Guerrilla Selling: Attracting the Right Sales Staff

Help WantedIn any business, people are your most important asset.  A great location, great name, great merchandise, a great display and great promotion can all be undone by less-than-great people. Your staff is the most expensive item in your budget and the most important business investment you’ll make, so take time to choose them wisely.

The most universal complaint I hear from business owners is, “We just can’t find good people.”  Well, let me encourage you. They’re out there, and your mission is to track them down and then persuade them to join your team.

Guerrillas know that their team is the glue that holds their business together – from their sales associates to their cashiers, bookkeepers and delivery drivers. So you have to put the same effort into recruiting a stock clerk as you would when hiring a merchandising manager. Although the specific example we’ll illustrate here refers to sales guerrillas, these techniques will work to help you hire the cream of the crop for any position.

Because the best predictor of future sales behavior is current sales behavior, guerrillas are always on the hunt for good people. You’ll find them serving you in restaurants, shops, hotels, spas, museums and cafes. Whenever someone really impresses you with their sales or customer service skills, ask for their name and number. Let them know that, while you may not have an opening right now, you’re always looking for good people, and you’d like to have permission to call them if something opens up. This way, you’ll always have a backlog of qualified candidates.

This is also a good reason to regularly shop your competitors. We know it sounds a bit mercenary, but you would be appalled at how poorly some companies treat their best people! And when you hire away one of their best, you win twice – you gain a skilled employee at your competitor’s expense.

When screening sales applicants you need to give them an opportunity to showcase their sales skills before putting them in front of customers. By seeing how well they sell themselves to you, you can predict with remarkable accuracy how effective they will be at selling others.

Here’s a simple system that can streamline the screening and ensure that you are getting the best of the best.  Set up a voicemail box on a DDE (direct-dial extension that only goes to voice mail; ask your phone company).  Then run your classified ad outlining the basic qualifications for the job, but do not mention the name of your business. Instead, in the last sentence of the ad use the phrase, “To schedule an interview call (the DDE phone number).”

The outbound recording should say, “Because of the overwhelming response to or ad, we’ve had to automate our screening process.  At the tone, please leave your name, a number where you can be reached, and a brief summary of your qualifications.  If your background matches our requirements, we may invite you for an interview.” BEEEEP.  Let it run for a day or two to accumulate messages.

When playing the messages back, be prepared with a pad and pen.  You’ll want to take notes.  Start by really listening to the voice. Is it warm, friendly and intelligent? Is this the voice of someone who you would feel comfortable representing your firm? If not, delete it and move on.
Then listen to the message a second time, and check:

• Did the candidate follow directions?

• Did they in fact leave their name, an after-hours number (or better still, several)

• Did they leave a summary of their qualifications, and in that order?

This will predict how easy (or difficult) they will be to manage.  Did they just rattle off their resume, or did they couch their experience in terms of skills? “I’m very good with computers,” or “I’d do a great job because I love working with customers.”

And finally, did this candidate close with some sort of call to action, “asking for the order” (or in this case the interview).  If they pass all four of these tests, then call back and interview them initially by phone.  You don’t want their physical appearance to bias your choice prematurely.

This process will give you a better idea of each candidate’s strengths before you waste time brining in people who are not a good fit. Implementing some sort of system to streamline the screening will help weed out the lazy and unqualified. This strategy will help you build the best possible retail team that will only improve your team morale and your business as a whole.


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