of the future have yet to build a time machine to come back and make all of us obsolete.
So we need to find capable and willing people to make things, market things, sell things, deliver things, count them, and bill for them.
Service businesses (not the law firms and CPAs, but maybe them too) are hurting.
Construction. Cleaning. Contractors of all sorts. Restaurants. Even banks. And more.
What can they do?
One solitary but profound decision can change everything.
Businesses can shift their customer focus.
No, they don’t need to abandon the core customer who provides the lion’s share of revenue.
Instead, management can think of their employees as their primary customers.
It’s a small shift, but the downstream impact will be monumental.
Any business has 3 core “engines” running at any time. If one of them falls off, there better be a lot of cash somewhere.
One is attracting, selling, and closing customers
Two is creating and delivering products or services
Three is attracting, keeping, and developing the people who do the above
Three has been on autopilot for a LONG time….
The financial need has dictated it. Geography limited our options. And a sort of reverse demand curve put the need on the workers: since companies didn’t have a talent problem, they didn’t have a talent problem. Meaning, very few were fighting over workers. Heck, the major industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th century could think long enough to be involved in the development of public schools.
We’re just offering up-signing bonuses to anyone we can.
It’s time the philosophy of customer satisfaction moved to the people. Especially if one is in the service business of any sort. Are you a lender of any sort? And wanting to maintain anything resembling margin? You better keep the people who make that additional point possible.
When hiring salespeople, you should always keep in mind…
The customer is not the customer. The employees are the customer. Or at least the first customer. Ensure their happiness and they’ll ensure the happiness (and raving loyalty) of the end customer.
Chick-fil-A teaches us how to hire a sales rep.
Look at Chick-fil-A, the so-called Christian Chicken. Their people are largely customer-service and operations, but man, you know they’re great. You’d fire half your company if you could pull one of the local shifts from CFA would give up their waffle fries. Because you LOVE the experience at this chicken sandwich spot.
Or Costco. Not only is their selection and pricing great, so are their people!
Both are legendary for taking care of their employees. And they both happen to have insanely committed customers. Look at their drive-thru line or the parking lot.
Case Study: nFusion Capital
At nFusion Capital, the goal has always been to give employees meaningful work where they can succeed and feel good about it.
To that end, the company’s focus has been on building a platform where a BDO can succeed and build a portfolio. A similar focus has been on building the tools and processes for account managers to successfully manage those portfolios.
If nFusion builds out the right processes and tools, and hires the right people, the customers get taken care of.
Some will say, “Well, we need to think about the product more.” Or, “We have to think about our manufacturing process and supply chain.”
Yes, those things are crucial.
But so are the people who have to create the product. And run the assembly line.
Those people, like all of us, want some combination of mission, meaning, income, community, success, advancement, flexibility, or something else. In short, we need to know what they value, and how they define “wealth.” And make it available to the right people.
Strategies to recruit salespeople.
Companies have to market themselves much more effectively to potential employees.
The leverage has shifted to the employee. What do those customer-employees want?
For your business, I don’t know. But I’m guessing that in almost any business, the following need to come into consideration:
- Your mission: What you’re doing in the world and why
- Your culture: How you get things done matters.
- Community: People are inherently social and relationships matter. Talk to someone who has worked on a day labor crew and you’ll quickly figure this out
- Opportunities: Can people grow there in terms of their skills? Can they move up? Even if that means at another company? Will you help them develop the skills they need to earn more and do more enjoyable work later?
- Comp: Clearly we have to think about this. But maybe more creatively. Perhaps more incentive-based structures help. Perhaps less commission and more guarantee for others. Different benefits, perhaps? There’s no shortage of companies seeking to offer HR some newfangled health, wellness, peace of mind, or rewards package to offer employees.
- The perks of working there: In Austin, it used to be some hip downtown location. Now it’s about working from home (unless you also want community…..). It may be free lunches. Or back to school parties for the employees’ kids. Perhaps a Halloween party (hey, everyone is clearly going to wear a mask, so that should be acceptable, no?) for the family? I worked at a company where employees talked all year long about famous holiday parties. Maybe it’s tickets to a periodic sporting event where the company has regular tickets.
