Every once in a while, like to start a new year, I feel compelled to remind you that our dirty-build-our-product-outdoors-in-the-mud industry is as sexy as it gets. Yet we so dramatically undersell the quality of working in this industry with the specific words “we’re not a sexy industry,” and that galls me.
We are the industry that offers a career growth path almost like no other. This truth is stated at a time when we need to build a future funnel of talent more than ever. As fellow contributor Thea Dudley is fond of saying, “Our industry is male, pale, and stale.” This weakness in our employment structure is also our opportunity.
To be clear, Rikka Brandon is our resident expert on hiring talent. My goal for this article is to illustrate how to specifically recruit sales talent. Many of my readers and clients presume that the way to acquire sales talent is to hire it. Wrong! Successful organizations build a future stream of sales talent from within their organizations.
This means hiring young people who are hungry to learn and grow. Take a look around and you will see that the captains of our industry you meet at business functions (and yes, we will have those again soon!) are almost always people who took jobs at the lower rungs of the ladder. They started loading trucks part-time in college, or worked the inside sales desk after high school, or started in the yard because they were desperate for a job.
Then they rose to become assistant managers or outside salespeople and eventually sales managers and executives. There were no shortcuts. They took years to learn the business at our industry school of hard knocks. They attended training events to accelerate their learning. The fact that we do not need to hire college graduates at the top of their class is our strength to be leveraged. So, if you want to build a powerful sales force that differentiates you from the competition, recognize there are no shortcuts.
Always be hiring. If you wait to hire someone when the need to fill a sales position is urgent, it’s too late. Urgency forces you to hire a Band-Aid; train too fast; and often recruit someone else’s mistake. The most successful leaders are constantly recruiting low-risk, low-cost talent to promote up the chain. They hire even when there is not an existing spot available on the roster because they know one will soon open up.
Don’t hire sales volume. The consistent mistake made for decades is to hire a competitor’s top sales performer and expect volume to follow. More often than not, you’ll discover they do not bring their book of business along with them and all you have hired is someone else’s mistake.
Train talent your way. It’s so much easier to build skills when not forced to first correct bad habits. The best salespeople in our industry have come up through the ranks. Build salespeople by involving them in all aspects of your business operations prior to teaching them the sales process. This makes them better representatives of your brand and more valuable assets to your buyers.
Look outside the industry. Proactively recruit that smiling, service-oriented young person you see at the retail store where you shop. You can’t teach enthusiasm, but you can hire it.
Make your future diverse, colorful, and open-minded. It’s so much cheaper, efficient, and gratifying to hire young and hungry talent than industry retreads that do things the way we always did. You have the ability to offer young people a career path and the potential to accumulate significant wealth in an industry that guarantees we will never ship the manufacturing of our core products overseas, those buildings in which we live, work, play, and pray. It doesn’t get any sexier than that. So…sell it! n
Rick Davis, president of Building Leaders, is a premier sales trainer in the building materials industry. His latest book, Sales Economics: The Science of Selling, is now available at buildingleaders.com. Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org