Don't expect new salesperson to conjure up instant business

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Dan Regovich

I've seen this time and time again in the industry. A company comes to me and says it wants to hire an experienced salesperson, someone who can bring a "book of business" and "hit the ground running and bring in instant business." Often when I hear this, I feel like I should hang up and hit the ground running (away from this company) because this is just not realistic for the most part. Perhaps someone who is selling stock products or some type of commodity could hit the ground running. But someone selling something customized doesn't bring in instant business.
I'll often hear that these companies need someone within injection molding, blow molding, blown/extruded film or some other area of plastics expertise. They want a salesperson who knows their technology and the type of customer base they are selling into. Now there is nothing wrong with this. The problem is that many companies expect that this new person will come on board and be bringing in new business within a month or two. I'll typically ask the company this question: "If it were that easy to find a candidate like this, wouldn't all of your competitors be doing the exact same thing?"
I have learned that even though a salesperson has a great relationship with a client company, it doesn't mean the company is going to pay for all of its tools to be transferred to the salesperson's new company, especially if the salesperson's current employer is doing a good job. If the salesperson
were to actually bring that client to his or her new employer, it could take several months for that to happen.
Another thing I have learned over the last 16 years is that even though the salesperson you are considering might have the background you want, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have the technology to do what his or her current customers need to be done.
For example, if she is doing business with XYZ Co. and it needs its molded parts to be printed on and you don't have the printing capabilities, you will probably not get that business.

I have seen several companies have a lot of success hiring someone from a related industry, someone who is not from a direct competitor, but someone who sells into the same markets as they do.
I recently placed a sales director — who had a rigid-plastic packaging background selling into health, cosmetics and food — into another packaging company that sold into those same areas, but with a totally different type of plastic packaging. My candidate understood plastics, my client's industries and how to sell. He just needed to learn their products.
He has hit the ground running just as fast as anyone directly from the industry would have, although my client will not see returns on its investment until the salesman has been there nine to 12 months.
It is good to hire a salesperson who understands your space within your area of plastics expertise, but if you expect instant business, you will set yourself up for disappointment and probably wind up firing a good salesperson.
If you hire someone who is bringing in good requests for quotes and actively visiting the people you want to do business with, just give her some time and training and things will work out.

Dan Regovich owns and operates AJ Augur Group LLC, a Mentor, Ohio-based executive search firm for the plastics industry.