Attracting Sales Reps to Building Products Manufacturers
More than for any other position within a company, the sales rep position has a notoriously high attrition rate. The ongoing hiring and leaving - leading to prospecting and recruiting efforts are never-ending for any company - including manufacturers of building products.
There are the industry-specific factors that make hiring for this position more challenging. Take for example, the constant travel, extremely long sales cycles, and the education required to the buyer.
To help improve hiring rates and attrition, let's take a step back to understand what exactly these sales reps want.
Thanks to the State of Inbound 2015 report, we know that, contrary to popular belief, compensation isn't number one. Now there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of articles that also suggest that compensation isn't number one - so may not be a shocker to all. The top slot goes to opportunities for growth. Sales reps don't want to be in the entry position forever - and they want to know they will have changes to improve their skills, rank, and reputation within a company.
Depending on the size of your sales organization, you might not find that there is an easy way to ladder the sales positions in a way that offers growth. There are however opportunities for increased responsibilities, which offer growth. By adding these responsibilities, sales rep can gain a higher-level position such as, Account Executive II, or something similar. In the advanced position, sales reps could be permitted to mentor or informally train new reps in the field. Perhaps a third level sales rep can take on additional responsibilities such as act a formal trainer for a day or two in new hire programs - or attend some formal meetings with higher level executives (maybe even permit for them to bring a topic). Somewhere in the levels, offer sales the ability to learn skills from a different part of the organization (maybe do this without levels, but rather part of ongoing up-training). A great example can be sending them to a manufacturing plant for a day - enabling them to see the building process of the products they sell. Or perhaps, something safer, send them to designers considering future products (or both!).
Encouraging this engagement and offering the additional skills, allows sales to add atypical activities to their otherwise mundane daily to dos. After all, sales reps, unlike many other positions in your company, perform many repetitive tasks.
A second big item on the sales rep wish list is work life balance; a trend observed in many positions, across various industries. The travel we mentioned earlier (due to the often large territories) is a tough obstacle to get passed. Albeit costly, there are opportunities to overcome this and offer more options in the work-life balance.
Start with trade offs - travel for 3 days - permit a day off immediately before or after. Or maybe permit sales reps to contribute designing their own schedule - with weekly or monthly flexibility. Yes, this can be very expensive - but consider your high costs of recruiting and onboarding a new employee; and don't forget to include the costs of your sales reps developing new relationships that were previously perfect.
There is one alternative or supplement that you won't find on the chart above: a sales rep within your website. With the many tools, such as marketing automation, content creation, and lead nurturing, there are many ways an effective website can help your manufacturing company's sales efforts. Learn more about it here.
Regardless of your methods, keep in mind that sales reps are critical to the success of your company. This isn't an area to skimp on in strategy, attention, and cost.