Business Strategy

Masters of Sales: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Rainmakers

hiring sales

Stu Williams and I go back to Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey. While our paths in school intermittently crossed, our professional interests meet today on common ground, sales.

Stu has been on the sales and business development side of banking for many years; he is now the Vice President, Mortgage Sales Manager for the Tampa Bay Region of Atlantic Coast Bank. In his position Stu is in charge of expanding the bank’s residential lending business, so he is constantly on the hunt for the next rainmaker stars. Question is, how do you ferret out the best candidates while upping the games of the people on your sales teams today? Not light lifting.

What Makes a Good Candidate?

We both agreed that great sales people work for love and money in commissioned sales. Stu says that apt candidates in his business “have to love winning by helping people get into a home, especially first time buyers”. This requires energy, a bold willingness to learn the products, whether or not they have previous experience, and listening skills that set up loyal relationships that yield referrals.

The referral based marketing mindset is not an easily recognizable talent and requires specific interview questions. Significantly, and often overlooked (or besmirched by poor sales managers) is the question of ethics. You cannot build loyalty among clients by skimping on good citizenship traits. Stu likes to find out how candidates are involved in their communities – “What do you do for fun?”; “Are you a member and leader in community organizations?”; “How did you create a network of contacts and referral sources from your last job?”. These are questions that predict an ethical baseline in referral based sales, which are the most profitable sales by far, because referrals require trust in the sales person’s reputation.

Now, to the money part of the equation: commissioned sales people have to make progress toward winning clients every day. We both have found that a candidate who comes from a family or personal network of entrepreneurs understands the absolute necessity of urgency – to take concrete action each day to move toward a sale and close it. As a result, in managing current sales teams, if 90% of your revenues are generated from 10% of your sales people, a perceptive manager spots rising stars just below the 10% who need a tweak in (usually) a singular behavior to rise to the top ranks. Go on some calls with those reps, and you can coach the behavior change quickly. BTW, we both recognized that sales stars are great sources of new hire candidates.

Does ‘Social Responsibility’ Count Today in Sales?

Yes. It is not an oxymoron. Historically, banks have relied on in house referrals from other bank employees for new mortgage sales. That’s changing for banking and for a host of other industries. Insider referrals still count, but our actions as individuals and organizations are instantly and universally apparent due to social media and the changing demographics of target markets – they are more diverse than ever – and the heightened social awareness of millennial job candidates.

Stu has found that two important target markets in his geography – Hispanics and LGBTs – are not aptly represented on many banks’ sales teams. His strategic initiatives include both recruiting in those target markets, and membership and sponsorship investments in organizations like Chambers of Commerce representing those two markets, among others.

It’s kismet that after years on different roads in sales that Stu and I recognized many similar and emerging values. Competitive leadership today requires a prescient recognition that the winners own the financial effects of referral based sales and the value of reputation management. After all, reputation is all we have to attract and keep the best sales people and the best clients.

Here are the issues we discussed that are important for your business:

  1. Referral based marketing and sales processes minimize the cost of sales and your sales cycle. As a result, both your gross margins and your cash flow improve;
  2. Screening for rainmakers who operate and understand the requirements of referral based marketing and sales requires specific interview questions that demonstrate that working knowledge, such as active membership in community or trade and business associations or a great contact list from a previous job;
  3. Referral based marketing is based on one’s reputation. References and former clients/customers can attest to a candidate’s reputation.
  4. The demographics of target markets and job candidates change over time. Savvy owners and executives monitor those changes to their advantage.

Keep winning, Stu, and thanks for the conversation!

About the Author

Chris Filip is a business development expert improving revenue and gross margin results for B2B and professional services firms. She is an active speaker, published author and media commentator on all aspects of competitive strategy.