If you own a business, chances are that you have once had to deal with an incompetent sales person. I bet everyone has.
But it turns out that there is a good reason for that — almost three quarters of people who work in sales simply cannot execute. “If you meet someone and they tell you they have 20 sales reps, chances are, he or she has two who are really awesome, and five who are pretty good and get the job done. Then you have 10 who are not as good but could be trained, and then you have three or four who should not be there,” says Peter Muraya, the founder of Innovare Enterprises, a sales and training consulting firm.
After working as a sales representative for some time, Muraya quit his job to venture out on his own in 2014. He began by offering public relations, advertisements and marketing solutions for small and medium enterprises. But as his venture grew, he realized that most SMEs struggled with hiring and retaining sales people. And for the last few months, training and recruiting sales people for SMEs has been his focus.
Many SMEs find it difficult to attract, recruit and retain good sales people. The problem is, most managers are not trained in effective recruitment practices, and moreover do not get enough exposure to sales recruitment to become really good at it.
Muraya says the number of sales people who cannot perform is not a surprise considering most who venture into sales as a career have no formal training about how to sell. In fact they do not major in sales at college or even pursue a course in selling. Rather selling was an afterthought after failing to secure “lucrative jobs”.
The prime objective of most SMEs is to grow revenues. Muraya says that underperforming sales people are perhaps the greatest cause of frustration and financial loss in SMEs. The cost of hiring and keeping a bad sales person can range from six to seven figures annually. “Innovare wants to spare business owners such losses and that is why we came up with sales recruitment and training programs for SMES,” he says.
Many small business owners, Muraya explains, set up an enterprise to perform a certain task they enjoy or are good at. Skills such as sales or IT are not often something that they bring to the company. So when it comes to recruiting sales people, they end up hiring on gut instinct.
Innovare Enterprises, according to Muraya, engages teams on insights about customer engagement as well as creating a rich interaction between sales teams and their prospects at the right time and between the right people. This, he adds, equips them with the right tools to sell more effectively.
Once engaged by a client, Muraya and his team organize a four-hour crash course which is followed by 12 two-hour classes for employees of the company. A one-hour session costs Sh40,000. To build a great salesperson, Muraya says, you have to help them make sense of what goes on in front of their dream clients.
“Building great salespeople requires ongoing training and development, as well as providing them with greater challenges. Salespeople develop by tackling greater and greater challenges. Building them means making sure you help them find and tackle those greater challenges,” he says, adding that is what the course aims to achieve. The courses according to Muraya can be scheduled according to the company’s wishes.
For business willing to bring in specialist salespeople, it can be difficult to judge when to do this and how to recruit the right people considering most business owners do not have experience in that field.
Muraya says his company helps them identify and recruit talent. While training salespeople can be key to improving revenues and performance of a company, there are instances where it does not work. Research shows that the most important factor for successful salesperson is drive — the inner fire that ultimately determines if he or she will thrive or fail. In some instances, this trait comes with adulthood and cannot be improved with training.
In this case, Muraya says, job interviews must accurately evaluate drive to identify future superstars and avoid underperformers. However, research shows that drive is one of the toughest traits for interviewers to rate, and one of the easiest traits for candidates to fake. But for companies looking to hire salespeople, Mr Muraya assures them that his firm identifies the best.
“When individuals express an interest in working for the firm, we ask for their sales results in past positions and their stories about winning tough accounts. We read through the resumes that arrive and keep a file on the apparent high achievers that would fit in well at the company,” Muraya says.
However, working with SMEs is not without its challenges. Despite the fact that such services are key to their businesses, most SMEs work on shoe string budgets.
Muraya says he plans to set up a college that will specialize in training sales people. He says marketers get their degrees same as medical doctors “but sales people think can just hack it”.
The college will offer certificate and diploma courses.
He says sales careers have moved beyond the days of glad-handing and door-opening. “Things have changed and it is about time a whole realm of knowledge comes to separate the best performing professionals from their peers. A great salesperson today can assess multiple customer needs and motivations, analyze and forecast market trends, use sophisticated automation tools, and develop value-driven solutions in partnership with clients,” Muraya says.
He adds that critical thinking, analytical skills, and the ability to negotiate have become more important than an outgoing personality.