Developing a sales team for your small business can be a scary, risky and rewarding endeavor. It is where you will learn one of the most essential lessons in entrepreneurship: Empower others and let go!
Do you need to hire a sales team?
First, determine the sales channels that worked best for your business this past year. A sales channel is a part of the larger distribution plan in which you get the final product to the end user. When modifying or developing a sales channel – a conduit through which your product gets in the buyers hands – it’s important to focus on the most profitable channels with the highest returns.
Most small businesses will start off with direct channels. Direct sales conduits include your sales force, brick and mortar retail store, website, or telephone sales. Think of the secondary, indirect sales channels, as growth catalysts for your business (e.g., retailers, resellers (VAR’s: Value Added Resellers), distributors, wholesalers and telemarketers). These indirect conduits, likely contracted, can help an entrepreneur expand distribution and reach into new territories or markets.
Keep in mind, not every sales channel will be effective for every industry. Understanding how your customers prefer to shop and what you need is vital to deciding what channels [channel strategy] you should focus on.
If you find that you are ready to hire your first or next sales superstar, here are some key essentials to help you focus and execute seamlessly.
Develop a sales system for your small business
- Develop a simplified outline of your current sales process; if you don’t understand it neither will your new hire.
- Decide what type of salesperson is needed, inside or outside sales; there is a difference in skill sets for each role.
- Create a monthly sales forecast, using excel, based on your historical sales over the prior 6-12 months.
- Develop sales goals based upon historic learnings and buying cycles; be conservative for the first 60 days so your new hire can learn the ropes.
- Research and identify new leads; create an excel spreadsheet or database to track potential customers and clients.
Tip: Manage the sales process and utilize sales force automation tools to make your life easier: Try Salesforce, PipeJump or SugarCRM.
Recruit salespeople that are winners and doers
- Recruit locally first and then explore opportunities to set up a virtual sales team.
- Research salary and commission based compensation figures using Salary.com.
- Outline a basic description for the position and include: a company description, a job summary, a list of job functions, work experience required and skill sets needed to be successful in the role. Use SimplyHired or Indeed for example job descriptions.
- Post your new job description and prioritize candidates with sales experience.
- Screen candidates thoroughly; ask behaviorally targeted questions to gain insight on soft skills and problem-solving capabilities.
Tip: Use high reach and niche employment sites for recruitment including Craigslist, OLX, and Guru.
Hire sales achievers for your small business
- Schedule a brief on-boarding presentation for your new hire(s) to share your vision, information on the business and individual performance goals.
- Review quantifiable sales performance goals. (e.g. Identify 10-20 new leads per week and move X number of units or new clients per month)
- Hold regularly scheduled meetings dependent upon the sales cycle and your business needs.
- Let your superstar test the water – head first! On the job training is essential. No amount of booklets, sales materials or pep talks is better than simply getting started. However, set your new hire up for success by giving them the information, tools and support needed to win.
- Monitor pacing towards target goals using sales automation tools mentioned in tip #1. A sales force of one or more can yield substantial returns for your small business. Empower others, develop performance incentives and grow incrementally. Take it one day at a time. Always set people up for success and encourage them during the process.
Most importantly, be flexible to the process and accept feedback from your new sales hires. There is much to be learned from customers and sales partners in your channel that are out there on the front lines every day supporting your vision.
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