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Stop Hiring Salespeople

By AICC Staff

February 3, 2016

The beginning of a fresh new year is a time of reflection. Many will feel concerns about last year’s lack of new business growth and react by hiring more sales reps. This stems from a belief that more salespeople pounding the pavement will generate the desired result in this new year. But before implementing a hiring strategy, let’s explore why quantity might not be the problem.

Technology has changed everything. We have unprecedented access to both information and people. Our ability, and that of our buyers, to conduct research and learn who, what, when, why, and how significantly alters the role of the traditional salesperson and the stages of the buying and selling process.

“You will not generate new results utilizing old methods.”

It is equally important to acknowledge what hasn’t changed. Selling will always be about people and our ability to connect with them in a meaningful and relevant way. The basic fundamentals of acquiring, cultivating, retaining, and multiplying our account base have also not changed.

The review of the previous year’s results should first include an agreement on the problems we want to solve in 2016. Here are some commonly heard :

  • Too much competition
  • Margins too low
  • Salespeople not effective
  • Buyers interested only in price
  • Can’t find talented people to hire
  • Lack of customer and employee loyalty

Frequently these very different areas are lumped into one category and are theoretically solved by hiring more salespeople. This solution does not address the underlying reason for the less-than-desired results. Before attempting to solve, consider new questions to ask that challenge previous business models and structures.

The road warrior salespeople are generating fewer opportunities through traditional prospecting methods in today’s technology-driven world. This high-dollar, low-yield model has become cost-prohibitive.

The buying and selling process and the people involved in each stage must evolve to meet this new reality. The speed of business today requires:

  • More targeted prospecting
  • Fewer face-to-face meetings
  • Compressed sales cycles
  • Creative and relevant methods for initiating contact

The biggest change this new sales structure will bring is a shift from the hunter model into a team-driven farmer model. This change impacts the skills needed, the day-to-day functions, and the compensation structure for the sales team. The days of six-figure commissions, company cars, and expense accounts will transition into a salary and bonus program mutually shared by those in the newly created positions of revenue generation.

As our buyers have become more adept at identifying and solving their own packaging-related challenges, it has become increasingly difficult to separate ourselves from the masses. This lumped-together category of interchangeable packaging suppliers creates challenges in our ability to convey any real value that a buyer is willing to pay for. Hiring more salespeople to mimic the current process and practices of existing salespeople doesn’t change this.

There are opportunities to explore within your existing team. They have different vantage points and perspectives on the customer experience with your operation. They possess skills that can be utilized in new and creative ways to maximize the impact of your sales efforts. How do you remove the silos and foster this collaboration?

As you define the new strategy for 2016, be careful not to follow old patterns simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Seek input and drive change by asking different questions and including personnel from every department, suppliers, and customers in the dialogue.

You will not generate new results utilizing old methods. Explore new conversations with different people, and use this data to create a new business model—one that is aligned with today’s market. Work with this information to identify your target audience, craft your unique message, and align your team to one common vision. This is the beginning of a fresh new year.

Kim.pic.dec.30.13Kim Brown, a 25+ year veteran of the industry, founded Corrugated Strategies to assist the independent sector in addressing their challenges in today’s competitive market. Brown may be reached at 317-506-4465 or kbrown@corrugatedstrategies.com.