I’ve been encouraged by the new digital tools we can offer our current print customers to further drive their success. These tools are equally important when we reach out to former and never prospects. While print is still number one for many of our customers, others have left that option far behind, while newer businesses haven’t even thought of print as an option to drive sales in their business. Digital services and retargeting are perfect solutions to bring in these two types of customer. However, digital sales create their own set of challenges including the need for continuous and extensive training, better recruitment efforts and fast adaptation of newly-developing digital solutions that appear almost weekly. In many cases, the same outside sales rep may sell both print and digital solutions while in larger markets, digital-only sales reps are the norm. With either method, the opportunity in driving up the active account base and increased revenue is tremendous, even with the challenges in execution.
Speaking of challenges, all the new digital tools in the world won’t mean a thing without the right person on your team to sell them. Take a look at almost any newspaper company website and tell me what’s the most sought after group of candidates…sales executives. We’re asking more of our salespeople than ever before so finding (and keeping) the right one is more important than ever.
So how do you do that? Here’s four simple ideas that might improve your current strategy.
- Always be recruiting. In my days as a circulation director, a wise telemarketing manager once told me the best time to recruit is when you’re at full staff. That makes perfect sense today just like it did back then. Continuously build your bench. Commit to at least one interview a week. Take note of the people you run into in your daily travels. How do they present themselves to you? Didn’t the server at your favorite restaurant have a great personality, multitasked, listened and was able to memorize a whole product line-up just to serve you well? Keep your eyes open and be ready to ask if they might be interested in working with your team. Build the bench.
- Homework. Once you have narrowed the list of candidates down to the last few or the one, we typically go into hiring mode and rush to get the testing completed and get the new sales person on board. In many cases, once hired, they go straight into a lengthy training class or basecamp (two-four weeks). It’s only when they get into the field that we really find out what they’re worth. So if things don’t pan out, you’ve invested significant time in the wrong person. Before making the final decision to hire, schedule a second interview. The goal of the second interview is to give them homework. Have them explain the difference between SEO and SEM (or something else) and how both could benefit a business. Let them choose the presentation vehicle and schedule a return appointment for the next day. By doing this, you’ll get an idea of their presentation skills, willingness to learn and a better feel for their desire to secure this position.
- The ride-along. Figure out a way to gain clearance to do this. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will give a prospective sales person more insight into the job than a day in the field with a seasoned sales person. Not only will they get an idea of what it’s like to be hoofing it all day in 90-degree heat , they’ll also get honest feedback and insight from the sales person they’re teamed with.
- Talk them out of the job. The last stop on the interview tour is with the top sales executive or the publisher. Their job at this stage is to make sure the prospect understands the goals associated with the position and the challenges/rewards that go with it. It should be an honest, yet optimistic discussion.
If they are still with you at this point, hire them.
Sure, these extra steps take more time and must be completed quickly (before the prospect finds another job), but could pay off in the end with better retention and sales.
What do you think? Will it work? Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions to help others.