Departments - July/August 2012

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A Leg Up
How AG Salesworks Builds Top-Performing Sales Reps

By Tammy York

Hiring a salesperson is a big investment. You eliminate the variables by hiring based on the person's attitude, education, work history and prior performance. You spend time and money educating your new salesperson on the methods of your sales structure and training them to work within your system following your tested methods of executing sales.

But what happens when that person still doesn't meet the standards you expect from them? Do you throw away the investment, write it down as a loss and move on? Or do you painstakingly figure out why the salesperson isn't achieving goal?

Peter Gracey, president and co-founder of AG Salesworks, a Norwood, Mass.-based company that provides tech companies with sales leads, believes you set the struggling salesperson on a path and let them choose whether to follow it to success. The pathway includes new training, direct supervision, evaluation, peer-to-peer training, and, of course, incentives.

Often, the biggest obstacle standing between success and the salesperson is themselves. This happened at AG Salesworks with a new hire. Most of the people AG Salesworks hires have recently graduated or are one or two years out of college with a degree focusing on marketing and a high GPA. AG Salesworks also looks for applicants who are confident and maintain eye contact as well as those who are comfortable in who they are and have a history of a strong work ethic.

The new hire started out fine and was in the top 85 percent of goal in the first month, which is acceptable during this learning period. New hot leads helped to prop up his numbers, but when the leads turned to the more traditional lukewarm variety, his numbers fell to 35 percent of goal in the second month. "That is when all the red flags went up, and everyone started working with him," Gracey said. "This happened near the end of his performance grace period."

Supervisors reviewed the work completed and soon realized that he wasn't following the call plan. "We hire really intelligent people, and they think they are smarter than they really are," Gracey said. "He was making his own call plan when we have a mathematical tested call plan, and when we weren't looking he would stop following it."

The call plan is a combination of level of interest, out-bound calls, voice mails left and e-mails received, which is broken down into a mathematical formula. The CRM (customer relationship management system) informs the sales agents what to do next based on how the prospect is responding. AG Salesworks focuses training on the salesperson's ability to talk once a potential client is on the phone, and the tried-and-true call plan is the road map to getting that prospect on the phone.

The three areas of management that needed to be addressed were call plan adherence, CRM usage and conversion rates. "He was doing the call plan out of order and not in the scientific method that we have perfected," Gracey said. "Properly using the multifaceted CRM helps the salesperson organize their day. There are a lot of resources built into our CRM, and he wasn't leveraging them."