Do You Need Hunters or Farmers?

SBCA Magazine,

Now is the best time to evaluate your sales force needs

Whether you are faced with an aging sales force or are looking to increase the size of your sales team to take advantage of growing opportunities, three veteran salesmen in your industry advise you get in gear today. “Regardless of how you want to enhance your current sales team, it’s not something you can rush,” says Ryan Hikel, sales manager for Shelter Systems Limited. “Now is the time to be looking at your sales structure and evaluating how it needs to change to fit your company’s long-term goals.”

“You have to ask yourself, does your current structure enable your sales reps to do what they do best?” advises Jerry Vulgaris, VP of sales and marketing for A-1 Industries. “Does it work best by having a bunch of hunters, hungry to get that next customer, doing take-offs and handling scheduling, or do you give them the support staff to handle that stuff?”

Keeping a Dynamic Sales Environment in Today’s Successful Market

Ryan Hikel, Shelter Systems Limited; Justin Richardson, Richardson Industries; Jerry Vulgaris, A-1 Industries
Sean Shields, SBCA

Jerry’s question addresses the larger issue of how to ensure that each member of your sales team is tasked with doing the things he or she is best suited for in meeting your sale objectives. How many of your sales reps are hunters versus farmers? Do you want them to be project managers with a high level of technical knowledge, or do you leave that to your design team? Is your support staff good at customer service and have good attention to detail? Who handles scheduling and issues in the field?

“The most important thing is matching your sales staff with your company’s expectations for each position,” says Jerry. “We find it’s been very helpful to do a behavioral and cognitive assessment of everyone to understand where they will thrive and where they might struggle. You then have a better picture of what you already have and what you need to find as you go to hire.”

Justin Richardson, president of Richardson Industries, says, “There’s no one right way to do it, that’s why it’s important to know what your sales objectives are going into the future and to take a good look at whether you can get there with what you have.” Justin admits that before talking with Ryan and Jerry, he was comfortable with his current sales team, but they’ve given him a lot of ideas to consider as he looks to grow and evolve. “If you don’t look outside yourself, you can miss out on a lot of possibilities,” he says.

Beyond taking the time to evaluate your structure and being patient until you find the right new hires who will fit your needs and culture, it’s important to start the process now, because this is a tough industry to crack. “Our sales veterans have accumulated a lot of knowledge, and so often they don’t even think about all they’ve learned from years in the business,” Jerry continues. “The best thing you can do is hire new salespeople even before you truly need them so they can learn from your veterans before they retire.” Ryan agrees: “Everyone will make mistakes, but if your veterans can teach new hires the lessons they learned from their past mistakes, you can minimize costly errors.”