Manufacturers and distributors across all economic sectors are adopting and integrating inside sales models in record numbers. The scalability, measurability and predictability of this model has made it the new preferred channel for companies who have a mandate from stakeholders to grow sales and revenue quickly and within budget constraints.
This shift has caused demand for talent to outstrip supply. Attracting, hiring and retaining people is harder than ever before as companies compete for the same, small, limited pool of knowledgeable, revenue-generating talent. It’s an insidious problem that can thwart inside initiatives and diminish a company’s ability to hit sales and revenue goals.
Valve manufacturers and distributors particularly have an especially challenging time hiring as inside sales reps in this sector have the least amount of turnover and highest base salaries. Complicating the problem is the fact that an engineering degree is often required, so the skill set and aptitude required for this type of sale is relatively rare.
Additionally, the competition for inside sales talent is brutal today. Upon submitting resumes, inside sales candidates are contacted within minutes by many companies. Job seekers quickly receive multiple simultaneous offers. Many firms compete for candidates with the same profile: two years of inside sales experience, just out of college. Low unemployment exacerbates the problem.
Attract, hire and retain
Knowing how to compete for top talent in the current employment environment can help ensure that you get the best possible people for your team. Here are proven tactics that can help you find, hire and keep high-performing inside sales professionals.
1. Run many ads, in many places—all at the same time
To attract talent, run ads in as many venues as possible—all at once. Use different job titles to cast a wide net across multiple recruiting ad platforms: e.g., inside sales, business development, process control sales – inside (if you sell process control; if not, substitute your product).
2. Brag a bit in your recruiting ads
Make your recruiting ads appealing. Showcase your organization as a great place to work. Keep in mind that inside sales can be considered utilitarian work. Do you offer child care, flexible hours, the opportunity to work one or two days a week from home, and social events for the inside sales team? Highlight travel opportunities and ways that your team can use their engineering skills.
3. Make it easy to apply for your inside sales positions
How easy is it to apply for a job at your company? The key is to get candidates into your recruiting process quickly before another employer grabs them. The more hoops you make candidates jump through to apply, the worse your hiring results will be.
Do you scare candidates off by asking them to fill out a long psychological test before they know much about the role? We firmly advise against this and any other multi-step application process.
4. Offer competitive or above-the-market salaries, commissions and benefits
If you offer an above-market compensation plan, trumpet that fact. Your company must pay at or above market compensation to be viable for talent. The adage “you get what you pay for” is especially true when hiring inside sales teams. If you need to know what the compensation rates are in your geographic region, go to payscale.com, type in inside sales, and then your city or state. You will get an accurate picture of what you need to pay to be competitive in your geographic region.
5. Interview fast, hire fast
Inside sales candidates who apply for jobs are getting phone calls and emails within minutes from recruiters/HR departments to schedule an interview. If you wait to contact applicants, you will lose out to companies competing for the same person. This is an absolute certainty. Bring people in as quickly as you can. Candidates are not waiting around for anyone.
If there are long gaps between the time you first contact a candidate and when you make an offer and get them started, you will lose the candidate to the market. (We see this frequently happen to companies.)
In short, it is important to keep your recruitment process in sync with the market conditions. Keep it tight by removing and shortening gaps between each step.
You may have to calibrate your recruiting and hiring process so that HR, talent acquisition, hiring managers and all others involved are synchronized. We see disconnects all the time that cost companies time, energy, money and talent.
6. Retain your best performers and reduce costly turnover
Paying your inside sales team competitive salaries and commissions is just one component of retention. Inside sales is hard, unglamorous work. If you want to keep your people we recommend:
- Provide them with a proven process, sales tools and infrastructure.
- Have a clear career path in place so that individuals know they can progress within the department and company.
- Give them ongoing support and training they need to be successful.
- Make them happy and motivated with extras such as paid time off, bonuses, travel incentives, merchandise gifts, recognition awards and other goodies.
While competition is fierce for good employees in nearly every aspect of manufacturing today, hiring inside sales staff presents a unique set of challenges. By following proven techniques to acquire talent and then doing everything possible to retain good staff, valve distributors and manufacturers can ensure they have knowledgeable representatives to help users make the right choices for their process needs.