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5 Essential Requirements for Creating A Kick Ass Sales Team (Hint: It's More Than Just Hiring “Closers!”)

How to hire a salesperson or a sales teamLet’s face it; sales people are unique. The job requires specialized skills, particularly, the ability to deal with rejection. Plus, most salespeople are “coin-operated,” in that their compensation is, usually, tied directly to their success. There’s probably no role in a company, except the owner/CEO, where the lack of achievement can imperil its future and be harder to fill.

So, given this set of minefields, how does a small business owner successfully find and build a professional sales team that can help the company grow?

Whether you’re about to hire your first salesperson, add to your existing staff or plan to re-start your sales organization, here are five essential requirements for maximizing your efforts and getting early and positive results.

1. Finding the right fit.

Salespeople come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Whether you use Craigslist, Monster or a search firm to find your prospects, social media provides an excellent source of initial screening. How they behave on outlets like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn will tell you a great deal about their personality.

Do their background and behavior fit in with your culture? That’s critical. Additionally, in their resume history, have they ever been “classically-trained” by a company with a known sales culture like IBM, Xerox, GE or Oracle, among others?

That provides a solid foundation for ANY sales position. Do they fit the type of product mix you have? For example, if your products require significant consultative selling, have they done that in their past; or do they have the right depth of industry experience required to present and sell your products effectively?

2. Interviewing, hiring and managing expectations.

Interviewing sales people can be intimidating, particularly, if you don’t have a sales background. So you have to be ready for that. But more important, while you should have multiple people in the organization interview them to gain various perspectives, few, will have the right frame of reference.

Whether this is your “maiden voyage” into an in-house sales force or simply an addition to an existing one, use your advisors to assist with the process, especially, those with strong sales or sales management backgrounds to help better assess sales skills. Sure, you want assurances that they are “closers.” But, since they know what products you sell, have the prospective sales hires prepare a short pitch for how they would sell one of them.

Make it part of the interview process. It will tell you a great deal about how the salesperson will represent you in the marketplace. And as for references, get them from both former customers and former employers to get a complete picture.

Finally, once you have hired them, develop a, mutually agreeable, game plan, with objectives and milestones, for their first 90 and first 180 days, so you can manage your expectations vs. what they believe they can produce.

Commission only is a bad idea for your salespeople.

3. Compensation.

The single biggest question I get asked by small business owners – “what’s the right compensation for salespeople?” And my answer is always, ”it depends.” Be careful, here, because many small business owners, particularly those who may be engineers or developers think their product is so easy to sell, so “why pay big bucks?” It’s always way tougher than you might think and you most always get what you pay for.

In any case, sales compensation is a necessity. Results should drive that compensation. However, I believe it should have two components; a base salary and incentive compensation, based on sales success. Now, there are almost as many comp plans as there are businesses. The right one for you is the one that works for you – meaning the one where you’re satisfied with the results and the salespeople are satisfied with their compensation for those results.

And whether you make it a bonus, or a commission as a % of sales revenue or gross profit; whether you have bonuses for new accounts or special bonuses for certain products, one thing is important.

“Commission only” is an old, tired and cheap concept.

Basing a sales person’s total compensation solely on performance, i.e., no base salary, you get what you pay for. Sales people, under this type of plan, will only look for “slam dunk” situations where they don’t have to spend much time and will be negatively impacted and probably leave if external factors like market downturns, significantly curb sales potential. “Commission only” is a good way to foster sales force turnover.

4. Support - it’s all about “team.”

No matter your product, sales is everybody’s job. Sales success is a team effort with the salesperson, the quarterback of the team. As the small business owner, you have to facilitate and foster the team concept.

Typically, it begins with marketing creating awareness for the company and its products, through the company website, social media, email campaigns, trade shows, etc. This, in turn, creates leads for sales to close. Once the deal is closed, depending on the type of product involved, it could trigger everything from ordering parts or raw materials to beginning the manufacturing process, all aimed at delivering that product to the customer.

Perhaps, that also triggers training at the location of the client before or with product delivery. And finally, it moves to customer service to support the early stages of product implementation. All part of the sales process, because unless and until all the steps are completed, nobody gets paid. So, sales is a team effort, requiring many parts of the company beyond just the sales person, ending with a satisfied customer, the company getting paid and the sales person being properly compensated. Finally, celebrate sales successes as a team effort!

Salespeople hate sales reports and creating forecasting reports.

5. The bane of all salespeople – reporting.

Sales people, universally, hate paperwork (or desktop/laptop administrative work). This includes sales reports and forecasts. But both are essential to a robust sales process and a successful sales force. If you are building a fledgling sales organization, you, as the owner will have to manage the sales process.

So keep the reporting requirements simple. There are, literally, dozens of inexpensive cloud-based CRM systems out there like Nimble, ZohoCRM, Pipedrive, Hatchbuck or Tie-It, that can provide an easy way to track all leads and customers. It should also provide a vehicle for sales forecasting, which, if it’s managed properly, should provide critical data to management as the company continues to grow. The simpler, and easy-to-use the sales tools, the more quickly sales will adopt and use them. The better information the owner has to run the business.

Creating a sales team is no “walk in the park.” It requires a good understanding and execution of these five key essentials. However, if you follow these five steps, you are on your way to finding and building a professional sales team that can help the company grow.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

Have you been faced with having to build (or re-build) your sales team? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.

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