June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26
By Tom Jennings
When visiting with flooring dealers across the country, I often hear the comment, “We may need to add a salesperson to our staff.” When I inquire further as to what the main objective would be to this employee search, the answer is virtually always something to the effect of needing “extra floor coverage.” The emphasis seems to be focused on the short-term goal of having someone available to relate the businesses offerings and attributes. Not exactly a customer-centric approach.
I find it curious that virtually no one states they are seeking staff members who will be better received by, and thus more effective with, their clients. To ultimately be considered successful, all involved—customer, employer and employee—must be generally satisfied with one another other after each transaction. Shouldn’t the goal be to employ the right people rather than settle for just having enough of them? I believe the most important questions you are ever going to consider when interviewing a potential salesperson are: Is this the right person for my clients? What values will he or she add to my clients’ decision-making process? How would I feel if they were selling against my firm working for a competitor? If you wouldn’t find them hard to compete with, why would you want them on your team?
Remember, you’re not interviewing for someone to join your golf foursome or bowling team. It doesn’t matter that you like the potential salesperson you are visiting with if your clients aren’t likely to relate well with them. It doesn’t matter how much you want to hire this person unless your clients will want to trust their purchase decision to them. Ultimately, your current and future clients are the ones who will decide whether you did a good job in hiring a salesperson.
It doesn’t matter that the potential salesperson has the right attributes, skills and the willingness if they aren’t the right fit for your clientele. To that end, don’t obsess over a potential candidate’s existing knowledge of our industry. Sometimes ineffective initial training or dated product knowledge can be more of a detriment than experience. It is much easier to teach someone who likes people what they need to know about flooring than it is to teach someone who already knows flooring the art of making a connection with the consumer.
Your competitors are bombarding both your current and potential clients with offers, relentlessly pursuing their business. Are your potential clients likely to choose to buy from one of these competitors, or are they more likely to choose to buy from the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you? Remember this: Customers are often looking for someone to buy from as much as, or even more than, they are searching for something to buy. Based on what you know about your clients, is this the right salesperson to win that contest?
If you believe the primary value created by the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you is that he or she will provide the headcount you need, then odds are you will have to repeat the process again in the near future when your customer base collectively votes that they are unimpressed by them. Floor coverage may be the reason you initiate the search process, but it should never be the main reason you conclude it.
Bottom line: don’t settle. The only reason you should ever hire anyone is you truly feel they will add value for your clients. No other answer will improve the eventual chances for success, or happiness, for everyone involved.
Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.