Winning Team Create a Winning Team

Channel Partners

October 1, 2003

10 Min Read
Winning Team Create a Winning Team

Posted: 10/2003

Winning Team Create a Winning Team
How to Recruit and Retain a Top Telecom Sales Staff
By Dr. Christie Smith and Paul De Young

Recruiting and retaining a quality
telecom sales team may give your business its greatest advantage in todays
competitive equipment and service sales environment. With prices dropping, new
technologies enticing and confusing customers at the same time, and the recent
up-tick in telecom sales, talented telecom salespeople are at a premium. So how
do you attract, recruit and retain the people who can make all the difference to
your success?

Assess Your Sales Staff Needs. The
first step is to assess the type of sales staff you need to succeed. This requires understanding not just what talent and skills
you need today, but also assessing your future needs so you can accommodate your
customers as their needs change or expand and as new technologies become
available. For example, recent new technologies such as voiceover- IP have
changed the landscape for telecom equipment manufacturers, distributors and
dealers. Even if customers arent buying VoIP today, its on almost
every RFP checklist and youre left out if you dont have it. Being agile is
essential to success, because the industry can and does change at a fast

You must fully understand your business strategy and
objectives in order to determine what type of sales talent you need. This
includes including evaluating your organizations present strengths, the
strengths it will need tomorrow and what it will take to close the gap. For
example, a major national telecom company needed to move from a products and
systems-focused sales organization to a consultative one in order to keep
growing and meet its objectives. Whereas in the past, while their salespeople understood the
technology and the products, they now needed to revamp their skills sets so they
could move to a solutions set selling model. Whether your organization is moving towards a more
consultative, customer focus or to a lowend beat everyones prices
focus, its crucial to understand the business strategy before hiring new
telecom sales staff.

Once you know your business strategy, take a hard look at what
competencies you need in your sales team to strategically succeed. Competencies are knowledge, ability, skills and personal
attributes that differentiate top performers from average performers. For
example, if your strategy is about speed to market, then required competencies
may include the ability to learn very quickly new technologies and to
communicate the benefits of those technologies to customers who may not
otherwise understand their value.

Our experience has shown that hard skills, which include the
salespersons technology savvy, arent enough anymore. Soft skills, which
include the ability to listen, cooperate with peers, and respond with innovative
solutions that meet customer needs, can often count even more, particularly as
leadership responsibilities increase.

Finding the right sales talent also requires a hard look at
the client mix you have today and the mix you want for tomorrow. Your sales
team needs to be able to put their fingers on the pulse of the goals of your
existing and potential clients to take your company where you want to go. If you
make your customers successful, you will be successful. Today, helping customers
succeed requires a balance between having a strong knowledge of the customers
industry and an understanding of technology and products.

Dont Force a Fit. Hiring the
right people is much easier than trying to mold them to fit. In addition, hiring
the right staff in the first place is a big step toward retaining that staff.
You wont keep people where there is not a good fit.

To recruit the right sales people, identify the competencies
required to meet your business strategies and objectives, then set up selection
devices to help you determine which potential hires will be the best matches.
Set specific goals for the recruitment and hiring of new salespeople.

Very carefully evaluate each potential hire. While there are a number of standard telecom tests that can be
administered to determine technology competencies, behavior-based interviews
give you better insight into how a candidate thinks, works and how they would
fit into your organization. Behavior-based interviews that include asking for
situational examples of their work help assess individual capabilities and tell
the more accurate story of what that person is like. From these interviews, you
can get feedback on what motivates them, what their consultative selling skills
are, how they service customers and, most importantly, if they will be a fit
into your organization and be able to strategically contribute to its

Conducting a combination of standard competency tests and
behavior-based interviews will provide the most effective view of the candidate
and will help identify those who are a fit for your organization. Testing will
require input of human resource professionals to help ensure they are valid and
do not cause adverse impact to any protected group (e.g., those with

Providing a realistic job preview also can help pre-qualify
candidates before they ever apply for the job. Some companies provide an
overview of a sample day at their hiring Web sites. If you choose to do this,
dont paint an overly glamorous picture. Provide a realistic overview of what
it is like to work at your company. This helps people self-select and forces
them to invest themselves in the concept of what your companys culture is
about before they ever even apply.

Assimilate New Talent Quickly. Once
your new salesperson comes on board, its important to make him or her feel a
part of the team and responsible to the corporate goals as soon as possible.
Provide them with an overview of the companys mission and objectives and
their role in fulfilling those objectives. Pair them up with a buddy who can
show them around and help them understand how things really work at your

To become effective quickly, new hires need to absorb and
become part of the culture as soon as possible. Have the supervisor check on
them frequently to make sure they are clear about assignments and have the tools
they need to succeed. The primary job of supervisors should be to remove the
obstacles and help the salesperson understand the tools, how to use them, and
how to meet their sales objectives.

