By Josh McGinnis
Now that the economy is turning upward, many retailers are adding sales support. But the process of hiring the right retail sales associates (RSA)—the ones that take your organization to the next level—takes much more than placing an ad in the newspaper. A typical flooring store concentrates too much on how to compensate an RSA and ignores the issue of how to hire the right person from the start. This column will help you attain that type of employee without losing your mind or your money. As a consultant and business coach, I have walked hundreds of business owners through the process of finding, training and keeping great salespeople.
Before we look into solutions, let’s first take a quick glance at the top five problems business owners run into when hiring a new RSA: what to look for in a sales associate, how to compensate and motivate a sales associate, how to train a sales associate, how to hold a sales associate accountable, and how to know when to let go of a sales associate. Though the course of the next several months with this column, I will work through each of these problems, offering solutions.
Hiring the wrong employee costs stores more than you might think. To calculate the cost, consider how much money you paid a bad hire. Then, add all the lost sales this person was unable to capture. Your true cost is a mixture of what you paid and what you lost, which is why a bad hire can easily cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how long you hold onto them. This doesn’t even consider all the extra time you spent to manage them. But you can avoid this financial and time-related loss by hiring the right RSA from the outset.
What should I look for in a sales associate? Many managers do not know what to look for when seeking an RSA; others hire the wrong type of person again and again, and hiring the same type of person produces the same results.
As a manager, ask yourself this: do I have a clear description of what I am looking for in an RSA? Do I have a good track record of hiring?
If you answer no to either of those questions, then it is time to take action. Start by determining what the position will involve and exactly what type of person is best suited to fill that position, the specific accountabilities and competencies (professional and personal) that you desire in a sales associate representing your brand. I know this may seem like a chore that is slowing down the hiring process, but, believe me, minutes spent on the front-end will save hours later on.
To begin this, you must understand what makes a great salesperson. Below, I have created descriptions of four different types of salespeople: A, B, C and D salespeople.
A salespeople are the best you have ever seen. They are all in the top 10%, if not the top 5%, of their field. When you talk to them, you can feel their passion for making things happen. These players improve the performance of your whole team, making everyone better at what they do. They don’t just write orders; they produce sales. They take initiative to grow and better your business. And they reflect the core values of your business in their interactions with customers. These are the RSAs that you aim to hire.
B salespeople are strong, in the top 20% of RSAs. They reflect your core values accurately and are knowledgeable about products. They may not take initiative that improves your business overall, but they make consistent sales and build relationships with customers. These people are the lowest standard you should be willing to accept.
C salespeople are okay. They do their job, though maybe not particularly well. They rarely take initiative or volunteer. These associates are very much “middle of the road” when it comes to performance, but, because they are average, owners have trouble letting them go. They may cause dissension in your team.
D level RSAs are bad for your team. They are poor performers and often generate a toxic atmosphere or an atmosphere of under-performance in the workplace. They are dead weight and need to be cut immediately from your team.
Your goal should be only to hire salespeople who are at the B caliber or higher. If you do this, your business will improve, and the rewards will be significant.
Once you nail down your specific accountabilities and competencies and establish a standard to rate your sales team, you are ready to move to the next step in the process, which is knowing how to compensate and motivate your sales team.
SAMPLE LIST OF ACCOUNTABILITIES AND COMPETENCIES
FOR A FLOORING BUSINESS RSA
Sales of at least $___ a month
Tracks leads, follow up, and outcomes
Generates leads through key activities
Maintains a margin of __%
Ability to learn product knowledge
Ability to learn installation/measuring knowledge
Ability to handle objections without sacrificing price
Track record of being great with people
An eye for design
Desire to grow
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