Want to Blow Past the Competition? Nurture Your Sales Professionals
It seems, to varying extents, we are always looking to market and promote ourselves, with many attempts born out of a desire for financial gain and our other efforts rooted in the quest for camaraderie and respect. No matter where we turn, we will find people touting a skill or personality characteristic to win favor and a lasting presence in the hearts and minds of their intended audiences.
Like all industries, the print and promotional products world teems with individuals who want to capitalize on their ingenuity to bolster their bank accounts, but it also abounds with figures who feel an added personal responsibility to better the lives of others by executing consideration and tact. There is nothing wrong with earning a buck or with showing some pluck, but how does one combine the two in hiring and nurturing sales professionals?
Print+Promo connected with Sarah Hobson, vice president of sales and marketing for Webb Company, Eagan, Minn.; and Kirby Hasseman, owner of Hasseman Marketing & Communication, Coshocton, Ohio, to see what companies should do to attract, retain and compel those who will make plenty of dollars and ample sense for their respective businesses.
An Easy Sell
Kevin Systrom, the co-founder and CEO of Instagram, once declared, “Great products sell themselves.” As a partnership with Facebook has helped to make his brainchild worth $102 billion, according to a Mediakix Research estimate, the entrepreneur has the good fortune to make such a declaration, but what about everyone else, especially those among us (i.e., most of us), who have yet to inhale such rarefied air? Telling companies they need solid salespeople to excel is akin to telling a sports team that it needs to score more goals, points or runs than its opponent to win a game. In other words, businesses know full well how they need to go about their affairs, but how can they put everything in order and maximize their interactions with new and established clients?
For Hobson and her peers, success boils down to choosing to be “an idea center rather than a product pusher.” When it comes to adding people to her North Star-situated supplier, she and her colleagues consider far more than transcripts and other stops on candidates’ professional journeys.
“To be completely honest, we don’t hire based on what education or even what experience they have,” Hobson confided. “Many people look great on paper, but then don’t perform as well as their credentials [would suggest]. We really base a lot of our hiring decisions on personality, creativity and overall work ethic.”
In the Buckeye State, Hasseman and his personnel enlist “Delivering Marketing Joy” as their tagline, with the businessman holding that following up on that promise is “a differentiator.”
“Most of the world is negative; we see it every day,” he said. “And if that’s true, that probably means a lot of my competition is as well. If we have fun and make it fun for clients to do business with us, we are likely to retain long-term clients.”
With respect to securing hires who will build those relationships, he and Hobson believe one must look at the talent pool and determine who will go above and beyond to face whatever challenges a client might bring through a job request. Selecting the appropriate people comes through thorough examinations of a company’s mission and the interviewees’ genuineness.
“As a millennial sales professional, I truly think the key to being a good sales professional is just being yourself,” Hobson revealed. “It seems really cliché, but people work with people they like and appreciate. People buy from people, not companies, and I think that is really the key to being a durable sales professional in this day and age.”
“I think it’s twofold,” Hasseman said. “You have to have a positive outlook, and you have to be willing to learn new things. The fact is there are more and more ways to reach clients now, but you need to be willing to learn them. On the other side, I am finding that good old-fashioned pro-activity and ‘seeing the people’ still work really well, too.”
In job settings, loyalty can be fleeting, as workers might come to feel their work is not meaningful or that they are easily replaceable. What, then, with all things considered, can sales managers do to keep their hires’ happy and eager to contribute to their standing among suppliers and distributors?
“Treat people like people, and work as a team,” Hobson said. “We all work on everything together, [so] no one is solely responsible for our success; we all play a part.”
“I always feel like my job is to encourage and provide ideas from an outside perspective,” Hasseman added of his role as a marketing firm and promotional products distributor. “So when they are stuck on a client they really want, I try to provide them with a new idea or approach that might get them in the door. On the other hand, it might be my job to tell them to walk away and stop wasting their time.”
When enlisting employees to execute their tasks, Webb Company envisions having them display the same qualities for which they looked in the interview process—namely, attentiveness to detail, responsiveness, creativity, confidence and passion, and it looks forward to showing its own supply of those traits to further its future.
“[When you’re] tending to their growth, the key is not being afraid to offer constructive criticism in an educational manner rather than a critical manner,” Hobson explained. “Educating them on why these skills are so important, for example. Responsiveness is important when we work in a very time-sensitive industry. Creativity is important because these clients are looking for ways to impress and stand out, especially when there are a lot of online competitors that only offer cookie cutter options.
“Confidence [matters] because people can see passion and excitement in a person, and it speaks not only to their character, but the culture of our company,” she continued. “Passion is easy. Once they learn the potential of the industry as a whole, our company and how exciting it can be on a daily basis resonates [with them].”
“As a leader, [I feel] there is nothing better than seeing one of your reps ‘grow up,’” Hasseman said of the interplay between bosses and their charges. “It’s wonderful to see them ‘get it’ and start to grow themselves and their business.”
Many More Times, With Feeling
Employers will never wish for their employees to become complacent because they themselves should always be proactive seekers of enriching experiences. Such ambition leads to compelling success stories, with Hobson tabbing herself as a Webb Company standout thanks to her job’s belief in her and her realization that “Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge and pulling that potential out of another person to really help them succeed.”
In the same vein, Hasseman singled out a team member whom he lauded as using his eponymous company’s “Seeing the people” and “An order a day” mantras to become a company leader. Regarding trends and patterns in hiring and subsequently keeping workers motivated, the two jumped at the chance to encourage their contemporaries to be enamored with the search for top-notch talent.
“I see a trend of people hiring based on personality, drive, passion and entrepreneurial qualities rather than the degree they hold or even previous positions they held,” Hobson said. “Sometimes, people who have tons of experience and a degree are stuck on the way things are always done being the right way, but that’s a dangerous attitude to have in an industry that is constantly evolving and changing. We have to be able to adapt to the needs of younger buyers moving in, the new consumer generation, and with the constant advancements in technology.”
“The idea of treating people as they want to be treated still reigns supreme,” Hasseman opined. “Some salespeople need to be pushed; some need to be hugged. But it’s hard to say how everyone will react to adversity. That’s the true test of the sales professional.”