This month’s Featured Company Q&A is with Carolynn E Ferris, Director of Sales for SIMPLEXGRINNELL, who shares with us her upcoming focus for the rest of the year, as well as strategies for sales success.

What do you enjoy most about working for SimplexGrinnell?
I have enjoyed being a part of building an organization striving to be the undisputed leader in the Life Safety industry.

What unique quality separates SimplexGrinnell from your competitors?
We have an extraordinary legacy.  The organization has roots going back almost 120 years.

We are all coming off of a challenging year, how has SimplexGrinnell handled it?
We have handled it in much the same way as other organizations — cutting costs wherever possible and leveraging our strengths.  It is interesting to note, however, that we invested a considerable amount of money, time and effort to develop a Strategic Growth plan even as the economy turned downward.  We recognized that now is the time to gear up for growth.

What would you like salesjournal.com readers to know about SimplexGrinnell?
We intend to be the undisputed leader in the Life Safety industry with the most professional sales organization driving our growth.

What specific goals, including those related to your specific position within the company, have you established for 2010?
-Grow our customer base
-Invest in a new Sales CRM
-Move the sales organization to more of an Account Management model
What creative strategies have you used to encourage/influence your sales team?
Workshops focused on identifying how our products and services are differentiated from our competitors, how to call on architects and engineers and how to use our customer data base to mine for opportunities.
What is your favorite methodology in sales training and/or business enhancement?
Anything that works.

Do you have a mentor that you contribute your leadership success to? Do you feel it is important to have a mentor?
Everyone has different needs and the means to develop as an individual.  I have been lucky enough to be in the right kind of situations to allow me to grow as a leader.  Others will develop more successfully with a direct mentor.

What sales advice do you have to offer our readers?
When I moved into my first management role, one of the first mistakes I made (one of many, by the way) was to hire salespeople based on their technical skill and their outgoing personality.  It did not take long to learn that there were very specific characteristics of an individual that led to more consistent sales performance.  I believe two of those indicators are a healthy sense of competition and being comfortable taking risks.

When you hire, how do candidates stand out in order to be selected to help with the growth of the company?
We are working with an outside firm right now helping us create a success profile for prospective sales candidates.  This profile is one we can test to and will help us more objectively identify those individuals that have more of the success characteristics.

Do you feel a sales professional must have experience in the industry they are selling in order to be successful?
Experience in the industry is certainly a plus; if nothing else it improves the ramp up time.  But it is absolutely NOT necessary.  We can teach someone the technical side of our business; we can’t as readily teach people how to be an effective salesperson.
If an individual or the team as a whole is not meeting goals, what is your approach to nurture this?
The key is identifying problems as early as possible.  Having someone struggle for long periods of time is debilitating to the individual as well as non-productive for the organization.  We try hard to spot problems early on and then do our best to pinpoint the areas where they need improvement.  At that point, we try to work one-on-one with them to coach them to success.

How much time do you need to know if a new sales hire will “make it”? What are some indicators/behaviors?
The time to success varies by sales position, but we generally have a good idea within the first 12 – 18 months.  Sales activity is the best barometer in the beginning period.  Making calls, follow up and proactive account management are key.