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Arnold Printing: Hiring Done Right!

Posted Wednesday, March 29, 2017 by Jules VanSant.

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SOURCE: Barb Pellow w/InfoTrends / WhatTheyThink.com

Hiring qualified sales personnel is not an easy task. Often-quoted statistics indicate that at least 50% of the reps on most sales teams are below target performance levels. Furthermore, salesperson turnover hovers around 30% annually at many companies. Finding salespeople who are capable of consistently hitting or surpassing their sales targets can be the difference between success and failure for a print/marketing service provider.

When Arnold Printing (Cincinnati, OH) was faced with the challenge of finding and putting the right sales in talent in place, Owner Tim Arnold and Marketing Director Andy Cranmer took action and changed the hiring process. Established in 1910, the company has grown from its origins as a one-man print shop operating a hand-fed press out of a one-car garage to a 30,000-square-foot commercial printing plant that features state-of-the-art equipment in its prepress, pressroom, and bindery divisions. Arnold Printing’s capabilities also include digital imaging, WTP storefronts, and integrated marketing.

Obstacles to Success

Although Arnold and Cranmer were successful in their attempt to change their hiring process, they faced a number of challenges along the way. They identified the following obstacles when attempting to get the right sales staff in place. - Assessing sales reps’ true capabilities: Many salespeople are experts at selling themselves during a job interview, but you don’t always get what you expected once a person has been hired. - Recruiting top performers: The best sales reps are happy in their current jobs and not actively perusing job postings, but finding these reps can be a challenge. - Finding sales superstars: Most candidates for sales jobs are mediocre and don’t have a history of making their numbers. Companies often need to sift through a number of candidates to uncover those with true potential. - Overcoming the time pressure to fill an open sales position: When the clock is counting down on a quarterly target, the temptation to fill a position as quickly as possible can be very strong. Unfortunately, this strategy often backfires and results in less-than-optimal talent. - Defining the right characteristics for the job: The needs of print/marketing service customers have become more complex over the years. In turn, the skills that are deemed most desirable among reps have changed dramatically. In today’s market, the top sales reps must possess a mix of good interpersonal skills, technical know-how, and experience. This means that hiring the right person is more complex, and the stakes are also higher.

The Strategy

Like all print/marketing service providers, Arnold and Cranmer are continually searching for the perfect job candidates to fill their sales positions. Arnold Printing ultimately decided that retooling key elements of its hiring process was the best way to find and attract the right talent. This section highlights the steps that the company took to improve its hiring process.

1.Placed a Heightened Importance on Marketing and Communication Skills

The executives at Arnold Printing came to the conclusion that marketing and communication skills were more valuable than knowledge of printing processes. In Arnold’s and Cranmer’s experience, it’s easier to teach sales reps with great marketing and communications skills about adding value to communication initiatives than it is to train reps on marketing strategy. This realization led to a change in how sales reps were recruited and assessed. When hiring for sales staff positions, Arnold Printing now actively recruits marketing majors from area colleges or individuals with marketing experience. When the company has a sales position that needs to be filled, it reaches out to area schools with marketing programs and searches job sites and LinkedIn profiles for individuals with marketing experience.

2.Positioned Arnold as a Leading Company that Offers Opportunity

When it comes to hiring top sales talent, the competition can be brutal. Attracting the best job candidates starts with selling the benefits of working for your company. Potential hires want evidence that your company will support them with the necessary tools to achieve sales goals and deliver on promises made to customers. It is important to communicate your company’s value proposition to prospective sales hires in a compelling and differentiated manner, and your website is a great place to start. After all, this is the first place that a prospective sales hire will look to learn about your company.

Arnold Printing uses its website to demonstrate how it is unique, innovative, and customer-focused. The site defines the company as a provider of integrated marketing solutions, prominently features the “Imagination Delivered” tagline, and highlights that it partners with clients to deliver effective marketing tools and solutions. Another important positioning factor is how the company describes its open sales positions. When Arnold posts a job opportunity or provides an applicant with a job description, it is for a “Marketing-Focused Sales Position.”

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Does your website articulate what is unique about working for your company? Does it showcase the key products, solutions, and services that your firm offers to attract customers and generate new business opportunities? If not, it should!

3. Created Hiring Profiles to Improve Candidate Selection

The wrong hiring decision can be incredibly expensive, as it can result in significant financial losses in the form of lost bids, dissatisfied clients, a damaged company reputation, salary/benefit payouts, lost time spent on training, morale issues, and unemployment compensation. Given the downsides of a bad hire, it is important to realistically define the requirements of the position and the characteristics that the new hire most possess to meet those expectations. Cranmer explains, “We created a profile of the ideal candidate that included attitude, skills, and personality traits. Rather than just posting a job ad, we search for the people that meet our profile.”

4. Developed a More Rigorous Interview Process

To identify the best candidates for its sales staff, Arnold Printing implemented a more rigorous interview process. Both Arnold and Cranmer interview prospective hires. If they believe that the candidate has strong potential, they have that person come back for multiple interviews to ensure that they are not victims of a “single first good impression.” It is important that job candidates consistently show up on time, appropriately dressed, and ready to play. According to Cranmer, candidates are tested on their ability to sell value during the process. He explains, “I frequently hand a stapler to the individual and ask him or her to sell me the stapler. I listen very carefully to how they respond.”

Tim Arnold agrees that multiple meetings with prospective candidates can pay dividends. He elaborates, “You really get to know the person and understand what makes them tick. With the complexity of today’s printing industry, we need people who can deal with that complexity and truly build solutions for our customers. A single one-hour interview can’t give you that type of perspective.”

Job candidates are also given homework assignments. Applicants are given a list of questions and asked to provide written responses. The answers provide insight on perspective hires’ written communications skills and also uncover how they would handle business situations. Examples of homework questions include:

Another homework project tests how a potential sales rep handles clients in the aftermath of major job mistake. Arnold and Cranmer ask job candidates to write a fictitious apology letter based on the scenario that the customer’s job was accidentally delivered to the wrong city. In addition, Cranmer frequently tests for the ability to identify opportunity. He explains, “I will give a job candidate a newspaper article about the opening of a new business and ask them to identify the potential communication opportunities for our company.”

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Arnold Printing’s thorough interview process provides managers with clear picture of potential sales reps on a number of levels, including:

5. Established a High-Quality Onboarding Process

Sales onboarding can mean different things to different people. Some people think it’s about getting the correct paperwork filled out when new hires first come in the door. Others view a good sales onboarding process as sharing as much information as possible with a new rep for a few days before throwing them into the field. The problem with not having a well-defined onboarding process is that by the end of their first week, many sales reps will feel overwhelmed, underprepared, and ill-equipped to successfully represent your product or service. Arnold Printing recognized the importance of establishing a solid onboarding process, so the company developed a program that includes following elements:

According to Cranmer and Arnold, this thorough onboarding process for new sales reps has helped bring new hires up to speed faster while also resulting in better sales results.

The Bottom Line: Hire Right the First Time!

Business managers, particularly entrepreneurs and small business owners, have had a bad track record when it comes to hiring sales talent. When you hire the right sales resource, you will see instant results and amazing things can begin to happen. On the other hand, hiring a mediocre (or worse) salesperson can result in shelling out paycheck after paycheck for limited results. When it comes to hiring sales talent, we can all learn a lesson from Arnold Printing!