When you hired your first salesperson — did you experience pangs of hesitation? Or are you ready to hire the first member of your newly formed sales staff? Like most entrepreneurs, deep down you know, “If I want my business to grow, I have to suck it up and give up some control!” Generally, apprehension is based on a fearful perception that, “A sales guy wouldn’t truly represent and sell my brand the way I know I could.”
Developing a sales force can be a risky yet rewarding endeavor. It is where you will learn one of the most essential lessons in entrepreneurship: Empower others and let go!
Do you Need a Sales Staff?
First, determine the sales channels that worked best for your business this past year. A sales channel is a part of the larger distribution plan in which you get the final product to the end user. When modifying or developing a sales channel – a conduit through which your product gets in the buyers hands – it’s important to focus on the most profitable channels with the highest returns.
Most small businesses will start off with direct channels. Direct sales conduits include your sales force, brick and mortar retail store, website, or telephone sales. Think of the secondary, indirect sales channels, as growth catalysts for your business. For example: retailers, resellers [VAR’s: Value Added Resellers], distributors, wholesalers and telemarketers. These indirect conduits, likely contracted, can help an entrepreneur expand distribution and reach into new territories or markets.
Keep in mind, not every channel will be effective for every industry. Understanding how your customers prefer to shop and what you need is vital to deciding what channels [channel strategy] you should focus on.
If you find that you are ready to hire your first or next sales superstar, here are some key essentials to help you focus and execute seamlessly.
Develop a System
1. Develop a simplified outline of your current sales process; if you don’t understand it neither will your new hire.
2. Decide what type of salesperson is needed, inside or outside sales; there is a difference in skill sets for each role.
3. Create a monthly sales forecast, using excel, based on your historical sales over the prior 6-12 months.
4. Develop sales goals based upon historic learnings and buying cycles; be conservative for the first 60 days so your new hire can learn the ropes.
5. Research and identify new leads; create an excel spreadsheet or database to track potential customers and clients.
Tip #1: Manage the sales process and utilize sales force automation tools to make your life easier: Try Salesforce, PipeJump or SugarCRM.
Recruit Winners and Doers
6. Recruit locally first and then explore opportunities to set up a virtual sales team.
7. Research salary and commission based compensation figures using Salary.com.
8. Outline a basic description for the position and include: a company description, a job summary, a list of job functions, work experience required and skill sets needed to be successful in the role. Use SimplyHired or Indeed for example job descriptions.
9. Post your new job description and prioritize candidates with sales experience.
10. Screen candidates thoroughly; ask behaviorally targeted questions to gain insight on soft skills and problem-solving capabilities.
Tip #2: Use high reach and niche sites for recruitment including Craigslist, OLX, and Guru.
Hire Sales Superstars
11. Schedule a brief on-boarding presentation
for your new hire(s) to share your vision, information on the business and individual performance goals.
12. Review quantifiable sales performance goals. (e.g. Identify 10-20 new leads per week and move X number of units or new clients per month)
13. Hold regularly scheduled meetings dependent upon the sales cycle and your business needs.
14. Let your superstar test the water – head first! On the job training is essential. No amount of booklets, sales materials or pep talks is better than simply getting started. However, set your new hire up for success by giving them the information, tools and support needed to win.
15. Monitor pacing towards target goals using sales automation tools mentioned in tip #1.
A sales force of 1 or more can yield substantial returns for your small business. Empower others, develop performance incentives and grow incrementally. Take it one day at a time. Always set people up for success and encourage them during the process.
Most importantly be amenable to adjusting the process and accept feedback from your new sales superstar. There is much to be learned from customers and sales partners in your channel that are out there on the front lines every day supporting your vision.
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