Trevor Simm | Crain's Baltimore

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Trevor Simm

Background:  

OpalStaff, founded in 2002 and based in Millersville, Md., provides companies and government organizations with IT and tech staffing solutions. Talos Solutions, founded in 2014, fulfills non-technical talent needs. Trevor Simm and his companies have earned numerous industry honors, including Entrepreneur of the Year finalist by Ernst & Young. OpalStaff has twice been named to Inc. Magazine's Fastest Growing Private Company list.

The Mistake:

The mistake was assuming that our salespeople had already gained the sales experience necessary to do a successful job before joining our team.

When we would hire a new salesperson, we would set goals and expectations for them, and they would agree that they were good to go. But in some cases they’d veer off and slip and not meet those goals.

During their quarterly review we realized that nearly every salesperson, from the newest to the most senior people, were behind on their goals. Our salespeople had the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to achieve the goals that were set for them, but they were lacking in some areas.

One of the things that separates us is we tend to be more nimble and agile than some of the bigger staffing companies. Our staffing and salespeople have to be able to think creatively and think out of the box. There’s bigger companies with much more stature, and they have different tool sets and relationships because they’ve been around longer, but since we’re somewhat newer it takes a different toolbox to work with particular clients.

After realizing our salespeople needed more training and support, we implemented a continuous sales training program, which included negotiation skills, spin-selling techniques, and a cafeteria/employee benefit plan to engage new clients. We learned to assess each salesperson’s sales knowledge and experience regardless of the organizations they had worked for previously.

Not everyone was failing to meet sales goals, but everyone had room to grow, and everyone took something positive away from the training. They had a good baseline training, but they really didn’t have some of the in-depth knowledge necessary for a staffing agency.

It’s necessary to get an exact read on what someone is capable of, rather than making assumptions.

The Lesson:

It’s necessary to get an exact read on what someone is capable of, rather than making assumptions. Just because somebody comes from another firm, it doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they’re doing.

It would have helped if I had met with new individuals in the beginning to assess what they knew, instead of assuming what I specifically thought they knew.

Any kind of sales organization needs to have a clear understanding of what a candidate possesses when they interview. Conduct a quick sales assessment to define and have a better understanding of their background and level of experience from the beginning, and learn more about any training they’ve already received.

Creating a sales training and development program specifically tailored to your specific business can be very beneficial.

OpalStaff is on Twitter at @OpalStaff and Talos Solutions is at @WeAreTalos.

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email cberman@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's.