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Hiring Good Salespeople Starts With an Internal Review

The question comes up almost every time a client figures out it is time (or even past time) to hire one or more new sales people. They ask how they should go about the hiring process as they explain with a pained facial expression that they don’t know how to do it, or how in the past they have not been able to find good people, ones capable or willing to do the hard work to bring in new sales to help them grow their business. I feel for them, for my own experience at both large corporations and at my own small businesses that hiring good people is one of the most challenging tasks for any manager or owner and it seems particularly hard when hiring sales people. Yet if any small business is to grow, meaning sell more of its products or services, it will almost always need more efforts devoted to the selling process. Very simply, the more selling time and effort that is invested the more likely sales will grow. And more selling time almost always means more people doing more selling. Hence the need to have a growing sales force to help grow sales whether in good economic times or bad. Before offering some tips on how to be successful in hiring good sales people for either inside or outside selling, may I suggest that every business owner start with an internal review to ensure the business is really ready for more people selling its products or services. 1 Begin with a review of your products and services. Are they of good actual and perceived quality? Are they competitive to the products and services offered by your evil competitors? 2 Then proceed with a review of marketing. Have you targeted potential new customers by name, size, demographics, geography, industry and person or title who do the buying of whatever it is you are selling. Does the business (meaning you) have updated industry knowledge on product and pricing trends. And very importantly, who is the competition and what are their known strengths and weaknesses. 3 Pricing is always a key issue, so have prices been set that are competitive while also providing an acceptable profit margin? Have the terms and conditions of a sale been established and does the sales literature and website recap this information for potential customers to review quickly and easily. 4 A clear and simple job description is of great value to the boss / sales manager and the new hire so everyone understands what is required and expected. 5 Compensation like pricing is always a key issue. Are you going to pay the salesperson a base only or will commissions or bonuses be part of the package? Whatever is decided, it should reflect both what the company can afford, what the competition is paying and enough to truly recognize and reward the important task of the sales person in bringing in the vital revenue needed for every business. 6 The territory or account responsibility for this new sales person should be determined in advance and then adjusted based on who is actually hired, where they live, their existing experience and expertise, etc. If there is an existing list of accounts, a pile or steady stream of leads that marketing efforts will be creating, be sure to have them ready to help the person get started. 7 Will the salesperson work out of the office or will they be calling on customers at their place of business or home? If they are to be out, will you allow them to work out of their home office or must they drive to your office each day to ‘check in’? (Note – unless you operate a retail store, there are no customers in your office, so it may not make sense to have them work there but rather out of their home office, car and customer’s offices.) 8 If you have been in business for a while, it should be known who are the mostly likely potential new customers. If true, share past sales information on current accounts so the new person will understand who he or she should be targeting and the size and substance of potential sales. In general, a salesperson with a focus on potential new customers is more likely to succeed than one who is sent out to just ‘sell anyone who will buy’. 9 You the owner / sales manager must be ready to set aside the hours or days required to train and support this new person during the first few weeks or months on the job. Management should assist, advise, help, guide, encourage and generally mentor a new salesperson until he or she is stable, experienced, confident and expert in achieving the sales everyone wants to see accomplished. Ben Tenn is the Small Business Development Center Business Advisor for the San Fernando Valley. The SBDC, the leading SBA resource agency, provides no cost professional and confidential business advising services and low cost workshops to help entrepreneurs start, build or grow their business. To request an appointment or learn more call (661) 294-9375.

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