30 INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION / March/April 2014 www.inddist.com
Hiring & Training For The Future
While there may not be statistics to prove it, “experi- enced” is probably the most-used word on job postings in the industry. Every company wants to hire salespeople
that know the industry and know how to close sales. The reality is
that regardless of how many years a person has been a salesperson in the industrial segment, the industry itself is changing. The
right person for the job ten years ago may not be the right person
for the job today — and the person you hired ten years ago might
need some new training.
There are three areas that distributors need to consider when
hiring and training their salesforce: company culture, educational
opportunities, and keeping salespeople engaged.
It’s All About Culture
“Culture eats strategy for lunch,” quips Dirk Beveridge of 4th
Generation Systems. “We have to focus on the overall culture of
While the company culture of the Googles of the world might
always be an unattainable ideal for an industrial company, that
doesn’t mean that culture is not important at smaller and less
tech-savvy companies. In fact, the same culture that makes Google
so attractive to hi-tech employees might be a major detriment to
attracting the right kind of employees for your business. Deter-
mining your company culture – how you want employees to act
and dress at corporate headquarters, how you want employees to
react in situations where decisions need to be made quickly, and
how you want employees to contribute to the company at large – is
important. By first determining your company culture, and then
hiring employees to fit that profile, you can ensure that the overall
goal of the company is going to carry forward in the years to come.
Earnest Machine’s Steve Abbot relies heavily on culture as a
determining factor when hiring new employees. “We utilize a cul-
ture index survey that heavily plays into screening of candidates.
We want people who will be able to think differently and put the
customer first at all times. An impressive resume is important, but
it is not everything,” says Abbot.
This preventative screening ensures that the company chooses
candidates who are a good fit for the company and not just the
job. In fact, Abbot notes that many of their employees have been
at the company for 20, 30, or even 40 years. Says Abbot: “It is
because we make sure that they share our ideals.”
It’s Also About Educational Opportunities
Beveridge says that, if he were an outside salesperson today, he
would take every opportunity there was – even going outside of
the company and paying for his own development – to attain more
education. “The skill sets that are going to be required five years
from now are going to be considerably different than they are
today,” he says.
Distributors need to be offering opportunities to their salespeople that will help them become the best salespeople they can be
in any environment. It definitely serves the goal of the distributor
to sell more and to service customers better, regardless of the
technological advances or climate of the economy.
“Early on in a salesperson’s career, they should select a specialty
and then, with management and supplier support, become the
local expert,” says Steve Hartkopf of Aligned Marketing, LLC. “This
will differentiate both the individual and the distributor in the
marketplace. The results are a distributor that delivers more value,
probably higher sales prices, more commissions, and more profits.”
The opportunity for training to serve as a brand-builder for a dis-
tributor is a big deal in a marketplace where differentiation is key.
While offering great educational opportunities, it is important
to remember to also set clear expectations for your salespeople.
“A written description of what the company wants to have the
salesperson accomplish within a certain time frame is ideal,” says
Michael Sklar, Sales Manager at Thunder Group, Inc., a value-add-
ed supplier of high-end cookware — a market that sees steep
competition and relies on their sales reps to exceed expectations.
Without succinct and measurable goals, your salespeople will be
floundering in their new position, never knowing if they are doing
In the digital age, hiring new sales employees looks
different than it did a few years ago. What criteria
should distributors use to hire the best person for the
“Cultural fit. Do they fit the culture of the organization?” - Dirk Beveridge, 4th Generation Systems
“Good salespeople can be young or old, male or female,
exceptionally bright or of average intelligence. What
is not optional is a service mentality and getting along
with others.” - Steve Hartkopf, Aligned Marketing, LLC
“Well-trained sales professionals understand that
doing the right activity day in and day out will bring
results. Worrying about the economy, the weather, or
the competition are just distractions that get in the
way.” - Tom Metcalf, Telenotes