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The Critical Science (& Art) of Developing Successful Sales Organizations

Unequivocally, the IT talent shortage has changed the way firms do business. It’s created an even more competitive market in an industry of nearly 10,000 IT staffing firms, all vying for the same shrinking pool of qualified workers. This reality has put a significant amount of pressure on recruiters to fill roles, yes, but it’s also created the same sense of urgency on the client side for the sales organization.

While the sales team has a very important job, many IT staffing firms struggle with assembling the right team. In the workshop “The Critical Science (& Art) of Developing Successful Sales Organizations,” presenter Rick Carlson of Harvyst Consulting Partners led a room full of staffing executives through a group discussion on how to attract, train and retain great sales teams.

The workshop began with each attendee sharing their top challenges associated with their sales organizations. Unsurprisingly, most firms struggle with the same issues. Some are related to the employees themselves, such as finding individuals who want to work hard or those who embrace values-based selling. Others stem from management issues, including how to hold employees accountable or managing Millennials. Other challenges are the result of broader issues, such as the best way to expand your business or differentiate your company and create value for employees. 

Rick began the discussion with a look at what makes companies successful, and why some don’t succeed. 

What makes your company great? Almost all CEOs who are asked this question point to people as the reason. Rick followed up that observation with three reasons staffing firms struggle: 

They fail to find and hire good talent. One study found that 50% of people fail – but the number could be much higher if you consider that many firms retain employees long after they’ve stopped performing well.

They fail to develop people. When employees feel their career growth is flat, retention becomes a serious issue.

They fail to differentiate. Prospects then have a hard time choosing your company over another.

While the workshop addressed many ways to combat these challenges, one of the areas of high value for attendees was during the discussion on the hiring process. Rick shared his timeline and hiring activities, including using hiring profiles and taking finalists off site to get a better sense of their personalities. He then asked attendees: What are some unique ways your company vets candidates?
  1. Be vague on next step of the process. This is a great way to test their perseverance. If they are proactive in following up, it demonstrates their interest in the role, and more importantly, their ability to be persistent with prospects.
  2. Give them some homework. It doesn’t matter what it is exactly, just that they can take direction and follow up appropriately.
  3. Place a high priority on thank you emails. Many in the room agreed that a handwritten note is a definite plus, but even an email shows that they are appreciative of the time you and your team spent with them. 
  4. Ask them to set objectives. Ask candidates to create a three-month, six-month and 12-month plan to help you evaluate their expectations as well as understanding of the role and responsibilities.
  5. Test their knowledge of your background. Most in the room agreed that they appreciate when candidates not only review but connect with them on LinkedIn. One even shared that he has purposely included some unique facts in his profile in hopes that candidates ask about it.
  6. Validate their presentation skills. One attendee shared that her firm asks candidates to create and deliver a five-minute presentation on a topic of their choosing (even making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches).
While staffing firms aren’t alone in their challenges, they also aren’t alone when it comes to finding a solution. TechServe Alliance  – with the largest network of IT staffing firms – brings executives from firms of all sizes together to solve the industry’s toughest problems. This session was a great example of sharing ideas to create better sales organizations.