Hiring Your First Salesperson
The job of a salesperson is well renowned to be a competitive and sometimes tricky way to earn a living. Sales is basically a people-orientated business and anyone who takes on this role has not only to like people, but also be good with people. This includes being good with different types of customers, who will come with varying needs and also various problems, as is always the case where people are involved.
Taking on your first salesperson is a liberating experience for most. It allows you to spend more time on your business processes instead of becoming too caught up in deals. Inc produced a great article about becoming more profitable while doing less work: http://www.inc.com/john-hall/7-tips-to-increase-profits-by-doing-less-work.html
Websites like Forbes and Inc are great resources for developing a strategy for growing your business and for managing salespeople.
A good salesperson must be well-informed about what they are selling and have the willingness to learn about new products and new company initiatives. They must also be able to relate to people on different levels and be diplomatic. The ability to read the customer and to match their personality style when trying to sell something, is an essential part of good salesmanship. It’s no good speaking softly to a booming giant of a customer, or equally coming on too strong with a customer who is nervous and indecisive or shy. Knowing when to take a step back and when to take a step forwards is imperative. This skill in ‘people-reading’ should be mostly intuitive in a good salesperson, but it can also be taught to a certain extent through training.
A diplomatic approach in all situations is another essential trait in successful sales. Not all companies want to adopt the approach of ‘the customer is always right’, but most will want their sales team to be able to exercise a fair approach and take a balanced view on meeting the customer’s needs, at all times. Therefore, you need someone who is very level-headed and able to keep their cool in just about every situation. Losing the plot in front of customers and being rude is what you absolutely do not want!
Your ideal salesperson will be self-confident, but not overly so and will be able to understand that customers want above all else to be listened to. Making eye contact with the customer is an essential, as well as a good handshake, not too firm, but not too limp! Someone who is introverted and shy will not do well in sales. Equally you don’t want someone who is brash and over-confident to the point of arrogance.
Like all people-facing jobs, sales people have to be well presented in their physical appearance. Often, they are the first impression a customer will get of a company, so being well groomed and well turned out at all times is important, as is the absence of bad habits, such as sniffing, scratching, coughing or any other inadvertent bodily ticks. You do have to be careful though, in these days of equal opportunities you’re not legally allowed to disqualify someone from a job on the grounds of their disability. Very careful selection at interview, with role play and also a basic literacy and numeracy test, as well as checking up on previous references carefully, should ensure you get the right match. A trial period written into their contract is a good idea too, just in case!
We asked Seb Dean of Nottingham SEO firm, The Imaginaire, what he thought about hiring his first salesperson and any advice he’d give to similar SEO companies:
Hiring a salesperson is a big step in the life of your company. I was used to doing everything, from the sales right through to carrying out the web design and SEO work. Sometimes you have to look at your business objectively and think — I can’t do everything and, to grow, I need to push things on by training up staff.
My biggest tip with salespeople is to interview them a couple of times. Make sure they’re hungry and that they know your product. You’ll also want to be clear about your expectations from the outset.
You need to treat salespeople well. Managing them is complex. I tend to pay them a basic wage and also commission. I don’t go overboard with the basic, I pay them enough to get by so they aren’t worrying about their own finances, but not so much that they get lazy when it comes to driving new business.
Weekly meetings are great but I largely let them work from home if they want to. Freedom is a big part of sales and you don’t want to become the boss that they hate. Let them spread their wings and you’ll reap the rewards.