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HIRING THE RIGHT SALESPEOPLE FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Updated: Feb 14, 2023


Salesperson

How many times a month do I hear a client or prospect tell me they hate salespeople? The owners will say they do not trust them and do not want to hire them. These statements are usually after a discussion on how you plan to increase your sales and how as the business owner, you must not be the only salesperson, marketing person, and chief bottle washer in the firm. When investigating why they feel this way, there are usually similar answers to the question.


How Do You Find and Hire the Sales Person?

A salesperson represents your business to your prospects and customers, who are critical to the success of your business. In too many cases, I hear they found the salesperson on Kijiji or this person was the son of a friend of mine and used to sell something. Ask yourself if you think this is a good standard. Would you not want to hire someone with the necessary skills and experience to represent your business professionally?


Hiring a salesperson is similar to hiring any other personnel, but with some extra due diligence.

  • You first need to develop a job description that includes the requirements and expectations for the position, the qualifications for the job, and the soft skills that you believe are necessary to fit into your business. If you need help understanding what this should require, get help developing a professional sales job description.

  • Use professional job boards such as LinkedIn or hire a recruitment firm that specializes in hiring sales personnel. Do not list the job on Kijiji or employ the son of a friend who sold something once. Sales is a profession just like marketing and finance. You cannot make just anyone into a salesperson. In many cases, some personnel firms specialize in particular industries. Because someone was a top-tier salesperson selling cars does not mean that that individual will be successful in selling technical equipment. Sales is not the same across all products and services. It is industry-specific, and the sales process and cycle are most likely completely different.

  • It is also essential to understand that the skills differ for direct salespeople and those that sell through channels. Suppose you are hiring a direct salesperson to run your sales channels. In that case, you may find your salesperson is trying to sell for your channels instead of helping them to sell. If you hire a channel sales rep who is more relationship-focused on making direct sales, this could also be a skills mismatch. Understand the type of salesperson and the skills you need to perform the job.

  • Once you decide to interview candidates, ensure you understand the type of interview questions you need to ask and do the proper background and reference checking. If you are unsure how to do this, get help from the outside. There is even testing you can have salespeople take, which many recruitment firms offer for a small fee. They also can help you take care of the interviewing and background and reference checking. Salespeople are excellent talkers, and we all want them and need them to be, but it is essential if you feel you are not able to see through the “talk,” be sure to get some help with the interview process.

  • Before you bring a salesperson on board, a lawyer should review an employment contract that outlines expectations, probationary periods, confidentiality clauses, quotas, pay & commission structures, and any additional job requirements.


How Are You Training the Sales Person?

I then ask the owner about the training they provide to sales personnel. In many cases, they say none, as they were experienced salespeople when I hired them. I do not know how often I have heard afterward them say, “They came in and did nothing and didn’t sell anything.”

Someone can be good at selling and understand the requirements for sales in general, but they need to learn or understand your products, services, and company. The ownership of sales personnel or any staff training on your business and products and services is up to the business itself. The sales process for your products and services may differ from the last ones they sold, so it is vital that you explain how this works in your business, along with any tools you use.

If you are hiring someone out of school who has yet to work as a salesperson, then it is your responsibility to train them in sales skills as well. You cannot expect someone who has never performed in a sales role to hit the ground running. If you feel uncomfortable training them in sales skills, then there are sales training firms you can hire to help.


How Do You Manage Sales Personnel?

Did you make the mistake of thinking when you hired a salesperson, they would work on their own and would be ready to go out and do their job immediately? Salespeople are employees like any other employee you hire, and they must be managed. Still, this management is a lot different than other types of employees.

Sales personnel are goal-based reward-driven people. They should not have to apologize for this, as this is what sets good salespeople apart from low performers. You need to set KPIs (key performance indicators), which are realistic and obtainable for your business, and you or the manager of the sales personnel need to track and monitor performance.


As a manager of sales personnel, you need to provide them with the tools to track their contacts, prospects, opportunities and other key performance indicators that you are measuring. The tool can be a CRM (Customer Relationship Management System) or Excel Workbooks. Businesses must have a CRM today, as several offer free options for small companies, including HubSpot, Insightly, and Zoho.

Meeting with sales personnel weekly is vital, whether in person or over the phone, to understand your forecasts, pipelines, and issues they might be having. As their manager, it is up to you to help them resolve problems and find out why the forecasts and pipelines are not as expected. Early on, there will likely be the requirement of four-legged sales calls where you accompany them on a sale.

We had a client upset that after they hired a new salesperson, they did not hit the ground running. In talking to the owners, it came to our attention that most of their sales to date had been referrals through people they knew. Even the owners had not performed “real sales” for their business. Now, they were expecting a salesperson to come in and know their business and sell without guidance, training, or management.


If you find yourself in this predicament, you need to bring in a coach or consultant to help you understand what needs to be done for your business and possibly guide and train your sales personnel.


What Happens When Your Sales Rep Quits or You Let Them Go?

Getting rid of a salesperson, if it is your choice, is harder than other employees, as you have to have shown that you have provided them with goals, set expectations, and provided proper training and management. Suppose there is an underperforming salesperson that you choose to keep after the regular probationary period of 90 days. In that case, it will take you 60-90 days to get rid of them if you do not wish to pay severance and the possibility of them choosing to take a lawyer.


For non-performance of sales personnel, you have to provide in writing a notice of non-performance and give them 30 days to improve their performance. This is the first violation, and the performance notice needs to be placed in their HR file. During this period, as their manager, you have to show that you have gone out of your way to help them improve their performance. At the end of the 30 days, if nothing has improved, then you need to provide them with a second written notice of non-performance. If the improvement is not seen, this could be grounds for termination.


In many cases, salespeople will have already started to look for another position and usually leave before the 60 days is up. If they are still in your business, you need to provide them with a final letter stating that this is the last letter. If performance is not seen at the end of this period, they will be terminated. Going through this process and documenting it could mitigate your exposure to legal action and severance pay.


The last complaint that we hear is that the salesperson quit on them, took their customer list, and went to the competition. The question most asked is if there is any recourse. In most cases, there has not been a formal employment contract where this information was outlined. With a contract that outlines the terms of their employment, there is little legal recourse. A contract protects you as well as the employee.


Summary

When it comes time to hire sales personnel for your business, this will be one of the most critical hires you can make. You want to hire the right staff to represent you and your brand outside your business. For this reason, it is essential to take this decision seriously and invest the time and effort in bringing the right person on board, providing training for them on your business, and managing them properly so that you have a productive sales force.

If you need help in this area, this is an area where we have helped many of our clients. We have usually performed this for clients through business coaching. We can also help you hire other professionals to work with, such as recruitment firms for finding candidates, corporate lawyers for developing the proper employment contracts and advising you when you need to terminate employment for performance.



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