If I took a poll of small business owners of whom they felt were their most difficult employees in relation to hiring, managing and performance, an over sounding majority would say, salespeople. Having been a salesperson in my earlier career and managed salespeople, I will agree, we are not the easiest group to manage due to personalities and traits that tend to run throughout. On the other hand, we are that necessary evil within your business that can make or break a business. By the end of this article, hopefully, those business owners that feel this way will have a different opinion. Something else to keep in mind is that a majority of salespeople who have worked for business owners that have this opinion have interesting stories to tell about their tenure in a small business. Many business owners believe that because they hire a sales rep this will solve all the issues in their business and they should hit the ground running. Many are not provided training on the business or given time to get up to speed on the products or services being sold. Many are not managed by someone within the business and given direction. Another thing that is common is that they are not provided with a contract, quotas, and key performance indicators. The ones that are given quotas are provided with unrealistic quotas that were not met before the arrival of the rep by anyone else in the business.
The Importance of Sales Personnel to a Business
Sales personnel are one of the greatest assets to a business as they are responsible for bringing in revenue which keeps the lights on in a business, pays other employees, and funds the business. With that being said, it is important that you hire the best you can find and make sure they are trained, managed and treated with respect within the business, as replacing sales personnel can be expensive.
Hiring Sales Personnel for Your Small Business
Since these individuals are your greatest asset, finding and hiring the right people is going to be key. You need to develop a job description that outlines realistic expectations of skills, objectives, and provide an understanding of salary and commission. Paying a base salary that is peanuts for a salesperson will get you a monkey. If in Ontario, it is now a requirement that they earn minimum wage. If you let them go and they have not earned at least minimum wage, (even if they sold nothing) you will be paying this on their exit. If you are not experienced in hiring salespeople, hire an outside firm to help you find the appropriate candidates for your business. Use professional sites to list your opening such as LinkedIn, Monster, and Indeed. Do not post a job for a sales professional on Kijiji or a job board.
Once you have found the right candidates, it is well worth the money to invest in someone either inside or a recruitment firm to do a background check, check references and provide them with a sales aptitude test. Having this completed will provide you with the best candidates. Salespeople are good talkers, and most make a great first impression, so it is important that you be prepared to interview them properly to find out if they will fit in your organization and if they have the skills outlined on their resume. If you are not comfortable doing this, enlist outside help. It is important also to look for salespeople that have sold similar products or services. Just because someone sold cars last week does not mean he or she can sell industrial products this week. They may, but there may be more of a requirement on you for additional training. You need to hire someone who is comfortable dealing with your target customer. For example, high tech or industrial salespersons usually have some level of technical knowledge in the industries they have sold. Very different than someone selling retail commodity products.
Once you have found your top candidates (2-3), you will want background and reference checks performed and have sales aptitude tests performed to ensure the best hires. For the individuals that you send an offer, you should have an employment contract that includes points related to the position including quota, salary, commission, bonuses and key performance indicators that are going to be measured. Contracts should be vetted by a corporate lawyer or paralegal who has experience with employment and sales contracts.
On Boarding and Managing Sales Personnel
Before hiring a salespers