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Appointing a sales person is one of the most important hires you can make as a business owner. New customers are the lifeblood of any business and if you are to achieve the grand plans that you have for your company then you will need to bring someone in. Whether they are brought in to hunt for new business or follow up on the referrals and incoming leads that you receive making the right appointment is key.
I have appointed lots of sales people over my 20+ career in business and some of them have been very good and some of them bad! Appointing a salesperson is such a key job when you are growing as this is someone who is going to be the face of your company to new prospects. The last thing you want is a hot lead who you have courted for a while saying ‘no’ because of the way in which the sales person you employed talked to them or didn’t do what they said they would.
I often get asked by my clients on what to look out for when you appoint someone in sales and so as someone who lives and breathes sales every day, here are my top 10 tips to consider when appointing a new sales person within your business!
If you would prefer to watch my video on this subject rather than read the details of the blog then view the video on my YouTube channel here.
1. Test their attention to detail within the application process
I always put a small test within the application process to see if the person reading the application has read the job description and how to apply details fully. Something like include your favourite meal and why within your job application’ works as it shows whether they have an attention to detail. I believe this matters because if they can’t do it within an application for a job, how are they going to do it when a specific requirement is asked for within a tender? The best salespeople are good at presenting themselves and their company but also pay attention to the smaller aspects as well.
2. Don’t expect miracles in the first place
This is something I see a lot when I speak with smaller businesses and especially business owners who traditionally have not felt that comfortable with sales or selling. They have not been very good at selling their service but just because they are paying someone to now do a job, they now expect that person to do what they couldn’t do and achieve miracles!
There are very good sales people out there who will work hard, learn and really try to sell the service that you have but what is key is not to expect miracles of them. If you as the business owner couldn’t sell 20 service packages per month, why should the sales person be expected to do that? Yes, ensure that they have targets which can recoup the investment you are making but don’t expect them to be miracle workers either. You are just setting them up for failure if you do and in the end that will result in them leaving and you feeling despondent about the role and value of sales in general. Be realistic and if you’re not sure how realistic what you are asking for is then talk to someone and sanity check it. I am always happy to provide answers to queries like this if you email them to email@example.com
3. Be clear about the targets
Before you think about appointing a sales person, you need to be very clear about what the targets are that the person will be accountable for. How much of your service do they need to sell? Is that per month or per quarter? How many calls or appointments do you expect them to make per week or month? How many leads should they have in their pipeline for you to be happy?
If you are not clear yourself on what you want the sales person to achieve then that person is going to be destined for failure. Be clear about what you want and what you think is reasonable and then outline this to them within the interview process. If you want to sanity check your targets, then talk to others or feel free to tweet me @jameswhitesales and I will happily provide some advice depending on the service you sell and the amount you sell it for.
For example, it is pretty reasonable to expect a telesales person selling a service for under £50 per month to make 50 calls per day but I would not expect a sales person selling a £30,000k service to have 15 meetings per day!
Be clear about the targets you have but tie these into point 2 which is make them realistic and achievable. A good test is could you do what you are asking? If you could then could you show this? If not, then what you are asking for is probably unrealistic and so adjust them to make them achievable but clear!
4. Ensure you offer unlimited commission
I was asked last week by someone whether they knew of any good sales people who would work for them. They suggested that they were going to not pay for their time but pay a good commission level up to a certain amount. My response was ‘good luck with trying to make that appointment!’
Most sales people know that the work they do will be more focused on what they achieve but the best sales people will want to know that there is no limit on what they can earn. They will want to know that if it was possible to achieve, could they earn £1000 or £5000 if they hit the targets set? Is there anything put in place to stop them earning huge amounts of commission?
The answer to this question should be no. Of course, you need to put in parameters alongside commission plans (such as paid after client has paid, not paid if service is cancelled within 3 months etc) but do not make the mistake of trying to limit what a sales person can earn.
Pay them a decent basic wage and then give them realistic targets which really allow them to earn great money. Do this and you are likely to find a number of good sales people want to work with you.
Offer them nothing and then limit what they can earn and prepare to still be looking for someone in 3 months’ time!
5. Ask them to describe the 1st week in the job
When you interview them, ask them to describe the first week in the job and what would be the perfect first week for them. You should be looking for them tosay how they want to get to understand the company, learn more about the service and look through the prospect list. They should be telling you that they will be keen to understand how current customers bought and look at the database for prospects that are similar to this customer, so they can reach out to them. The reality is the best sales people are hungry to get on with the job of making calls, speaking to new prospects and trying to earn themselves commission. If the typical sales cycle within your service business is 2-3 months then the sales person will know that unless they get started soon, they are not going to be getting the big pay checks that they want! The best want to get started soon and start to build their pipeline.
