chapter 34

Deploy a Sales Team

Sometimes getting that first sale is a quick endeavour. But sustaining growth in sales quickly makes you realize how tough it can be to be a one-person sales team, especially if your product requires a little more convincing than traditional consumer goods.

The obvious question that you'll probably have next is: How can I afford a sales team? The answer is that your sales team has to be designed to not only pay for itself but also bring in additional revenue and customers, so it’s all about how you design your team. Think of your sales team as miniature stores that act independently and each bring in their own revenue.

So how do you design a sales team to do this?

Determine Your Sales Goals

Considering that you may bring on a few sales people, what kind of sales numbers do you want to hit each month? Remember the entire point of creating a sales team is to achieve financial growth. So you need to figure out what your first financial goal will be, then work backwards and see how much you can pay your sales team to get to that goal.

This math will be iterative. You’ll have to spend time adjusting numbers to see what wages, commissions and number of salespeople will work with your goals.

Commission Pay Structure

Next, you’re going to want to create a wage structure which incentivizes your team to create business.  Here’s a basic structure:

  • Base rate – Trying to hire salespeople for commission only jobs tends to be pretty difficult. And without having tried the job first, there is no way of them knowing if your company provides the support and resources they need to make sales.
  • Commission – Typical sales people will make a percentage of the revenue they bring in. You’ll obviously have to do some math to see what you can afford to pay in terms of commissions. The general rule of thumb is: the higher your commission, the more motivated your sales team will be to go the extra mile.
  • Bonus – For sales people who really knock it out of the park for a given month, you may want to consider offering an additional payment bonus. This is a great way to lure sales people towards certain sales goals you have set.

The beauty of a sales team is the fact that they have to be somewhat independent. It’s up to them to make sales.

How Do You Get Your Sales Team to Make Sales?

Obviously, just having people sit in your office or warehouse all day is not going to stir up any business. You’ll need to make a plan for them to follow so they can create business. Here are a few ideas:

  • Twitter – Encourage them to build relationships on Twitter to help build customers and evangelists. You’ll have to tell them that it will take time and not to be too aggressive. Most importantly, they should design their twitter profile to have a unique title at your company. For example, their Twitter bio should say “The Happy Man at XYZ Co.”. The idea is that they aren’t labeled “Sales at XYZ co” or “agent” or “representative”. The last thing you want them to do is scare off their prospects.
  • Reaching out to Past Customers – One of the easiest ways to stir up sales is to reach out to customers who haven’t purchased in a while. Remember, you essentially paid for these people to become customers in the first place. Don’t let them slip through the cracks! Just give them a gentle reminder that you’re still in business to serve them.
  • Provide Live Chat or a Toll Free Number – By simply making it easier for customers to buy from your site, you can increase sales. Let your sales team “man” the live chat and phone lines to help customers buy from you and teach them to upsell! Upselling is the art of enticing customers to add more products to their order.
  • Check your Email Marketing Replies – A common place for untapped business are from people who reply to your email marketing campaigns. Perhaps you should also think about making your email marketing a bit more interactive to stir up conversations with customers.
  • Events, Tradeshows and Networking – Like we talked about in previous chapters. Live events are great places to generate business. Your sales team should be a perfect fit for these events. With a sales team your company can hit more events during the week than you could ever do by yourself.

Hiring the Right Sales People

This is the hardest part if you’ve never done it before. If you put an ad out for a job position, you’ll likely receive hundreds if not thousands of responses. So how do you find the best talent?

  1. Look for previous sales experience  – Sales is extremely tough because it requires a great deal of emotional armor. Great sales people can face being rejected 100 times in a row and can keep trucking. Therefore, only a select few are really cut out for sales. If this your first time creating a sales team, only hire seasoned sales people as they’ll be able to teach you a thing or two.
  2. Call their old employer  – Checking references is tedious, but it’s the best way to weed out the winners from the losers. For people who apply for your sales position that don’t list references to their old job, just throw those applications in the round file.
  3. Check their LinkedIn profile for recommendations  – This can be another way to cut down your applicant list. If they don’t have any LinkedIn recommendations, you can eliminate them from the running.
  4. Don’t hire green salespeople  – You’ll find plenty of people who will say “Yes” to everything you ask and are even willing to work for commission only – yet have no prior sales experience. You probably want to stay away from these people. In the end they won’t make any sales and will waste your time and energy. It may be tempting to hire people willing to work for free – so if you really want to try it, be prepared to hire 100 of them! Because only a few of them will make any sales.
  5. Provide generous compensation  – Since you’re looking for the best, reward them with decent if not stellar pay. Again, this can be in the form of high commissions. It’s worth it. These people will be essential to growing your revenue and more importantly your customer base.

Be Nurturing 

The worst thing you can do is hire your sales people and then tell them “to figure it out” or “I hired you so I don’t have to do this work”.  In order to achieve the greatest amount of success you will need to be available to answer questions, point them in the right direction and give them ideas on how to sell more. You’ll need patience at first and you’ll probably have to work “overtime” to get the team to gel.

But again, if you look at this as an investment (like going to get a MBA), then you should understand that it’s not automatic and it will take some elbow grease on your part. As soon as you start hitting your sales goals, consider promoting your best salesperson to be a sales manager. This way he or she can take over the nurturing task and also onboard new sales people.

Next chapter

35. Get Going with Tradeshows

3 min

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