Now Hiring: Amid a Buyers’ Market, Dealers Focus on Maintaining Star Sales Reps

At a time when supply chain delays have cost dealers millions of dollars due to product backlogs, the domino effect has toppled the humble account representative in the process. It’s left dealers in a precarious position in handling compensation. Just how long the delay lasts can go a long way toward influencing the long-term relationship between a dealer and its reps.

As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic era, one dealer’s challenge is often another’s opportunity. In this week’s installment of the State of the Industry report, we take our dealer panel’s temperature in regard to finding and maintaining their top reps. They provide insight into the variables and strategies that have shaped their quest to roster the industry’s leading performers.

Erik Crane, CPI Technologies

Many dealers are actively searching for stalwart reps to bring into their stable, all the while mindful of the costs—dollars and cents-wise, in addition to time and the potential impact on culture—associated with making the wrong judgment on new hires. That is the case for CPI Technologies of Springfield, Missouri, where President and CEO Erik Crane is determined to maintain an outstanding culture and team chemistry.

“One wrong hiring decision can ruin that. So we might be pickier than other organizations,” he said. “We have been able to keep our long-term sales team members through all of the turmoil in the world through loyalty built on honesty, integrity, and fairness in everything we do.  From awards and recognition to compensation and commissions, those three pillars are the keys to building a highly functioning team.”

Lucrative Carrots

The correlation between performance and compensation, the ultimate bottom line, is what can ensure account representatives won’t start perusing online job boards. Take Kelly Office Solutions of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for example. The dealer has 27 reps, 12 of which qualified for bonuses at the minimum level last year. Another eight nearly reached the top bonus level, and two more maxed out.

Tim Renegar, Kelly Office Solutions

President Tim Renegar puts it in more succinct terms: tenured reps just don’t leave because they are making a handsome living. “Reps will manage themselves right out of the business if they’re not performing,” he observed. “The Great Resignation has not been a problem for us in sales, service or admin. Where we run into problems is with warehouse, delivery and the parts department, but it’s not monumental.

“I meet with the teams for sales, service and administration on a fairly regular basis, and I’m always asking them their opinion on what they like about the company and what needs improvement. It’s really a matter of staying in touch with the team.”

Jim Morrissey, UBEO Business Services

Attrition has not been a factor for UBEO Business Services in Austin, Texas, and the few who have departed have been more than offset by a significant number of hires during the past six months to enable the dealer to continue its considerable growth spurt. President Jim Morrissey notes the company has been able to attain quality reps from competitors that are suffering in the ability to provide good service.

“I don’t need to call them out; I think everyone knows which ones are struggling right now,” he noted. “It’s been a boon for us to hire those reps.”

The “free-for-all” battle enables dealers to harvest those reps who fear their top accounts are in danger of fleeing to competitive dealers who haven’t lost a step in their service competence. Morrissey is also wary of reps with a job history that indicates changes of scenery every three years. Those free agents with million-dollar portfolios and 10-15 years of upper-level performance with the same team are the ones who raise the green flag for HR.

“It’s crazy, but they’re available,” Morrissey said. “Truth is, these candidates are just not happy with what’s going on in their companies. We just hired 24 solid performers in a 60-day stretch.”

Flight Candidates

What are some of the other common denominators among the exiling account representatives? Other at-risk-of-departure reps are those who sell primarily (or exclusively) manufacturer lines significantly impacted by supply chain issues. Brent Simone, president of Stratix Systems in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, believes the job market is tight, but because several OEMs have performed poorly in their ability to produce units, it’s created hardships on sales commissions.

Brent Simone, Stratix Systems

“If they’re getting paid only when deals are getting delivered, their income is significantly impaired,” he said. “We’ve been able to find and add some good people because their circumstances were not that great. One manufacturer fundamentally can’t get product, and they’re not paying their people until they can get it delivered. As a result, they’re making 50% of what they used to earn.”

A stellar culture and visionary leadership has prevented Offix of Gainesville, Virginia, from losing its top sales talent. With a higher base salary and lucrative compensation plan, particularly for net-new business, the dealer has been able to cultivate a tenured team.

Tim King, Offix

“If you look deeper into our benefits, Offix pays for short- and long-term disability, and there aren’t a lot of companies I’ve seen that will do it,” noted Tim King, vice president of sales. “When you add in medical, dental, vision, continuing education reimbursement, 401K, you see the company is really invested in its employees. The employees recognize this and they’re not looking to go anywhere else.”

Home Grown

Account superstars have long been in demand, but there’s something to be said for developing top prospects in your dealer’s geography. That’s the tactic embraced by Pulse Technology of Schaumburg, Illinois, where CEO Chip Miceli is a staunch supporter of hiring recent college graduates who present an aptitude for the sales profession.

Chip Miceli, Pulse Technology

Being in the Chicagoland area means stiff competition for the available few, and oftentimes the veteran performers lack the flexibility of changing bad habits. And Miceli prides himself in being able to source talent in the most unlikely locations.

“We’ve been known to engage with salespeople at the big box stores, and even waiters or waitresses at local restaurants,” he said. “Sometimes in a conversation you can learn a lot about where they want their career to go and there may be match. We also reach out to business and chamber organizations in our area to find people who may be looking for a position.”

The past year has been positive in terms of retention for Pulse Technology. The dealer did part with a few, by mutual agreement, in cases where the relationship didn’t pan out. On the whole, the atmosphere Miceli has cultivated has produced far more success stories.

“We value our employees greatly and reward them well for good performance,” he added. “And although our company is bigger than it was when I took it over, I’ve always viewed it as a family business and we aim to treat everyone like family here.”

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.