Great minds find ways to make things attractive. Even those things that are already there but are taken for granted. They know how to highlight them well.
How do you market those?
Companies with great hiring and recruiting strategies
Here are a few companies that market themselves really well on social media channels, especially LinkedIn (where some of their potential hires hang out….)
Scribe Media. Here’s what I know about Scribe. Their CEO, JeVon McCormick, comes off as incredibly humble, thoughtful, and focused on his people. For a white-collar company seeking young marketing and production talent, they appear to be one of the best places to work. Oh, they also win those awards, too.
Moss Utilities in Dallas, run by Garrett Moss. The guy highlights his employees all the time and talks about how great they are. It’s his company. It’s not about him, though. Do you want to work in the utilities business and find a great place to work? His shop is it.
Jonathan Pollard’s law firm. Pollard takes a different tack. He’s not your run-of-the-mill attorney. He’s a no-nonsense, principled, fearless attorney fighting for employees against companies in Miami. Also helps he has a heart and is focused on the little guy, adopting schools, and taught in Teach for America. Are you an up-and-coming lawyer looking to learn how to build a brand, market, and do kick-ass work in that space? He’s your guy.
That’s one small way companies market themselves. All the time. They know they never stop recruiting. It’s a core function, like sales, marketing, and finance.
How you sell anything, including your own job.
But what about sales?
So how do you sell a job? A few thoughts. This assumes you want them.
- Ask potential hires about their career goals. Especially if you, as a manager, can help them reach those. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you focus on the employees’ wants.
- Ask them what sort of work they want to do, or learn to do. See the above.
- Find out what hasn’t worked for them in prior roles. Where did they have issues with managers or cultures? Don’t worry that you’re about to hire a whiner who can’t hack it: many managers aren’t good at the people stuff. You’ll find talented people who want support, to be coached, or be pushed. Asking this will help you tailor your “pitch” to what they want.
The list isn’t exhaustive, but it starts to give you material to tailor your pitch to their wants.
Not too hard, is it? Let’s talk about your product so that you have something to help you sell your company.
Let’s go back to those items we mentioned earlier and how you can adjust the product to fit your new hires.
Mission. Some leaders can be first-class A-holes and still attract and keep great people because they believe so much in what is being done. And frankly, in the effectiveness of their leader. Read a business biography of some commercial titan, and you’ll think, “This guy killed it. And was such a jerk.” But people followed because of the mission. If that doesn’t inspire, there’s a problem.
Culture. This one is tricky. You may need to adjust your culture to fit a new generation. Some engineering companies are realizing that boomers and Gen Zers are different animals, and they’ve shifted the culture from, “Get it done and go home,” to, “Get your work done, have fun with your coworkers, and go home.” Might you need to adjust things at your cabling company, your restaurant, or logistics company to attract talent while delivering for customers?
Community. Look, this one has not been important, but it’s more important now than ever as people are increasingly isolated. And coming out of this weird last year, people need friends. Even though these young folks are on TikTok and Insta, real people are a better deal.
Opportunities. Guess what? Employees want to learn, and they want a chance to advance. If you don’t have this built-in, start thinking about it. You can even restructure the company to create advancement paths.
Comp. We worked with a company’s sales team recently. They kept trying to throw more money at the reps to sell more. It didn’t work. Guess what did? Giving them more time off if they hit their targets. Does this work for everyone? No, but there are ways to get creative with comp that 1) give people more of what they want AND 2) enable you to be more profitable.
Perks. Got some sweet swag? Maybe tickets to a sporting event? Free lunch? Talk about it. Don’t? Find something you can offer. That they want.
What are the best employee perks?
I don’t know. For most people, it’s probably more than the water bottle. Think of experiences people want but won’t pay for themselves. Once you start there, the world opens up to you.
Is that all there is? No. But it’ll get you going in the right direction if landing talent is something you need to do.
It’s not rocket science. But it is a challenge. One owner and their top brains need to start solving.
What have you seen work? Email me at email@example.com