You’re trying to find a new salesperson, but you can’t seem to find anyone with an AV background. You hoped to hire someone with 5-10 years industry experience, preferably in a company “exactly like yours.” After all, it will cut down your training and they’ll be able to get to work ASAP.
Is that really too much to ask?
Available, competent AV salespeople with years of experience in your segment are almost impossible to find.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a second-best option. New salespeople do not have to come from your industry.
In fact, the best AV salespeople probably don’t.
Why We’re Stuck on Hiring “AV People”
It’s commonly thought that we need to hire salespeople who already know our equipment, technology, customers, and marketplace. Although this is a myth, the idea persists in the AV industry for five main reasons:
1. We’re too busy to train new employees.
Obviously, the hiring process would be easier if we didn’t have to train new employees. When we’re too busy to document our processes and put time into training new hires, we look to hire employees who come to us already trained.
However, it’s not reasonable to expect new employees to be successful without investing time in them.
2. We believe our approach is unique.
Maybe you think, “I can’t document our processes and train because we’re too unique. Plus, our work changes every day.” However, other successful AV companies have business models that are replicable. They have processes that can be documented and taught — and you do too.
3. We assume there are industry standards (when there are not).
Every company has best practices, habits, and even myths they abide by. These are not industry standards that transfer directly from one company to another.
A highly skilled salesperson from a company “exactly like yours” is going to be just as lost as any other new employee when they’re first hired. The standards they followed at their last company probably don’t apply at your company, even if they offered similar services and served the same niche.
4. We focus on a narrow definition of a target customer.
If you define your target customer too narrowly, it’s difficult to find salespeople who specialize in that exact customer type. Broadening your definition of a target customer also broadens your pool of candidates.
Is your traditional point of contact a technical buyer? Maybe your sales candidate knows how to talk to a strategic buyer in the same segment?
5. We poorly manage sales vs. operations.
We want someone who already knows the job so our Operations team won’t be upset by having another person make mistakes. This is a management problem, not a problem with a specific employee. If we don’t know how to manage sales and operations, every new person is going to upset the system.
How Outsiders Benefit Your AV Company
In reality, “outsiders” actually benefit your organization. Salespeople from other industries bring a fresh perspective. They focus on new segments that your current team may not see.
Plus, if they come from another industry, they’ve likely received better sales training than the AV industry offers. Sad, but true.
For example, I’ve found the best salespeople in AV systems integration come from the IT industry. They’re successful because they’ve received specific sales training and worked with managers who have taught them the art of negotiation. When we drop them into our system and spend a few hours explaining what we sell and do, they adapt quickly.
How to Successfully Onboard New Salespeople
Once you’re open to the idea of hiring someone from a different industry, you can’t expect them to figure out the details on their own. Instead, take these steps to set them up for success.
1. Streamline and Document Processes
Successful onboarding starts with streamlining and documenting processes. Documented processes give us a process to train employees towards.
2. Reduce the Need For “Technical” Salespersons
Salespeople should not need to be their own sales engineer. One of the difficulties in bringing in salespeople from other industries is that we expect them to know all of the technology that pertains to our industry. That’s hard to find.
Instead, use experts in your organization to serve as sales engineers who supports your sales team.
3. Understand Your Target Customer
Knowledge of the customer segment is vitally important for your salespeople. Know which customers fit into your business model. Then, open up your sales search to include salespeople who understand that market.
4. Broaden Your Definition of Services
Not all industries and customer segments call what you do the same thing.
Here’s an example of a word we misuse from the customer’s perspective: Staging.
If you identify yourself as a rental-staging company, a segment of your customer base is wondering, “Why would I trust a stage company to execute complex audiovisual needs?”
Then there’s the widespread misuse of the word ‘production’. How many potential sales have you lost because of that?
Broaden your definition of services and your salespeople may get more traction.
5. Treat Your Coworkers as Internal Customers
If we want to onboard salespeople and we want our business to grow, team effort is a must. Within your organization, work to create a team culture that treats coworkers as well as you treat customers. If I help a salesperson meet their needs and they help meet my needs, we’re going to get more work done.
The practices of pushing tasks on other coworkers or having to beg to get a job done doesn’t benefit the team. If you want to make a salesperson successful, they need to come to a company where everyone treats them as the customer.
There’s no need to spend a disproportionate amount of time searching for the perfect salesperson with the perfect AV background. Broaden your scope and consider salespeople from other industries. They may become more successful than you could have hoped.