David Sass is the President of Source Office Technology and will be speaking next month at MDM’s Forum, “How Distributors Should Respond to Amazon Business.”
Source Office and Technology is a fast-growing business services company headquartered in Golden, CO, with $45 million in annual sales. One of our primary business strategies is to use our largest commodity-based sales category, namely office products, as a platform to sell adjacent categories, primarily technology services such as copiers, printers, 3-D printing and managed print services.
Selling these kinds of technology services requires that we hire motivated, high-activity sales people with a strong aptitude for technology. A few years ago, we made the decision to primarily target recent college graduates for this type of selling as they tend to be very good with technology (they grew up with it) and are particularly effective at using technology to solve business challenges for our customers. Around the same time, we became aware of Metro State University (MSU), a school in Denver that offers a sales certificate program at its College of Business. I met with the director of the program, which later led to formalizing a partnership between MSU and Source. As part of our partnership, we have the opportunity to teach sales and sales management classes at the university and to gain access to their students through mock interviews and job fair/networking events. We are now into the second semester of this program and teach between five and seven classes per semester.
As part of each class, we introduce the students to Source and let them know that we are targeting students for hire upon graduation. We ask that all of them connect with us via LinkedIn and let them know that we will do all that we can to consider them for hire at Source and to help them in their career. At present, we have four new full-time sales positions and three new part-time sales intern positions budgeted for 2019 and we will be targeting MSU juniors going into their senior year for the sales intern positions. We will have them make prospecting sales calls, help with business reviews and shadow our sales people. These interns know that we will be evaluating them for potential hire upon graduation, so we expect to get great value for the $12 an hour that we pay them. It will also be very useful for the students to have a sales intern role on their resume upon graduation.
We have formed very good working relationships with the MSU professors, to the point that they direct us to who they believe to be the very best sales candidates in their classes. We are currently in the process of interviewing and have many terrific potential sales candidates to consider. Colorado has particularly low unemployment and finding talented sales candidates can be a very difficult and potentially quite expensive process. After we have hired the successful candidates, we also invest quite heavily in a comprehensive 13-week sales training program for them that includes both internal and external components. It is important to build and provide the appropriate training program as recent college graduates have likely not worked full-time before and will quickly lose confidence if you don’t give them the right tools and support to succeed. We also offer a combination of base salary and unlimited commission as part of their compensation program.
In general, it is typical to lose money on the hiring investment in year one, break even in year two, and turn positive in year three and beyond. We have hired 12 recent college grads over the last 30 months and so far have lost only one. This is very low turnover relative to our competitors. Also, we were recently informed by MSU that they are now offering a new digital marketing minor, so we are considering adding a new marketing intern role in 2019. The marketing intern would potentially help us with search engine optimization, digital marketing content, and updating social media, again for a starting salary of $12 an hour.
I believe this model and strategy can be easily replicated in any market that has a college or university with a sales certificate program. It may not be for everyone, but is something to consider if you are implementing a program that includes hiring a team of motivated, talented sales people.