Sales management is not most advisers’ strongest skill set, yet it is one of the most important. Advisers typically have very strong product knowledge and technical skills when it comes to benefits plan design, but their track record for optimizing sales resources is something less than stellar and could use a substantial make-over.
So, what can an adviser do to address this critical need? Effective sales management entails the following functions:
- Recruiting potential sales people
- Choosing the right hires
- Successfully making the hire
- Setting sales goals and accountabilities
- Managing sales activities
How should an adviser recruit new sales people? Some time-tested tools include solicitation letters, brochures, PowerPoint content and recruiting seminars. Keep in mind that there is no sales management problem that cannot be solved with effective recruiting.
The right recruitment message will yield qualified candidates, but then it is up to the adviser to choose the best of the best. First and foremost the adviser should be seeking salespeople with a track record of success.
The adviser should pursue candidates who are happy in their careers and who are not currently seeking new employment. When conducting interviews, the adviser should make use of experiential interviewing techniques. In lieu of asking candidates about hypothetical situations, questions should be aimed unearthing how the candidate actually handled real-life situations in the past. Unlike mutual funds, when it comes to sales candidates past results are indeed the best predictor of future performance.
Other useful tools for identifying candidates who are likely to succeed include personality testing, home interviews and pre-hire projects. All of these can help ensure that the adviser is making the best possible hire for his or her business.
The actual hiring process entails other sales management considerations. Sales goals must be set that take into account the minimum level of new business production a new salesperson must achieve to offset his or her compensation. The new hire should sign an employment contract that includes non-compete, non-disclosure, non-interference and non-circumvention clauses. The investment that an adviser makes in people will be its largest and most important expenditure, and it deserves the same attention to detail and commitment to excellence that the adviser devotes to customer service or developing his firm’s value proposition.
After the hire
Once the hire is completed, the new salesperson needs to be carefully managed. Why? Research has shown that only five percent of the population is capable of managing itself, and only two percent is capable of managing others. So even though the adviser has gone to great lengths to hire a salesperson who is a “self-starter,” they represent a very small sliver of the general population—and they still need to be effectively managed.
To accomplish this, the adviser needs to be good at goal setting and holding people accountable. Remember, an adviser cannot manage sales results; he or she can only manage sales activities. By managing the right activities the adviser will achieve the expected results.
Employing a sales management system helps, and using it on a regular basis even more so. The adviser also needs to organize his sales staff’s work week to optimize their results.
Many advisers will ask, who has time for all these management activities? And if their day is filled with the mundane, tactical tasks of running a business, then in fact they won’t have time to effectively manage a sales operation.
To resolve this dilemma, the key is to manage the important—not the urgent. The urgent will always get done, but the important will be neglected unless the adviser pays close attention to it. It’s all a part of developing a winning, high-performance culture and it begins with the adviser and how he or she invests his time and energy.