Ditching the ‘telesales stereotype’ is key to building successful sales teams

Recruiting and retaining talented sales staff, particularly in a telephone sales environment, continues to be a perennial challenge.

The perception of an industry where sales are achieved ‘at all costs’ – and where poor employee welfare is the norm – severely damages the reputation of telesales and call centres.

Companies who defy this stereotype are those who know that it makes good commercial sense to look after the people who are looking after their business. They understand that great business ethics coupled with valuing, developing and communicating with their employees will reap rewards for their staff and for the company’s bottom line.

In the highly competitive fuel card industry in which we operate, the ability to recruit, motivate and retain talented sales and customer service staff, with the right attitude and skills, is critical for driving and sustaining our success. The fact that TRFC has marked unprecedented growth just four years after launching in the middle of a brutal recession is testament to our powerful, values-driven and transparent HR strategy.

Below are our five tips to recruiting and retaining talent:

Adopt a creative recruitment strategy   

In 2013 after a skills shortage threatened to hamper growth, TRFC looked ‘outside the box’ and launched a pioneering training arm, The Bayford Foundation, to recruit and develop sales staff. Training recruits from all walks of life via organisations including the Probation Service and the Prince’s Trust, the foundation model has evolved from putting recruits through a set training period to one providing programmes based on individual needs. Our plan of ‘daring to be different’ has paid dividends.

Invest in training

Effective recruitment and training doesn’t come cheap – in fact we have invested around £150,000 on our Foundation to date. However recruits who have progressed to being top sales people are bringing in excess of £7m worth of new business this year and are instrumental in helping us to achieve our business goals.

Value your staff

Our employees regularly refer to TRFC as their ‘second home’.  A recent Investors in People (IiP) assessor commented: “Behind all the goals and objectives, there is a fundamental focus on looking after people. This creates a fairly unique and attractive organisation for people to be part of.”  We offer free holidays, uncapped commissions, innovative incentives for smashing sales targets and we start the weekend at 3pm on Fridays.

Be open and transparent

We update our team on our ambitious growth plans and profit targets at quarterly communication meetings. If everyone understands how, why and how much profit the business is seeking to achieve, then they understand how vital their individual role is – and contribution is to the bigger journey. This openness has empowered and motivated staff – boosting innovation and performance.

Introduce clear personal development paths

Every employee’s training should link into the wider business strategy. We have ‘road maps’ setting out personal goals and objectives which dovetail into our overarching strategy.  A three tier system developing talented sales staff – graduate level, post graduate and masters – provides long term career growth for those with ambitions, including management potential. There is likewise progression for our people who are not involved in sales roles.

Building a great sales team won’t happen overnight and requires the buy in from the very top and across all levels of the business. If your employees are proud to work for your business then you will undoubtedly reap the rewards.