Finding a great salesperson is a huge challenge. It’s not something that people prepare for in high school or college. Learning the skills takes years of on-the-job experience and self-driven training.
One of the best ways to ensure your company has and retains highly skilled salesmen and women is to create a pipeline of advancement for your new hires. This pipeline can take months or years to push people through depending on the level of salesmanship involved in your industry and the quality of people you introduce into the pipeline.
Avoid starting off people with no sales experience in a sales position.
Many companies end up doing this and it creates a sink or swim environment with high turnover. That works for many people, but if you want or need a higher quality start your new people off in a sales support position. It could look like
In-bound sales development rep –> Outbound sales development rep –> Salesman
Customer support -> Outbound sales development –> Salesman
You can break this down further if you want increasingly well-rounded sales people or have highly specialized roles. Someone who knows a little bit of everything and understands customer development process within your company will serve you better than someone who has no concept of how their actions affect other employees.
Another advantage of a pipeline is you can more carefully screen who has potential and who is best suited for other positions. It can be difficult to determine skill or potential from a resume and interview or two, working with a person for months or years before you promote him to a salesman is plenty of time to determine strengths, weakness, and build skills.
Training plays a vital role in the internal development of employees into skilled salespeople.
Training is a commitment and it will take up time during the work day of your employees if not yourself. However, the payoff is huge. You have control over the sales ethics of the people you train and can create role-playing scenarios specific to your niche. When implementing a training program, it’s important to establish it as a regular, mandatory event in your company culture. One-off programs tend to weaken morale because it implies someone (or even the whole department) are not up to par.
A final advantage of building a pipeline to grow your own salesmen and saleswomen is you increase the length of employee retention. In a job market where millennials (⅓ of employees in the US) hop jobs every two to three years, creating a standard pipeline of advancement with skill benchmarks gives a concrete path for your employees to follow.
A pipeline offers clear goals, clear standards and a standing promotion offer to those who can achieve those goals. Many young people switch jobs because they feel stuck, don’t see promotion potential or they get bored with the same tasks day in and day out. Creating a pipeline to take them from general office labor to a skilled salesman offers a chance the clever ones will jump at. A chance to develop a highly lucrative skill with constant challenges and tangible rewards for effort.