How to Build a Killer Sales Staff

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on June 22, 2011
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You know you’ve got a great product. But getting the rest of the world to realize it is the tough part. That’s why you need a sales team to get the message out about your business.

Your company will rise or fall on the strength of your sales staff, so it’s essential to hire the right people to represent your brand to potential buyers. Here are some strategies for building a killer sales team.

Be prepared to pay for quality. Many sales representatives are paid on a primarily commission-based model, but making the base salary too low is likely to rule out qualified candidates who don’t want to take the chance that your product isn’t ready for market. Offer a generous base salary, and use commission-based bonuses mainly as added incentive for sales.

Ask for a recommendation. Check in with your vendors, clients, and business contacts to find out if any of them know good salespeople who are currently available. Asking for a referral through a status update on LinkedIn, or checking out your contacts’ connections there, can be good ways to find likely candidates. Industry knowledge is a bonus, but if a salesperson has gotten great results in the past, it’s likely that you can quickly get him up to speed on the requirements of your particular niche.

Pay attention to the interview. For many positions, the job interview isn’t a good indicator of success. But in a sales position, success or failure is tied directly to a candidate’s personality — so it’s well worth investing time in a thorough interview process to make sure that you find the right fit. In the interview, ask your candidate questions such as describing a recent successful sale, what a typical sales process is like, and how she interacts with prospects. For more questions, check out this list. The way the candidate answers the questions is more important than the responses themselves: You want to make sure that your candidate is confident, self-assured, and polished.

Start small. There’s no need to ramp up your business by hiring a full sales team at once; start out with a single salesperson and see how your product sells before building a full team. If your first salesperson begins meeting goals within the first quarter, consider bringing on several more representatives and asking each of them to cover different regions.

Check out all the data. If the salesperson isn’t meeting your expectations, analyze the situation carefully. Is the problem with the salesperson himself, or is the product not ready for market? Are you going after the wrong types of consumers? Ask your salesperson to collect detailed feedback from prospects to find out why they’re not buying your product, and work with those notes to make improvements to your business model.

Don’t be afraid to reboot. If the product isn’t selling, it may mean that you should cut your sales staff temporarily, then try prospecting for clients again once you’ve worked out a better business strategy. Or, it may be that you’ve simply hired the wrong guy — in which case, don’t be afraid to replace him. The wrong sales hire can bring your business down, but the right one can help you make a quick rebound.

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