SI Review: March 2012

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Power Seller

The Elevator Pitch

How it helps create the right sales culture

By Michael Larkins

Any company that is planning on hiring sales talent in the short term has an awesome opportunity to shape the future of the company. However, evaluating someone’s past performance from a quantifiable perspective is not the litmus test in determining if they are a good fit for your company; how do you evaluate the intangibles?

When I first started in the industry several years ago, I attended an event at which a speaker said, “You don’t find or earn success. You attract it.” At the time I didn’t fully appreciate the power of that statement, but over time I have come to embrace the spirit of that message. Creating a sales culture that is customer centric and employee centric will attract the best talent out there, as opposed to a sales culture focused on metrics, numbers and the bottom line.

What’s Your Line?

Something that can help create a successful sales culture within the organization is the elevator speech — a short pitch on the company’s mission. Ask your staff for their pitch — ask not just the sales team, but recruiters, operations personnel and your recruited talent. If they cannot articulate what makes your company better than the competition, then you as a sales leader are failing your organization.

And it’s not just about having the “right answer.” Use this exercise as a way to benchmark your sales force and your company … and how effectively the leadership and communications flow. Identifying the current state of your company by analyzing empirical data is only part of the process, but all too often it’s what we rely on when evaluating our performance.

Selling Our Way Out

During the last three years, when the economy was stumbling along, we made a strategic decision to “sell our way out.” We hired salespeople and got very aggressive in the marketplace; an approach that was counter to what we saw taking place with our competitors. Not only did we add a few experienced sales people, but we also felt that to create a sustainable culture and sales force, we had to create a “farm system” to develop and funnel talent. We took our top recruiters and account managers who had expressed an interest in sales, and exposed them to the process.

The results have been awesome, not just in terms of identifying internal talent we may not otherwise have considered, but showing that we want to invest in developing our people. This culture enables us to attract great people who value empowerment, and are motivated by the opportunity to grow and influence the direction of the company. We found that it is not always about money; people also value their contribution and when given the chance, step up and embrace the opportunity to make an impact.

The majority of staffing firms — those not in the global, multi-billion dollar club — have a tremendous advantage as we enter into a period of economic recovery and job growth. In the past, we would talk in terms of Bull Market and Bear Market, but with access to data and constant, real-time flow of information, market changes are more like a shark attack — violent and short lived.

This confluence of information flows through social media sites, business networking and word of mouth, greatly enhancing a company’s image, or hurting it; all from a single user experience. Our  and midsize businesses, is excited about the anticipated growth in the upcoming year, and the opportunity to add talent to accelerate this growth. Understanding who we are as an organization and what makes us better than the rest is part of our culture and anyone new coming on board is quickly immersed in this knowledge.

For those of you who anticipate adding sales talent to your company, come up with your elevator speech to ensure the talent you want clearly understands and buys into your vision. And throw out the formulas and metrics we have used for too many years in identifying what it takes to be a successful salesperson. Instead, create a magnetic culture that draws in top talent and empowers their passion. What you will gain is much more than just a salesperson — you will gain an impassioned, driven, loyal asset and future leader for your company.

Michael Larkins is president and CEO of Suna Solutions, part of The Amerit Family of Companies. He can be reached at mlarkins@suna.com.

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