I own a dealership in the Charlotte, North Carolina market. I would rather not say what our major line is, but it’s one of the big 4, and we are busy. In fact our senior people are so busy working on existing business and accounts that they do not have enough time to develop new business for the future.
It’s great to have a booming post-pandemic 2022 but I am concerned about having enough new revenue in 2023 so I am looking to hire some new salespeople. We have been passively recruiting through LinkedIn and by word of mouth within the industry, but I am finding we are interviewing either “someone else’s problem” or senior people we do not need for the sales roles we have. I do not want to do anything to alienate our senior sales team yet if they are not prospecting, I fear their income will dry up once their current workload slows down. And that means my income will also take a hit!
How do I find these new salespeople to just prospect? It’s my job to look after everyone’s future and I see that we need the pipeline filled for 2023. As an example, landlords are giving a ton of money for “TI” - tenant improvements in leases, which should result in the tenant spending more on furniture. I want that business. What’s your advice on hiring those sales people to sniff out that business, and more?
I Need a Paradigm Shift!
TI money is flowing and it is what many dealerships, and in turn contract manufacturers, are cashing in on. Tenants have more money for bigger build outs and more furnishings and it’s not costing them a dime. It’s up to the tenant to move the TI allocation around as they see fit and it’s up to you and your staff to point it your way. Regardless of whether the dealer or the manufacturer originates the sale, the $$ is there for the asking.
The dilemma you are describing, of keeping new business development as a priority while working existing business, is common in almost every business. Salespeople work on current business and have difficulty finding time for new business.
The Viscusi Group specializes in recruiting for contract furniture dealers. Sales managers and salespeople are our sweet spot. So I hear this problem almost every day across the country from dealers. But these searches do not happen overnight. These are some of the longest searches because we focus on top people, build a relationship with them and then wait….and wait….and wait for that window of opportunity to get them in front of our client. What are we waiting for? A fight with their boss? A change in commission calculation? One of the owner’s kid’s just got involved in the business? A fall out of some sort always happens and we are there to hold that person’s hand and conveniently offer a new job. You may think you can do what we do too, but get ready for another full-time job of your own!
Want to take us out of the equation? It's simple, stop saying you want to hire a “Hunter” and start hiring “Farmers”. Farmers plant seeds that will grow a cash crop for the future. Too many dealers keep looking for hunters when they already have too many hunters that are underutilized. They need people to scout for new business, plant the seeds, identify that TI money you talk about, and then bring in the hunters for the kill (an old sales term for the “close” – just being a bit dramatic).
Try to think creatively outside of the box about attracting people like commercial realtors or marketing people who work for building contractors or even A&D firms. People who can find a “prospect” and then grow the relationship with the prospect to the point where it can be turned over to your hunter. Pay them differently – the farmer gets a high base with a low incentive component; the hunter gets a low base and a high incentive component.
As society changes and our industry changes with it you may need to reinvent the way you do business. Dealers need to be more creative in the way they hire and pay people. You must focus on hiring farmers to survive 2023 and the years beyond. I'm talking about a new level of person who is a re-imagined type of “rainmaker” who develops an account and then turns over the business to your seasoned hunters.
Tweak my idea anyway you like to make it work for your company, but I think one thing is for certain – the changes happening within our industry require a change in strategy and execution for dealer owners and managers. The pandemic forced a more out-of-the-office hybrid work environment; and I think that has been a disaster for everyone’s business, the Miller-Knoll merger forced dealers to make ownership choices they didn’t want to make; the employee shortage forced employers to make the workplace more inviting. All this can either work for or against you.
If you have better ideas, I would love to hear them. Share your thoughts and I will use them in future columns. One thing is for sure, for dealer CEOs and sales managers, change is inevitable.