The hiring and firing of sales people in complex B2B markets seems to become and increasing issue. It puts the breaks on business growth.

What’s needed are three crucial steps before you hire.

The common story is this: a sales rep is hired because he/she had the track record, talked the talked and seemed to fit the culture. 6 months later, surprise surprise, there is no deal. The forecast is not coming in. End result: disappointment and firing.

This seems to be especially a common experience in smaller teams, where the owner/operators have typically been leading the sales cycle, want to scale the business and find a way out of working-in-the-business, and spend more time working-on-the-business.

Looking behind the scenes, the top three root causes are:

1) No clear sales plan. Assuming sales reps know what to do is not wrong. What is wrong to assume is that they know what’s right for your business. Unless there is a clear sales plan with realistic objectives you leave a lot of scope for trial and error. A sales plan needs two parts: the prospecting activity  AND the opportunity management.

2) No disciplined sales management. Just because a sales guy has delivered the numbers in a previous company, doesn’t mean he can do it in yours. You need to be in a position to explain, role-model and coach “how” your company wins. This requires a well documented sales process. The old saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” holds true. If you leave that to the new hire, the chances are they’ll get it wrong. If you don’t review the important things from the beginning, the chances are you will have some expensive surprises because you simply didn’t see the signs early enough for course correction.

3) No differentiated value proposition: Unless the organisation (you:)) arm the sales force with a proven value proposition that really resonates with customers, the sales representative will have a very, very slow start. This is especially crucial for New Business Development. What works with your existing customers, will probably not work when you need to win new customers. Most importantly, it takes longer and requires a different process. (Jan 2014)