I am not sure how many times a month I hear a client or prospect tell me they hate salespeople. They say that they do not trust them, and they do not want to hire them. These statements are usually after a discussion on how you plan to get your sales increased and how as the business owner, you cannot be the only salesperson, marketing person, and the chief bottle washer in the firm. When investigating why they feel this way, there are usually similar answers to the questions asked.
How Do You Find and Hire the Sales Person?
In too many cases, I hear I found them on Kijiji or this person was the son of a friend of mine, and they used to sell something. Ask yourself if you think this is a good standard. A salesperson represents your business to your prospects and customers who are critical to the success of your business. Does it make sense that you would not hire someone with the necessary skills and experience to represent your business professionally?
Hiring a salesperson is similar to how you should hire all personnel, but with a little 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 do not understand what this should require, get help in developing a professional sales job description.
Do not list the job on Kijiji or hire the son of a friend who sold something once. Sales is a profession just as marketing and finance. You cannot make just anyone into a salesperson. Use professional job boards such as LinkedIn or hire a recruitment firm that specializes in hiring sales personnel.
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 sales – it is industry-specific, and the sales process and sales 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. If you are hiring a direct salesperson to run your channels, 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 be a skills mismatch. Understand the type of salesperson and the skills you need to perform the job.
Once you decide to interview candidates, make sure that you have an understanding of the type of interview questions, you need to ask and do the proper background and reference checking. If you are not sure how to do this, get help from the outside. There is even testing you can have salespeople take, which can help you for a small fee and is offered by many recruitment firms. 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 to be, but it is important 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, you need to have an employment contract reviewed by a lawyer that outlines expectations, probationary periods, confidentiality clauses, quotas, pay & commission structures, and any additional job requirements.
How Are You Training the Sales Person?
I do not know how many times I have heard it said, “They came in and did nothing and didn’t sell anything.” I then ask the owner what kind of training did you provide. In many cases, they say, none, as they were an experienced salesperson when I hired them.
Someone can be good at selling and understand the requirements for sales in general, but they do not know or understand your products, services, and company. The ownership of training of sales personnel or any staff for that matter about your business and products and services is up to the business itself. The sales process for your products and services may be different from the last ones that they sold, so it is important that you explain how this works in your business, along with any tools that you use.
If you are hiring someone that is out of school that has not worked 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.
How Do You Manage Sales Personnel?
Did you make a mistake before of thinking that once you hired the salesperson, they would work on their own and would be ready to go out and do their job? Salespeople are employees like any other employee you hire, and they need to be managed, but 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. This can be a CRM (Customer Relationship Management System) or could even be Excel Workbooks. There is no excuse for any business not having a CRM today, as there are several that offer free options for small businesses which include HubSpot, Insightly, and Zoho to name a few.
Meeting with sales personnel weekly is vital, whether this is in person or over the phone, to get an understanding of your forecasts, pipelines, and issues that they might be having. As their manager, it is up to you to help them in resolving problems and finding out why the forecasts and pipelines are not as expected. Early on, there will most likely be the requirement of four-legged sales calls where you accompany them on a sale.
We had a client that was upset that after they hired a new salesperson that 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 done “real sales” for their business, and now they were expecting a salesperson to come in and know their business and sell without any guidance, training, or management.
If you find yourself in this predicament, this is when 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. If there is an underperforming salesperson that you choose to keep after the regular, probationary period of 90 days, 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 provide them with 30 days to improve their performance. This performance notice needs to be placed in their HR file. This is the first violation and is why it is important to do this sooner than later. During this period, you, as their manager, 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, and if improvement is not seen then, this could be grounds for termination.
In many cases, salespeople will have already started to look for another position and will 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, and if performance is not seen at the end of this period, they will be terminated. By going through this process and documenting properly, could most likely mitigate and lessen your exposure to legal action and severance pay.
The last complaint that we hear is that the salesperson just up and quit on them and took their customer list and has gone to the competition. The question most asked is if there is any recourse? In most cases, we find out that there has not been a formal contract where this type of information was outlined as part of their employment contract. Without a contract that outlines the terms of their employment, there is not any legal recourse.
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, provide training for them on your business, and manage 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 can also help you hire other professionals to work with, such as recruitment firms for finding candidates or corporate lawyers for developing the right employment contracts and advising you when you need to terminate employment for performance.