Politics, football, sales. Where or not you believe it, they all have one thing in common: people talk about them a lot, everyone understands them a little bit, but very few people truly understand these topics. For politics and football, this is forgivable, since they are both massive machines with many moving parts, and people need to spend a great deal of energy to be knowledgeable. However, in the case of sales, this attitude is a serious concern. And in the COVID-19 era, it is a direct threat to our companies’ livelihoods.
One of the most dominant business phenomena in 2020 was that some companies finally recognised that they did not have, and in many cases, never had a real sales capacity. Of course, many companies have separate sales departments and dedicated sales teams, but their activities cannot be considered sales from a professional point of view. Of course, this concept can be debated heavily from the outset: who and what can we call “sales”? In some ways, if I consciously put on a suit for a meeting and I also wear a tie even though I’m not used to it, it’s already sales. Anybody who says so is not wrong. We’re used to doing business in general, not focusing on sales in general, so what we call sales can be defined as “proactive sales”. And that’s when business leaders get a serious surprise. After all, when they build sales territories and form sales teams, they don’t pay attention to the essentials. Of course, everyone already knows that according to the old school perception, there are farmers and hunters. One can bring in a customer while the other can keep it. To do this, however, we need to build a sales team on a deliberate personality basis so that these two areas really can exist in the company at the same time. I haven’t seen much of this yet, although we’ve already screened and reorganised more than our fair share of sales organisations. That’s because people of a hunter nature are dynamic and proactive, not just at bringing business, but in general. So, for example, when a company bets on how well a hunter team is working because the “core” has been together for five years, a slight smile comes across my face. At such times, just to make sure, I ask whether the five “hunter” colleagues are earning astronomical sums or not? So, they get an amount of money that they couldn’t have imagined? And that amount is constantly growing? Because if it’s not, but they’re still there at the company, they’re certainly not real, proactive hunters. Because real hunters are also very proactive about changing jobs, and they have dreams, but not small ones, which they follow no matter what. And if they can’t find the job where they can achieve those dreams while creating new ones, a place where they can fulfil them as well, then the hunter character is in danger. The fact that I pick up the phone faster when an incoming call comes in or someone responds to an email request faster than average is far from a hunter attitude. The hunter is hunting for new customers. It is not enough for them to search for existing ones. And when there is a crisis in the market, unfortunately, this attitude is essential for success. A lot of companies are looking for a business development background, because there are problems with the well-proven business so far. In every other year, they began with more than 80% of their capacity already tied up by orders, but by 2021 this had dropped drastically and, in some cases, dropped to zero. And they don’t really understand the process because sales strategies that have worked well so far are now powerless.
Of course they don’t work. The reason for this is mostly the management itself. After all, real hunters are not tolerated within companies because they are wilful and difficult to fit into a particular box. In the case of international companies, this is a serious challenge, and in the case of local companies, it is unacceptable from the outset, as the hunter should be embedded in a “family-like” atmosphere, which is completely far from their nature. Be a loyal worker, a lovable team player, and of course, bring a lot of new business. But these two characters are two entirely different people. And now let’s say there are the rare exceptions who can do this all together. There are some, during peacetime. Not in a crisis! And the sooner we accept this, the sooner we will find a way out of the crisis. The market for salespeople has deteriorated, mainly due to the labour market undersupply in recent years. For increasingly worse salespeople, companies have been paying higher and higher sums. The typical income structure of a salesperson in international markets includes a considerable fixed income with a commission, and in some places a bonus. But in the drastic majority of cases, variable pay does not exceed 25% of total income. This entire structure is lightyears away from the hunter concept. They move mountains when they need to, but they want “unlimited” income. Here is how they think: “if I bring in a customer, dear company, it’s your job to be able to make a profit from them. Give me the commission for my work. Oh, and don’t set a cap on my commission or any other ‘bullshit’”. How come we don’t hear this during recruitment? Instead, we get a salesperson, who is supposed to have significant experience, focusing on negotiating their fixed income. Of course, I’ve seen some of these! We won’t work together, that’s for sure. After all, these two things contradict each other. Because if someone has such experience, such a good network, and such outstanding sales knowledge that they want to ask for high fixed pay, and the commission level is not important, it is not the focus of their questions, then they are definitely a fake salesperson. That’s when it is worth it to smoke out the fakes and “play with the idea” there on the spot: what if the only option would be a commission-only system after six months? Or would they let go of some of their fixed pay to get a higher commission? The reactions to these questions perfectly identify how “big” of a hunter they really are. And by 2021, companies need to find the real hunters, unless they’re absolutely sure they’ll continue to grow without them, or the company already has so many orders that they can’t meet demand anyway.