By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

The rising BV professionals you hire are focused on the “doer” part of the job. Morphing into a “doer/seller” is probably the furthest thing from their minds. How can you help them make that leap?

The first thing to realize is that selling isn’t “taught” so much as it is “learned”. As a doer/seller yourself, you’ve been in that role long enough you may not remember what it’s like not to know how to do it. You won’t necessarily be able to package what you know and hand it to an employee.

There are some things you can do, however.

It starts with the hire. BV fits within the broader family of Consulting Services. And you don’t get to the top in Consulting Services without learning how to sell. That’s a point you should make in every interview. You can add the caveat that, depending on the level of your hire, this requirement could be several years away. Nonetheless, your candidates deserve to know what’s ahead for them if they come aboard at your practice.

Look for actual selling experience on a resume. We’re not talking about sales experience in food service or hospitality where the customer walks in the door primed to buy, but situations that require reaching out and finding customers. Door-to-door selling is the example everyone things of. But, even having to sell someone on supporting your ideas or projects can be useful.

Design interview questions to help reveal these experiences: “Tell me about a time when you were successful in approaching someone in a position of authority and convincing them to buy in to your project or idea. How/why did you choose that particular target? What was it that you wanted? How did you persuade them?”

Show them and let them learn. The new hire with little (or no) experience needs time to assimilate into the practice and demonstrate the ability to complete tasks independently. The time will come (and you’ll see it if you’re watching for it) when your staffer is ready to ride along on a sales call. Use the travel time to the client to “think out loud”, sharing your ideas for how you’re going to approach the client and the kinds of questions you’re going to ask.

Use the return trip to debrief. Talk about what you learned during the conversation and how that drives the research you will need, or the analytical approach you will take. Point out any pieces of new information that caused you to shift gears once you were at the client’s location. Invite your staffer to ask questions about anything she heard during the visit.
Once you have done this three or four times, ask your staffer to contribute her questions. Test them on the way to the client to make sure they’re on point. Pick one and invite the staffer to ask the client, directly, during the meeting.

Lastly, don’t overlook the value of this ride-along as a reward for good performance. At the same time, don’t withhold it unfairly. Giving everyone a chance to do it can help you identify the potentially successful doer/seller so you can move her more rapidly along that path.

You’ve known how to develop business for so long that you don’t remember what it’s like not to know it. The “I figured it out, they should be able to figure it out” stance is a recipe for failure.

John Borrowman