Drive Retention with a Range of Incentives. There are a number of retention drivers for your entire sales
staff, the most common being financial reward. Salespeople expect financial
rewards for their accomplishments; however, finances are not the only things
important to them. In fact, finances are rarely the reason why a talented
salesperson leaves an organization. It is much more likely to be because there
is not a workplace fit, there are problems with their immediate superiors, or
they feel they are not able to be productive.

Look closely at their work environment to ensure you are
providing a productive workplace where they can excel. Look closely at the
relationship between salespeople and their immediate superiors. Do their
superiors give them what they need to effectively sell and meet sales goals? Are the sales department goals aligned with that of the
corporate goals? Is the workplace a productive place for them to work? Are there
realistic challenges and room for growth? If you can positively affect each one
of these things, you will go a long way toward retaining your talented sales

Make All Your Sales Team Top Performers. If you are effective in selecting top talent, you must then
ensure that they are reaching their full potential. But how do you know if your
salespeople are reaching their potential? One of the most effective ways to
determine this is to establish a competency model that identifies the skills,
knowledge, behaviors and personal characteristics that distinguish high
performers from average performers. You can achieve this by looking at your top
performers and understanding the competencies that contribute to their success.
You might find they possess talents, such as intellectual horsepower,
negotiation skills, managerial courage and action orientation.

However, you dont have to reinvent the wheel when
identifying competency models. There are several competency dictionaries that have
definitions already created. Your job is to choose which to use for your sales

To get a complete picture, you can also use the process of
360-degree feedback. This means getting feedback from multiple sources,
including the salespersons peers, supervisor and the salesperson themselves.
This allows you to get feedback from a variety of sources on which competencies
are important for success and is much more objective than what would be
generated by the supervisor alone.

Such feedback also can provide the salesperson with input as
to their strengths and weaknesses. This technique is particularly powerful in identifying blind
spots areas where the salesperson feels they are performing one way and
everyone else feels differently. Working with the salesperson on the evaluation
process can help him or her understand those blind spots and become more
effective and more successful in reaching not only personal sales goals but the
corporate objectives as well. Making things obvious can be a powerful motivator
for salespeople with drive. It also can separate the performers from those who
dont have the desire to succeed.

Conduct Exit Interviews. When people
do leave, its important to have your human resources department conduct exit
interviews to determine why employees are leaving so problems can surface and be
fixed before other team members decide to leave as well. Unwanted turnover can
cost you one to three times a salespersons annual salary. Fixing the problems
could be as simple as providing better technological tools or resolving
personality clashes.

If you dont know what the problems are, there is no hope of
fixing them. And they dont usually fix themselves. Dont wait until youve
lost a valued member of your sales team. Work with your sales supervisors and
sales team members to ensure that incentives are appropriate, good tools are
available and processes are in place to ensure that salespeople are contributing
to the companys success. If there are problems on the supervisory level, put
programs in place to help the supervisors learn to better manage salespeople, or
if you have to, get rid of the supervisor. Its not worth losing an entire
sales team of talented people because of one supervisor.

Keep track of your success retaining valued salespeople.
Benchmark your retention goals against where you are today in terms of turnover,
so you can set standards for improvement. Knowing where you are today and where you want to be are
essential to successful retention of sales staff.

Measure Your Success. Measure your
sales teams successes. Set objectives that balance hard and soft measures for
the sales team and that are in alignment with the corporate goals. There are
four categories of objectives:

  • Financial (i.e., cost per transaction)

  • Customerservice (i.e., surveys, testimonials)

  • Process (i.e., cycle times, defects)

  • Learning and growth (i.e., training, turnover)

First, identify a few
financial objectives that are critical to your organizations strategy. Then
select critical customer-related objectives that support the accomplishment of
the financial objectives. Finally, identify objectives related to internal
processes and employee learning and growth that will support the previously
selected measures. This method ensures that employees and management focus on a
variety of business perspectives that will reinforce the achievement of your
companys strategic objectives.

Blending financial and soft metrics help create measurable
objectives which will help you see where your organization is succeeding and
where work is needed.

Dr. Christie Smith is principal and Dr. Paul De Young is
senior manager for Human Capital Advisory Services at Deloitte & Touche,
Technology, Media & Telecommunications Group.


Deloitte & Touche

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