Flowing logically from our recent Business Tip sections on Job Description, Compensation and Recruiting Practices from the NTCA Reference Manual, the Sales Team topic in the Sales chapter of the Business Section details what’s needed for an effective sales team.
Did you ever wonder why some people seem to be able to sell anything? I’m sure you’ve run across this type of person – and have probably bought something from them! In this section, we’ll talk about how to hire your sales staff, and we’ll address questions like:
- How much experience should your sales reps have when you hire them?
- How important are computer skills?
- What should you look for?
- What should you include in training for your sales reps?
- What personality traits make one person a better sales person than another?
- How do you know if you’re hiring a “star” or a “dud?”
Hiring the right sales people
When you begin the process of hiring your sales team, it pays off to first spend some time planning and setting up a budget. Advertising, recruiting, interviewing, and training are all expensive, and you don’t want to waste your time and money on the wrong candidates.
Before you interview your first applicant, have in place the compensation structure you plan to use. Depending on how attractive it is, it may be a good enticement for top candidates.
Write out the complete job description. For example, put in writing the leg work that must be done prior to making a sales call, how you expect existing customers to be serviced, how you expect records to be maintained, how many calls should be made in a week, etc. Think through the entire sales process and detail how you want it to be done, what tools will be used, and your expectations for their results.
This exercise should include not only what you want sales reps or account managers to do, but also how you want them to approach it. Think about the style of selling you want them to use.
Evaluating your sales candidates
You should have a good idea of the experience and skill level of your job candidates after reviewing the hundreds of resumes you’ve most likely accumulated. At this stage, you should be asking:
- Have they been in front of people selling before?
- Are they right out of school, or do they have a few years of experience to draw on?
- Do you have a strong enough training program to allow you to hire recent grads with no experience?
- Do they have what it takes to actually perform the technical functions of the job? – In other words, do they have computer skills?
There are a lot of things to think about. With selling, experience isn’t always the most important thing to look at, especially if you have existing sales reps that can assist in the training and mentoring of new recruits.
In order to be good sales representatives, your recruits have to have good research skills to find out about their prospects and know and understand their needs, their business, their business structures, etc. These skills can be taught, but experience in digging up the necessary information is helpful. These days, that experience includes internet research skills, as well as good old-fashioned research techniques – asking co-workers, making phone calls, and using business reference books at the library.
Your candidates also need to be good communicators. The majority of what a sales rep does involves communication – both written and verbal. Whether it is explaining the specifications of your product or service or communicating how your prospect will benefit from the product or service, much rides on how this is articulated and negotiated. Pay close attention during the interview process to how your candidates articulate their qualities and “sell” themselves to you.
What level of computer skills do your candidates need? If you’re planning on using any type of contact management, then they have to be familiar with the basics of word processing, spreadsheets, and maybe the fundamentals of relational databases. You should also look for knowledge of presentation software like Microsoft® PowerPoint. Many clients expect high-level presentations from sales representatives, so your reps have to be comfortable using technology, and in some cases designing their own presentations.
Outside sales representatives, also simply known as sales reps, are professionals who commonly travel to businesses or other organizations in order to sell their firm’s products or services. Maintaining contact with current customers and attracting new ones, professional sales reps make presentations to buyers and management or may demonstrate items to production supervisors. Salaries are typically at least partly based on performance since outside sales workers frequently receive commissions on their sales. Although many sales workers receive a base salary in addition to commission, some receive compensation based solely on sales revenue.
An inside sales representative position is exactly what it sounds like: selling products to potential customers from within a sales office. This means that an inside sales representative will primarily be speaking to existing customers and potential customers and following leads over the phone. Inside sales, where showrooms are involved, may require working with product selection for customers or their designer representative.
Most inside sales positions don’t require much more than a high school diploma. Most training is completed on-the-job. Inside sales representatives must be able to communicate effectively and persuasively both in person and on the telephone and good computer skills is essential.
For access to this entire document, as well as the information-packed NTCA Reference Manual itself, contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or 601-939-2071 to speak about NTCA membership.