How the Cloud Is Changing How You Recruit and Retain Sales Talent

Mike SchmidtmannBy Mike Schmidtmann

Ive never met a company that had too many great salespeople a surplus of superstars. Even successful companies always have room for more great talent at the top. And theres always deadwood at the bottom that can be pruned out.

Fifty years ago, John, Paul and George took a hard look at their drummer, Pete Best. They loved the guy, but realized The Beatles needed an upgrade. They replaced him with Ringo, and the rest is history. You cant settle for B players.

Ive probably worked with more than 100 solution providers over the years and my informal, highly unscientific survey shows your highest profit and happiest customers are tied to the top echelon of your sales team. 

So, when you recruit salespeople, you need to pass up the retreads, misfits and mediocrities. Focus exclusively on the superstars: the Sharks, Killers and Rock Stars.

At the same time you are wrestling with your recruiting, the marketplace is turning upside down. Modern customers are far more educated and knowledgeable than ever before. They have access to tools and information that allow them to get technical details, pricing, and competitive comparisons.

The increase in specialized knowledge on the customers part is mirrored by a corresponding decrease in knowledge among salespeople. Why? Salespeople have more and more product lines to learn, and they get less and less time to train (see table: Changes in the IT Selling Landscape, below).

Changes in the IT Selling Landscape

These two trends lead to a paradox. The customers learn more and more about less and less until they eventually know everything about nothing. Salespeople learn less and less about more and more, until they know nothing about everything.

This, in turn, has led to the emergence of the “eight-legged” sales call. A sales rep makes a call with his pre-sales engineer and perhaps a Cisco channel manager. Theres often a VMware or EMC rep along as well to join the fun. Almost nobody in the product business does it alone anymore.

Whats the answer for the sales leader? Reload, rebuild and recalibrate your approach.  Here are two ways to do this:

  • First, because the profits come from the top echelon of the team, you need to identify and attract those who have the talent, mind-set and work ethic to become superstars in todays selling environment.
  • Second, because the sales landscape is changing, you need to identify and attract those people who can think conceptually and relate to business people. Then you must persuade them to take a process-oriented, long-term approach to solving problems thus providing a competitive advantage.

This means you need to bypass the emerging underachievers” and focus on hiring those rare people who can thrive under the new conditions. And if you really want to reach The Top of the Pops,” youll need to weed the Pete Bests out of your sales force.

Mike Schmidtmann is a member of 4-Profit, an organization dedicated to the education, growth and profitability of solution providers in the IT sales business. Schmidtmann has been involved with IT sales and management for more than 25 years. He works with solution providers nationwide on management practices to improve sales, margins and profitability.


@mcrisis, @4profitway


Learn more from 4Profit’s Mike Schmidtmann in the session, “Sharks, Killers & Rock Stars: Why the Cloud Is Changing How You Recruit and Retain Championship Talent,” at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Feb. 26-28, 2014, in Las Vegas.

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