What have been your best sources for finding allied line salespeople? How long of a training period do you recommend? Is it better to have the salespeople salaried during the training period?
– Michael Talis, President, Ludlow Sales & Service (Columbus, OH)
Dave Griffith: We have found that the Internet, both our own site and commercial sites, is of value. We also look inside our organization for people who want to make such a move, i.e., technicians or administration. We have found people from competition and our OEMs, and we’ve found people through search firms. We try to keep our name in the paper and a strong community presence as other ways to keep the awareness up in the market. We have not found ads in the local paper or press to be of much value. We do have a bench that we like to pull from through job postings for all the obvious reasons. I like draws that get reduced as experience kicks in, rather than salary. The length of training will depend on where the person came from, but we look for production at the end of the first year and for the gross profit targets to be getting consistently made by the end of the third year. If we don’t see progress in the program, we would understand why and make a decision.
Jack Phelan: We have had various sources for salespeople, and it really comes down to picking the highest quality person. If we see someone in our everyday travels with whom we are impressed, we hand them a card and tell them to call if they are ever looking for a new career. We prefer to train people who do not have sales experience versus hiring the experienced salesperson with bad habits. Training is broken down into several categories. Organizational orientation lasts for a two to three week period. During this time, the trainee gets to know the staff and their duties. In addition, they learn our policies and procedures and the process associated with their position.
The selling process our company uses is taught by an outsourced consultant. This is an ongoing process, which salespeople attend weekly. We offer ongoing product training with an initial four to six weeks in-house before they are released into their territory. All of this being said, we find it takes six to nine months before the incoming order rate starts to show some payback. All of our sales positions have a salary plus a commission. We supplement the commission portion during the training period, since the salesperson “has got to eat” while learning his new career.
Larry Abernathy: We have depended on networking with suppliers and industry friends to attract sales employees. We recommend on-the-job training, if practical. Fellow employees are very helpful to new people to help them negotiate with the company. We also recommend as much supplier product training as possible in order to get to know supplier personnel. Suppliers are very happy to assist where possible. I’ve always said that a salesperson must negotiate with a customer for the order, negotiate with his company to get the order through the system, and negotiate the order through the supplier to complete the sale. Therefore, negotiating skills and persistence are the most important qualities necessary to be successful. As far as sales training, we highly recommend Don Buttrey’s Sales Professional Training course. It is awesome. Also, MHEDA offers a constant flow of webinars and teleconference programs that are extremely good. Information is available in The MHEDA Connection and The MHEDA Journal. We strongly believe in as much of this type of training as possible, not only for new salespeople but throughout their careers.
We offer only straight commission positions with a semi-monthly draw. For new hires, we will clear the slate at the end of one year if necessary. We find that most of them will make the first year’s draw and maybe extra commission on top of their draw. It is our opinion that the better salesperson prefers a straight commission job and may as well get used to the system. This system provides the security they seek and a chance to make more money if they get off to a good start.
Richard Donnelly: We currently have only one or two allied salespeople. These individuals were promoted from within the company. We normally put the salesperson on a salary for six to twelve months depending on their experience. I think the training period is dependent on the product and how long it takes the salesperson to understand the product and can professionally represent the product to the customers.
Chuck Frank: Most good salespeople are currently employed. When we come across a good one, we pursue them to determine if they are satisfied with their current employer. We ask them if they would have interest in discussing a possible career with AHS. If yes, we talk further. If no, we continue to stay in touch.