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How Laird Plastics is Recruiting the Next Generation of Sales Talent

NAW's 2012 Chairman of the Board talks about recruiting college graduates.

A lot has been said recently about finding the right talent and then developing programs to retain that talent. In his address to the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors’ Executive Summit, Mark Kramer, president and CEO of plastics distributor Laird Plastics, explained how his company is tackling that challenge.

The 2012 NAW Chairman of the Board said it’s critical that the industry build its brand and make the benefits of working in distribution known to young graduates. He said the plastics distributor has targeted college graduates for sales positions in recent years.

“Show me your recent hires, and I’ll show you your future,” he said. “… Do we see grizzled veterans of the industry hired primarily from competitors? Do we see ‘Hail Mary’ hires from outside the industry? Or, do we see bright, young talent eager to be trained and developed in the values and visions of our companies? ”

It’s growing more important to look to the next generation for fresh talent. Population demographics are shifting, Kramer said, as the baby boomers retire in large numbers leaving management and sales vacancies. With them, knowledge of the company will also go.

Markets are also maturing across some sectors, which results in more competition for stabilizing volumes, he said. New sales skills will be needed to succeed in that environment. And the Internet has given customers more power in the market, again changing the skill set needed, particularly among salespeople.

Kramer encouraged distributors to look to college programs that have sales certificate programs, which produce young talent that comes into a distribution company a step ahead of new salespeople who have little experience. He said more than 70 colleges and universities have developed these programs.

“The graduates of these programs arrive to the business world fully schooled in the mechanics of the selling process, sales call interaction and how to create value propositions and handle objections, to name just a few skill areas. … This means we are able to move our hires rapidly along toward becoming significant ‘result contributors,’” he said.

Related: In the latest 7 Minutes With … interview with MDM, Stewart Strauss of Strauss Paper Co., Port Chester, NY, talks about how he has retained employees for the long term by training them and providing a clear career path for them within the company. (Listen to that and other executive interviews here or watch below.)

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