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SUCCESS STRATEGY: HIRE PARTNERS, NOT SALESPEOPLE May 18, 2011 (0 comments)

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Merrick, NY—Hiring a commissioned salesperson? Try approaching the process as if you were bringing a new partner into your business, says Lance Haun, author of the human resources blog Rehaul.com.

Typical hiring processes assume the company has the most at risk by hiring the wrong candidates, writes Haun. In the jewelry industry, especially at the luxury level, that concern is magnified by security issues because the business owner has to trust employees with product that is highly valuable and easily hidden. 

Security factors aside, Haun says in the case of a commissioned salesperson the candidate, not the hiring company, actually bears the bigger burden of risk with a poor fit. The opportunity costs for the candidate are high because if they’re in a position where they can’t succeed, they don’t get paid, and they’ve also lost valuable time in getting into a position where they can succeed.

Suzanne DeVries of Diamond Staffing Solutions in Derry, NH sees the risk as a 50/50 proposition, and both sides need to share in that responsibility. “Everyone has to assume some calculated risk, but if you really do your homework, the chance of failure is fairly small.” Drill down, get history, and check references—especially finding ones that aren’t on the list provided—she says.

Haun suggests the best way is to approach the process as if you were taking a partner into the business, not hiring an employee. Be open about business success rates and failure rates, turnover, and so forth, and pose your questions to assess how the candidate would handle your company’s risk factors.

Jon Parker of DJP Executive Search in Virginia Beach, VA, says this strategy makes a lot of sense.

“I agree with this philosophy totally. Retailers (or manufacturers) who share gross margins and are totally transparent are more successful,” he says. For one thing, salespeople who fully understand gross margins—and their commission structure in relation to those margins—are less likely to overcome price objections with a discount in order to make the sale, which in turn helps the company’s bottom line.

Transparency also can help curb turnover. “If you’re not going to be transparent, your employees are not going to feel attached to the business,” says Parker.

Both DeVries and Parker say luxury companies need to go a step further than simply hiring a good salesperson. Previous experience—both in selling luxury products and in high-end customer service—is essential, and so are certain intangibles.

“A luxury candidate has to have a certain amount of savvy, business acumen, and a level of sophistication that isn’t there in a midrange salesperson,” says DeVries.

“They have to have a strong sense of self and aspirations to improve,” says Parker. Knowledge can be acquired and style can be taught, he says, but without an innate sense of class they’re not going to understand why the heritage and workmanship of a luxury brand matters.

Peter Smith of Boston, MA-based Hearts On Fire highly recommends the book "How to Hire & Develop Your Next Top Performer, The Five Qualities That Make Salespeople Great" by Herb Greenberg, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney.  According to Ed DiSalvo, Senior Vice President, Corporate Accounts, Fedex Corporate Services, Inc., "This book should be on the desk of anyone who is interested in creating the best sales organization possible." Click here to see a 10-page summary of this book.

Separately, this blog from Fast Company says the secret to getting more from exhausted employees is to make the work interesting. Interesting work is not a luxury or a nice-to-have, writes Heidi Grant Halvorson, it’s a necessity to keep employees energetic and engaged. While a certain amount of boring or busywork always needs to be done, giving employees choice in how it’s done is the best strategy for building intrinsic motivation and keeping employees engaged for the bigger, more important tasks. Even small choices, such as what to order for lunch during the mandatory weekly sales meeting, can help.

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