If you get comments such as ‘I want to wait a few weeks before I start speaking to prospects so that I understand the company and what we do’ then be wary. If they are not particularly hungry to engage with new prospects in week 1, why will they be any different in week 6 or week 12?
Look for hunger and a desire to get started as soon as possible!
6. Ask them to sell to you what you do
Within your interview process ask the sales person to sell to you what you do. This does 2 things. It firstly allows you to see how much research they have done into you and your company before the interview. The best sales people research and get to know their prospects before they try and engage with them and so if they haven’t done that with you, the chances are they won’t know or understand the prospects they are trying to reach, and this spells bad news!
The second reason is that it allows you to assess and measure the way they sell. Do they look to ask questions and probe into the challenges and problems that you have? Do they make an effort to understand you first before trying to sell to you? Or do they just go head long into talking and then talking more about your service and how great it is? The best sales people try to understand their prospect before trying to sell to them. No prospect likes to be talked at and bad sales people like to hear their own voice rather than listen to their prospects voice.
Get them to sell to you and see what approach they take!
7. Look for their character and their approach to learning
I have always believed that I can teach skills, but I simply can’t teach hunger or desire and if the sales person you are looking to appoint does not have these characters then you are going to face a challenge.
How have they shown hunger to improve and better themselves? What courses have they attended recently? What books have they read? Which experts on YouTube do they subscribe to? If the answer to most of these questions comes with an excuse or a blank face, then be wary.
The best sales people know that in order to be successful they have to improve and develop. They have to show character and a willing can do attitude to learning and to becoming better. They may not know everything about your service or about their profession but if they show a hunger to understand it, develop themselves and most importantly learn then its something you can build on.
If the person sitting in front of you at the interview has a ‘I know most things approach’ and says ‘I have learned some great things in the past’ then the chances are they are not going to be open to learning that new CRM system or new tool to engage with prospects. They are also unlikely to want to learn new objection techniques or new scripts that can get build trust with a prospect and that would spell potential trouble to me.
8. Test their written word
The best sales people are not only good on their feet presenting or excellent at building rapport on the phone, but they also understand the written word is key in winning new business.
I encourage companies to actively test the written word of a sales person within an interview and see how they provide a response to simple query or how they would approach an initial prospect.
If the email or document is full of spelling mistakes then the chances are, this is how they will approach written interactions with your prospects and what message does that send about you and your company?
Good sales people have to be comfortable across all communication mediums and work to improve a weak area if they know this is stopping them from achieving the sales results they would like. Test out the written word of a prospective sales employee by asking them to create an email to introduce themselves to a prospect or to follow up on a hot lead which has come in. See what response you get and if you look at it and think ‘that looks awful’ then the chances are your prospect is going to think the same way!
9. Seek References and Take them Up
People move on in the modern work place and I read somewhere that millennials will have around 6 jobs before they even get to the age of 30! Therefore, seeing someone move around would not bother me that much as an employer but what would bother me is if the people they had worked for were not prepared to act as references for them.
If the sales person you think about appointing puts references on their CV which are 10 years old then it should make you question them and how they get on within the workplace.
Ask to speak with employers who they have worked with recently and ask for the phone numbers of these people so that you can speak with them and get a sense on what the person is really like. The person sitting in front of you could be very good initially but then lose interest after 12 months and need another challenge. This might be ok for you and your business but at least if you know that from speaking to a reference you can make an informed decision.
So many small businesses are desperate to hire someone and give the job of ‘sales’ to someone else that they forget to do the basics which is to take references and check that the person has all of the relevant qualifications needed for the job. If the sales role you have is in a specialist or protected area, then ensure that these checks are made as well before appointing someone. It may take you a little time to get to speak with someone, but its time well spent!
10. Hire Slow and Fire Fast
My final point of advice is simple. Even after going through the above points and doing as much research into a person as you can, you sometimes make the wrong appointment.
I know as I have done it a number of times and when that happens you need to act fast and not prolong the bad decision you have made.
I appointed someone and watched them a few days later wait in their car for 15 minutes until 8.59am before they came into the office. The mindset of the person was to work their set hours and no more and I knew at that time they would never be successful in my business. I made the brave decision to change and fire the person straight away and although they had done some other good things, my gut feel told me they would not succeed long term.
The first few months are critical for any new hire you make, and I have seen so many people try to stick with the decision they have made because they don’t want to go through the process again. You are only storing up more long-term pain for yourself if you don’t take action soon.
So, there you have my 10 tips on how to hire a sales person! I hope this helps you get the right appointment in place! If you need any help on knowing who to choose or how to make the right decision then call me, I am always happy to help great service businesses make the right appointments to help them grow!
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