Selling Commercial Service Agreements, pt. 5

Originally published
Originally published: 4/1/2012

This is the fifth installment of a six-part series designed to be a complete A-Z on how to sell and organize for commercial service agreements. The Selling Commercial Service Agreements series includes the following topics:

  1. Preparing for service agreement surveys
  2. Equipment and system surveying and data gathering
  3. Profitable pricing strategies to win the business
  4. Proposal writing strategies
  5. Hiring and compensating sales service sales reps 
  6. Organizing for service agreements


Part V: Hiring and Compensating Sales Service Reps


Your company’s capabilities, offerings, and the markets you pursue dictate which sales-tasking activities and competencies you require from your sales team. Your markets have unique business and technical requirements that must be fully understood and accurately assessed by the sales rep so that your company can provide profitable solutions and appropriate sales strategies and tactics to win the business.

Therefore, before hiring a sales rep, market requirements or sales-rep competencies must be identified and captured in a formal job description via a job analysis. The job analysis and resultant job description is used as the basis for all of your recruiting, hiring, training, and deploying of the sales position. The job-analysis process defines the sales-tasking requirements, performance standards, and personnel competency requirements to be successful in the sales job.

The Job-Analysis Process

We recommend using these questions when performing the job analysis:

  1. What are the essential skills and knowledge required for the position?
  2. What are the essential job functions and tasks to be performed?
  3. What are the responsibilities and authority of the position?
  4. What are the performance-success factors?

Why So Many Ineffective Sales Reps?

BSI has conducted extensive research to determine why so many contractors fail miserably at hiring effective sales reps. We found that it is due to failing to identify whether an applicant possessed the traits to perform successfully. These traits are listed on the table on page 40.

Successful Recruiting Strategies

The quality of the people you hire will in the end determine the quality of your sales force. Therefore, hire the very best people that have both the core and skill-specific competencies required to succeed in the sales-tasking activities you need performed to reach your goals.

There are several sources and methods available to find candidates. These are the most common:

  • Within the company: Internal sources are the preferred source due to loyalty and employee motivation. Candidates can be found in other departments, friends of employees, and former employees.
  • Help-wanted ads: These are the most common method of recruiting. To be successful, they must be carefully prepared. Help-wanted ads are marketing promotion pieces that must answer for the candidate what’s in it for me. Therefore, the ad must sell the company and the opportunity; you by phone, fax, and by email. The following guidelines should be used when developing help-wanted ads:
    • Be clear, concise, and truthful.
    • Clearly indicate the job title.
    • Indicate the minimum education and skill-level requirements.
    • Describe the product/service offerings they will be selling.
    • Provide a broad description of the compensation plan and fringe benefits.
    • Indicate when the job needs to be filled.
  • An executive search firm: Executive search firms are good sources of qualified candidates because of their screening capabilities, greater geographic reach, and the ability to penetrate competitors. They usually charge a fee up to 33% of the first year’s salary and bonus packages. Most provide screening and a direct contact to a competitor’s experienced salespeople.
  • College/trade school internship programs: Another good source of candidates is college/trade school interns available during school breaks. This provides both a chance for you to evaluate their work ethic and capabilities, and an opportunity to determine if they are a fit for your business after they complete school.
  • Your professional network: Using your professional contacts is probably the best means to find candidates. Most good candidates are not usually looking for a job and would not even see your want ad or other recruiting tactics. Just like with your prospecting for business, using a mutual contact referral has a greater impact on getting a favorable response from a candidate. When a potential candidate receives a call from you based on a referral from friend or professional associate, they tend to investigate the opportunity more closely.

Conducting an Effective Interview

Pre-planning the interview allows you to ask the questions, which enables you to control the meeting. You shouldtalk only about 25% of the time while the candidate talks 75% of the time. Using open-ended “high-gain” questions requiring an in-depth explanation or response allows you to gain a better picture of the candidate’s work ethics and habits.

During the interview, you must evaluate the candidate on:

  • Their knowledge and understanding of the job opportunity.
  • Their interest in the opportunity.
  • Determine the candidate’s career objectives for fit within your organization.
  • The presence of any knockout factors.
  • Their match to essential job related success factors.

Personality Assessment

How and what the sales rep does is a function of their personality traits. The resume and interviewing process tells you what they can do.  However, these items do not tell us how the candidate will execute his sales tasking and other assigned tasks.

Since the sales rep is a huge investment in both money and your time, we encourage you to invest in a personality test to determine exactly how they will perform on the job. Today personality tests are accurate, predictive, and legally defensible as part of your selection process.

These tests, such as the Drake P3, identify core competencies and key behaviors and link those behaviors to behavioral traits that studies have shown are essential to be successful in sales. The results of this test will show if there will be any specific challenges a candidate might face on the job you’re trying to fill. These tests can be conducted in about five minutes of the candidate’s time. The candidate is compared against the personality traits of top sales performers. In addition, the testing is nondiscriminatory, unbiased, and legally defensible.

Sales Competency Evaluation and Training

Once hired and deployed, the sales reps must evaluate their individual performance and training requirements. The sales rep should have a continuous learning attitude and implement his/her own self-development program from both external and internal on-the-job sources to shore up both core and skill specific competencies. 

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