Building a sales team is one of the most challenging things you will ever do because people are difficult. Period. They look great on paper; they make a killer impression during interviews; yet six months later, they fail. And it’s not all their fault. As CEO, you are responsible for choosing the right salespeople and giving them the tools to succeed.
Here in Building a Sales Team Part I, I’d like to up your odds of hiring the right team. For this article, I’m presuming that you have a small sales team (say 25 members or less) or none at all. Sellers are not programmers, marketers or accountants – the way you hire salespeople will be different, and it begins with a few good questions.
How Do You Sell Your Product?
Before you hire any salespeople, there is a lot of work you need to do. First, discover what it’s like to sell your own product. When you get on the phone, what does it take to convert a prospect into a buyer? What objections will prospects raise? How do you overcome them? How long is the sales cycle?
Based on this experience, map out sales guidelines. Should sellers call or email prospects? What is the cadence of communication? What are the most important points about your business they need to get across? When you eventually train salespeople (Part II), they will need documented, specific guidelines on how to sell your product. Type ‘em out now.
Who Can Sell It?
Based on your experience selling the product and your knowledge of the market, you need to determine who should sell it. Complicated products with a high price point and long sales cycle generally call for experienced salespeople. For example, if your company makes expensive medical devices, you probably need sellers with a minimum three years of experience and healthcare expertise. Would you buy $50,000 devices from a 22 year old who involuntarily says “like” and “um” between every sentence?
On the other hand, if you run a tech startup that makes consumer products with a low price point and short sales cycle, you can hire fresh graduates or sellers with one to two years of experience. They’ll most likely mess up a few times, and they might cost you a client or two. In the long run though, the cost of losing a few clients is better than the upfront costs of a larger salary with slower returns, which could kill your business before it even gets off the ground.
What you can pay will ultimately determine who you can hire. Maybe the medical device company can only afford a $35,000 salary. In that case, they might offer equity to get the experienced seller – or they will be forced to teach recent graduates to fake it until they make it.
What Are Your Hiring Criteria?
Now that you have determined who can sell your product, you need to determine what other qualities you want in your salespeople. Pick one to five qualities that every one of your salespeople must possess. Use these criteria to filter all candidates, regardless of position.
At EVENTup, every single person that we hire must have these two qualities: kindness and resourcefulness. Kindness matters because that’s our company culture; you must play nice in the sandbox. Resourcefulness is important because we are a startup and we need people who will be self-reliant, seek out challenges and figure them out on their own. What are your criteria?
Hire Year Round
To hire one salesperson, we generally look at 150 to 200 resumes. We invite 25 to interview and hire one or two of them. Regardless of our current needs, we post jobs year round because we don’t know when we are going to be lucky enough to find a ‘rock star’.
If that rock star lands in your pile of applicants, you have to somehow make it work. Maybe that means signing the person to start in four months, or stretching yourself thinner than you want, realizing that the payoff will be worth it. You can’t choose when the best people step forward – but you’d be foolish to let them go.
Prepare to Get Yourself Out of the Way
As much as you want the people you hire to sell your product the way YOU sell it, that just won’t happen. That doesn’t make your salespeople ineffective or wrong. In Building A Sales Team, Part II, I’ll talk about how to train people in way that sets them up for success yet keeps you (and them) sane.
Finding the right people is tough work, and the reward is the company culture it creates. In a startup, culture exists in people, not some document posted on the internet. The number one reason people like coming to work is because of the people they are surrounded by.
To prospects, salespeople are the living representation of your brand. Choose them wisely.
This article was written by Jayna Cooke from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. SmartRecruiters is the hiring success platform to find and hire great people.