Many years ago, when I was in my twenties, I was approached by the Alliance and Leicester building society about becoming a branch manager with them.
It was around the time that financial institutions began offering extra add-on products, such as insurances and different savings accounts.
When I pointed out to them that I had no financial background whatsoever, their words were, “that doesn’t matter, we can teach you the banking industry, what we can’t do is teach a bank manager how to sell.”
At around the same time, MFI we’re trialing concession showrooms inside Curry’s stores.
Simply Kitchens had run the initial trial but when things started to go sour there, MFI took over.
I was one of several area managers taken on to push the business forward and that included recruiting sales colleagues to work in the branches.
There was one issue, trying to get an experienced salesperson to come and work for us proved very difficult.
We were a new project and many kitchen salespeople were settled within the main MFI stores, and the Howdens machine was really starting to pick up pace.
This meant a gamble. We took on a lot of sales people who had no kitchen or design experience, who we had to train on the product.
We struck gold. We found ourselves with a lot of keen salespeople with fresh ideas and no “historical thinking.”
Nothing highlighted this more than the first December.
Traditionally, December in MFI was extremely quiet. Everyone knew the Boxing Day sales were coming and salespeople and managers either took their holidays or were on wind down to Christmas in preparation for three weeks without a day off after the break.
But not as Hygena at Currys, sales continued to grow.
As each day went past, we expected sales to start slowing down, but the speed maintained. Many conversations were had around the coffee machine at Head Office as to why we were so busy, yet the rest of the business was doing next to no business.
I went to visit my branch in Hanger Lane, West London to have a chat with the staff.
There were two young salespeople in there, one straight out of college and one ex-car salesperson.
Both getting excellent results, especially in December.
When I asked how their sales figures were so impressive when the rest of the business was twiddling their thumbs until the new year, I was met by puzzled expressions.
“Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just that nobody told us we shouldn’t be selling in December” was the response I got.
And they were absolutely right, nobody had said to these guys that December is quiet, so stop selling.
And they didn’t have the muscle memory that December was traditionally slow so they should be putting the brakes on.
And this is a major benefit of recruiting for people from outside of the industry.
There is absolutely a case for an experienced kitchen or bathroom designer who can close ninety five percent of their business and put a million pounds in the till.
But sometimes I think we get lost looking for this ideal candidate, who doesn’t come around very often.
What we miss are some hungry, driven salespeople, who just don’t know what our sector can offer them.
There is a massive opportunity at the moment to recruit people into sales roles in our industry, where they have the skills, they just need the knowledge.
But we need to play our parts for this to work.
Proper onboarding and inductions need to be better.
No more can we run with the mentality of “here are the keys, get on with it.”
Beginning at the very start, each new recruit should receive a welcome pack explaining everything about the company, and a detailed plan for their next twelve months within the business.
Others things to include could be a list of contacts, some company merchandise, and even a few sweets !
The retention rates of most companies is very much dependent on their induction programme.
The longer and more detailed the induction programme, the more committed members of staff you will get.
People need to feel supported and want to be developed. There are so many ways to progress in the world of KBB, but we need to harness the talents we take on, and build on the skills they have already.
I see so many people on LinkedIn who I have worked with previously, who now work away from the sector.
And when I speak to them it’s always the same, they loved the industry, but didn’t like the company they were with. Rarely is their role the reason that people leave.
There is gold out there, we just need to be prepared to dig.
You can find out more about me at www.pauldasilvaassociates.com.