Why the 'Book of Business' Theory is a Bogus Hunter Hiring Strategy

Why the 'Book of Business' Theory is a Bogus Hunter Hiring Strategy

In my experience, the “book of business” theory is a pipe dream in IT sales. Most times the contacts those hunter sales reps have aren't any more valuable than the contacts you already have.

When many sales managers are given the green light to hire a new hunter sales rep, they often salivate over the possibility of recruiting candidates with sizable books of business that could (potentially) bring new revenue to their company.

Sometimes, that possibility becomes reality. But can you really bank on “sometimes”?

In my experience, the “book of business” theory is more of a pipe dream in IT sales. There’s no guarantee, after all, that a rep’s customers will move their business to your company (IT buyers can be fickle, and if a managed service or project team suits their company’s needs they tend to stick with it). In fact, it’s much more likely that those contacts will be no more valuable to you than the leads you already have.

Here’s why:

  1. A rep’s contacts have most likely signed contracts with other providers: For a rep to transfer customers over to your business, he or she would have to convince those contacts to break their contracts or wait until those contracts expired. And because most managed services contracts are at least one year (the best ones are three years), that means you could be waiting a while for that opportunity. In fact, if you hire a rep with a big book of business from a company that primarily offers three-year contracts, you’ll likely be disappointed with the results that rep produces.
  2. Smart IT contacts won’t bet their company’s livelihood on a relationship with a sales rep: Let’s be real—IT buyers do their research and they typically choose the service delivery or software company that best meets their company’s needs. Even if they LOVE the sales rep that they work with, they aren’t going to blindly follow that rep to a new company if that new company’s solution doesn’t fully align with their needs.
  3. Change creates organizational angst, especially when it’s IT change: This is perhaps the most significant roadblock to the strategy of hiring sales reps based on their book of business. Most companies loathe making a change to their IT infrastructure, and they’re certainly not going to do it simply because their buyers have a great relationship with a specific sales rep. Think about it this way: Let’s say a company recently standardized on Cisco unified communications. That prospect isn’t going to change its communications platform just because its favorite Cisco rep joins Avaya. Sure, the prospect might listen to what that rep has to say and look for places that Avaya might be a fit. But he or she is not going to spend $180,000 to replace a fully functional infrastructure.

So, now that I’ve dispelled the “book of business” theory, what should you be looking for when you recruit candidates for a hunter sales role?

I would suggest looking for sales reps with large, active social networks.

Those contacts will likely include a combination of customers and prospects, and it’s really the latter group that should interest you anyway. After all, those prospects aren’t likely to be locked into contracts and they may be looking to make a change. If a sales rep is actively engaging with those people on social media, he or she should have no trouble transferring their relationships to your company.

In today’s world, that’s the true value of a hunter sales rep. While big books of business do speak to sales reps’ ability to close deals and drive revenue at their current companies, it’s their social networking activity that will translate to your company. So, make sure you focus on that, rather than falling in love with contracts that can’t (or won’t) be broken once a rep joins your company.

Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, Prospect Attraction Expert, author of the newly released book, “The Sales Magnet,” and the award winning book, “Selling Against the Goal,” and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment.

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