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Over the past few months, I have had a number of conversations with owners and directors which are broadly similar.

‘We’re becoming more confident, seeing more opportunities. I’m thinking about hiring a sales person’. OK and..? Well, I really need somebody in position within a few months, they need to be performing straight away, I can’t afford to get it wrong, the last one hired wasn’t that good, we tried for 6 months and then had to get rid of them’.

So, what are you going to do differently this time?

I don’t know – do you have any ideas?

Yes, start 6 months ago.

Sorry, that wasn’t very helpful, but it’s the truth. You are where you are, but with that sort of approach you are setting yourself up for another hiring failure.

If you are thinking you might need to recruit a sales person in 2015 or even next year, the time to start is now.

Let’s just ask ourselves a few questions, starting with the obvious.

Do I really need to add another person?
For a moment let’s draw an analogy with a machine. If you were running a factory and you kept adding machines without optimising the output from your current capacity you would become uncompetitive and ultimately go out of business. Yet people add headcount to sales teams without even questioning if they can get more out of what they have.

Do you have the data to analyse the performance of your current sales people? Have you compared the best to the worst? Do you understand where the differences occur and have you tried to develop/coach them to adopt the best practice?

Have you templated your prospecting/sales process and examined where efficiency gains could be made? Could adopting a systematic approach to sales drive continuous improvement across the board?

To hijack an old phrase from the quality manual ‘Do you even know what good looks like?’

If training and developing your current team could enable you to achieve the same or greater sales growth than adding another person – which option would you take?

Should I add or replace?
Let’s assume you have done all of the above and you have seen some improvement. Have some not demonstrated an improvement or even a willingness to try? What is the impact of retaining them in your business?

Potentially a risk that they pull others back down and possibly they themselves feel under pressure and unhappy in the role. Certainly it requires a conversation and an examination of the possibility of redeploying them elsewhere or finding out if they are also looking to move on and need some assistance to find a better-fit role.

Am I really ready to hire someone?
Hiring is usually one other thing that managers can barely afford to devote any time to. After all, if it doesn’t work out it’s probably only going to cost £20-30K by the time you add up all the costs of the 6 month they get to prove themselves. Not much?

So don’t make it an event. Continuously build links with people who you would like to add to your business. Using the understanding you have developed in 1, build a picture of the type of qualities you need in a good hire. Don’t forget, having improved the current team you will no longer be replicating ‘average’ but adding in at a higher level. Consider also strengthening your hiring process through the use of a systematic approach and tools such as behavioural profiling.

Stop thinking that your next sales hire is still 6 months or so away. Start evaluating and improving your current sales resource and preparing the ground for your next recruit to join an already high performing team.

If you want to talk further, contact your nearest Sandler Trainer about how we may be able to help save money on hiring and get more from your current sales resources.

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