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Is competition the cure for complacency?

If you want to hire great salespeople, you might need to re-evaluate your hiring practices.  

Webster’s Definition of complacency includes "self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies."

It’s hard to imagine that anyone is complacent in today’s day and age. But, then again, who would’ve guessed that institutions like Sears and JCPenney would fall victim to the on-going retail apocalypse.

If you think things are different for the furniture industry, then please keep reading!

It is no secret that competition is fierce as furniture and mattress stores face increased pressure from both fast-growing national chains and online retailers. Recent acquisitions as reported in Furniture Today just made that competition, even more, overwhelming for many.

Many, but not all of us have already learned the hard truth that very often the things that got us where we are won’t keep us there and surely won’t get us to where we need to be.

So, when a new and different type or a much higher level of competition is met with outdated or ineffective policies, procedures, or the everyday behaviors that we’ve simply become accustomed to, than the answer to our question is clear—competition won’t cure complacency, it will foster it.

It’s easy for the policies, procedures, and everyday practices to become outdated and ineffective. Therefore, it is imperative that we make reviewing and revising them on a regular and on-going basis part of our culture. 

Although there are countless topics that fall under the umbrella of policies and procedures, one of the most important is hiring new salespeople.

Very often companies in the same geographic area are competing for talent from the same pool of potential employees.

Chances are if you’re going to survive and thrive in this competitive environment you’re going to need the best salespeople you can find. And that might mean doing things a bit differently than you have in the past. Here are five simple suggestions you might implement immediately to attract and keep the best salespeople. Remember, sometimes changing just one thing can change everything.

  1. Allow Flexible Schedules: Even salespeople need an occasional weekend off for family and friends. Some companies won’t even consider the idea. However, sometimes, offering flexible schedules like a four-day workweek can make the choice of which team a sales person wants to play for much easier. After all, happier employees create happier customers. 
  2. Hire Part-Time Employees: Part-time employees are very often highly motivated and can be an important member of a winning team. They make it easier for management to plan schedules for the busy times while creating the opportunity for full-time people to work one-on-one with more customers during slower times.
  3. Employ Skilled Workers from Outside the Industry: Some companies only want people with furniture experience. However, many times people from outside the furniture industry can bring a new perspective, skill-set, and energy level to a team. Very often, “outsiders” find that the furniture industry can offer benefits that other jobs simply do not, and these new hires are very grateful for these advantages and it shows in their performance.
  4. Recruit Hospitality Industry Veterans: The hospitality industry is a great, and often overlooked, place to recruit new talent. Waitstaff already work a retail schedule and most don’t even know they are already practicing effective selling techniques. This can make them “naturals” in the furniture industry.
  5. Ask Potential Candidates the Right Questions: Finally, with the high cost of on-boarding a new salesperson, perhaps the most important part of the process is making sure you hire the right people from the start. 

Often, you can recognize the right type of candidate just by asking three simple questions:

  1. What have you sold before?
  2. How well did you do?
  3. How do you do it?

It does not matter what that person has sold in the past—furniture, real-estate, or clothing—you should ask them all three questions. If they are a server in a restaurant, ask them to pretend you are a customer and have them tell you “What’s good?”

How they answer these questions and watching their presentations can tell you if they are going to be a good fit for the company and how good their chances are for success if you know what to look for.

Note: post includes material from Principles into Action, Copyright 1984, H. Costantino, all rights reserved.

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