At SuperNiche in Washington DC last week, I attended a session by Ryan Dohrn during which he asserted that prospects that contact you are already 2/3 of the way through the buying process. They’ve already researched who you are, have looked at the prospectus for your event, and know what they want to buy. Given that scenario, do you really need salespeople to close these deals, or could you just hire staff that can finalize the details and get the order, doing so without any other “specialized sales skills”?
My contention is that true salespeople can do things that order-takers cannot. Among them are:
- Turn around a failing situation (e.g., recover from a bad show).
- Convince customers not to buy the ‘wrong’ things (that don’t fit their needs).
- Get exhibitors for a new event for which there are no previous customers.
- Prospect and successfully get new business from ‘suspects’.
- Organize their time and activities without supervision.
- Upsell as necessary.
- Consistently exceed their numbers.
In my opinion, only 20% of event salespeople can successfully do the above. That certainly shrinks the pool of prospects for your sales team.
At a different SuperNiche session, a panelist lamented the inability to find decent sales candidates after placing job descriptions on various job boards. No wonder, given that only one-fifth of the prospective targets are true salespeople, and they are not looking for new jobs on such boards! Everyone in your industry knows who the best salespeople are and trust me, these salespeople have already found the most lucrative opportunities for themselves. Any new job must be pretty damn special to pry them away from their current position.
For the record, I would rarely hire a sales rep via a job board. I’d much prefer to get a referral and recommendation from someone that I trust. That gets me some ‘skin in the game’, both from the recommender and the candidate, providing some degree of confidence in the selection. When I’m putting together an event team on behalf of a client, the sales staff are always the hardest roles to fill. The best candidates are likely to already be working on good opportunities and it takes all my skills to recruit one for the event that I am supporting.
So, given the smaller pool of true sales staff, what is to be done with the other 80% that we are now calling order-takers? Can they be transformed into true salespeople? The answer is yes, if they have the attitude and determination to get to this higher level. You’ll need to offer them some level of training and mentoring, and then see what happens. If they don’t raise their performance, you’ll need to cut them.
For the moment though, if you have one of the 20%, make sure you are paying them well, and they have work they are proud to do.