About a year ago when Curtis Kindred of American Defense Systems (ADS) decided to reorganize his sales team and shake up his company, people were skeptical. Hiring on a host of sales reps that were young, coachable and eager to make a buck was what had always been done, and what many swore by. Kindred decided to take a different approach, focusing on the family-men, the careerists, and those looking for long-term benefits.
As President of American Defense Systems, Kindred always had a lofty vision for his company. By turning away from the traditional “eat what you kill” model to invest in well-trained, experienced employees, he hoped to incentivize employees, not contractors, to stay for the long haul.
“We were trying to figure out ways to retain sales people,” Kindred said. “So we thought we would try paying a little more up front and get more on the back end by having the person stay with us longer than a 1099 might stay on board.”
It worked. ADS is one of Monitronics’ top Authorized Dealers, bringing in both quantity and quality accounts.
Changing the Approach
The company had traditionally used a contractor, large-group approach with generalized interviews that typically yielded one or two quality sales reps. Beginning last July, Kindred began a one-on-one interview approach to more closely screen candidates.
“We felt like we were chasing our tail with reps coming on and leaving,” he said. “Now we’re looking for established sales professionals who are also quality people. This way, our retention is higher with a higher quality of accounts.”
ADS started the concept on a test basis in its home territory, and the practice has now become company-wide and highly successful.
Enhancing the Offering
The package includes a base salary that increases based on sales, along with different levels of commission based on upsell production. Also offered are medical, dental and vision insurance after 60 days, paid holidays and vacation time based on longevity. Reps are also required to make two sales a week to stay on with the company.
Benefits have been one of the biggest selling factors when attracting quality candidates to ADS over other competitors, explained Kindred. In the past, candidates would like everything about the company but have to pass on the job due to the lack of benefits. Now, he offers a complete package that attracts the highest caliber salespeople.
In addition, by adopting this employee structure, sales reps don’t have to worry about withheld taxes or the complicated processes that often go along with them. The company takes on a higher expense by matching a percentage on the benefits and paying into payroll taxes, but Kindred contests that it has slowed the revolving door to reps. This saves them a great deal on their bottom line.
Kindred said their goal is to not have to babysit employees, but also to help them find the right fit for a long-term career move. ADS spends time nurturing employees, training them and teaching sales tactics. By offering a well-rounded opportunity, employees feel respected, and act like it’s a more professional job, rather than just a stopping point on the way to the job they really want.
Lessons from the Year
Throughout the transition, Kindred said his biggest challenge has been finding people that want to be accountable. But, by weeding out those that don’t up front, ADS ends up saving time, money and effort in the long run.
“Our approach attracts people that are clean-cut, put-together and that know how to sell,” said Kindred. “Now we can take those people and teach them about alarm systems to complement the sales training they’ve had already.”
When asked for his advice to other dealers thinking about making a change, Kindred urged them to go for it. “Make sure you are profitable, and pick a path and stick with it. Don’t waiver back and forth and accomplish nothing. If you want to be big, be prepared to take risks, and don’t try to do it by yourself.”
A year later, Kindred’s success is the proof in the pudding.