Saturday, April 02, 2011


Eight tips for hiring better sales reps

Guest post by Juli Bacon, president, JB Consulting Systems

In the course of my 19+ years of Human Resources experience, I have dealt with many issues due to poor hiring decisions related to sales representatives. Looking back over the various disciplinary or termination issues, I found that most employers make common mistakes in hiring, motivating, promoting and terminating sales reps.

Rather than addressing these mistakes one crisis at a time, I decided it is finally time to write some of my observations down and spread the word to a larger audience.

Sales Representatives must be motivated.
Each person is different, so you have to figure out what motivates them to sell for you. For some, the almighty dollar is a significant motivation while others may be energized by the adrenaline rush of “making the deal”. Your sales person might be inspired by hitting a sales number, making a quota, hitting enough sales to push them to a higher commission level. If your business relies heavily on making cold calls, a person who sells best through building relationships is not going to perform well.

Hire only sales reps who are motivated by your commission structure.
If you have a set commission structure and you aren’t going to make changes to it, then only hire sales reps that are used to selling under that type of structure. Otherwise you will not get the results you expect.

Sales reps do not have to be experts on your product.
Many companies make the mistake of requiring that a sales person have a certain amount of experience in their particular industry. This is rarely necessary. A good sales person with a bit of education in your industry will figure out the key information necessary to sell your product or service. You don’t want them to be the expert. I think of a good sales rep as someone who can make you sell the shirt off your back and make you think it’s your idea.

Good sales reps are good listeners.
Prospective customers with the right prompting will tell you what their “pain” is and the right sales rep will listen for that and sell how your product or service will help stop the pain.

Sales reps must be free to sell and not be bogged down by paperwork.
I have seen many clients require Outside Sales people to be in the office a certain amount of time. I have seen clients require their sales staff to process a lot of paperwork. If they are in the office, they aren’t out selling and if they are doing paperwork they are not on the phone making sales or out in the field making sales. If you have more than one or two sales reps, you might consider hiring a good administrative assistant or sales assistant to process the paperwork.

Great Sales Reps might make more money than anyone else in the company, even the owner and that’s OK.
I have heard owners make comments about their sales reps making more money than them and some have even terminated sales reps because they did make more money. If they are making a lot of money then your company should be making more money. I struggle with this issue more than most. At times, I have seen some instances where the company had a poor commission structures but other times it seems as if the owner just doesn’t understand that selling more makes them more money.

Don’t micromanage your sales representatives.
If you have given your sales rep time to learn your product or service, understand how the sales process works and then sent them on their way, you need to give them some time to make their sales. Many owners or sales managers schedule way too many meetings with their sales reps to find out how they are selling, who they are working on and when the deal will be made. This not only irritates a good sales rep but demotivates them and wastes precious selling time. A weekly sales meeting early in the morning or during off selling time should be adequate. If it isn’t something isn’t working right.

There is a big difference between inside and outside sales representatives.
Sales people who are really good at inside or outside sales can rarely make the transition from one to the other very well. There are those that do, but the positions require different skills.

Good inside sales reps do not have to be face to face with the customer to make sales, and they may not like or do well trying to sell face to face. They build their “sales persona” on the phone and that persona might not be who they really are. Moving them to an outside sales position where they have to interact with people can have a devastating affect on their esteem as well as their sales. Good outside sales reps rely on watching body language and looking their prospect in the eye. That same person may have difficulty making a meaningful connection over the phone.


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