Small companies often experience growth spurts where they need to build a sales force. Whether the company is starting from scratch or plans to enter new markets, its first consideration is deciding whether to hire inside or outside sale reps, or both. Additionally, an owner will need to recruit, interview, hire and train the sales force to expand coverage into the new markets.
The first step in building a sales force is recruiting. You must decide how many sales reps you need to cover the additional markets, and which percentage of the reps will work inside and outside of the business. After that, you must determine the amount of experience you are looking for among the new sales reps. For example, do you feel sales reps should have three years of general sales experience, or would you prefer to hire people with two years of industry experience? Some common sales recruitment methods include placing newspaper and Internet ads. You can also hire a search firm and contact some of your suppliers for sales candidates, according to Entrepreneur.com.
Interviewing and Hiring
To hire the most qualified candidates, learn how to conduct sales interviews. There are certain interview questions that can better help you determine which candidates are most suitable for the job. For example, ask a sales rep to explain a difficult selling situation, then have him tell you the actions he took to make the sale. Another technique is to test the sales rep by telling him that he is not qualified for the job. Any good sales rep should be able to rebut your statement, tell you why he is qualified and overcome any objections. Take your time in finding candidates whom you think will be successful. Hire those who are highly motivated and best demonstrate their sales skills.
Make sure that your compensation package is commensurate with those of other companies in your industry. Compensation can include salary plus commission, which is usually two to 25 percent of the wholesale price, commission only, or a salary plus bonus. Compensation is important because you will want to retain the sales reps once you hire them and sales reps are usually extremely money-motivated.
At least a week or more of your training should be devoted to learning the product. You or someone who knows the products well should oversee the training. New sales reps should be trained on product features as well as the various prices. You will also want your sale reps to become highly familiar with the key benefits of your products versus those of competitors so that they can better sell them. After product training, new sales reps should spend some time in the field with experienced sales reps. If you are starting from scratch, you will need to assign your most experienced reps a territory right away. Assign a sales quota or goal for each territory that will be used to monitor each sales rep’s performance.
The key to expanding a sales force is training some reps to become sales managers. You should then send them to the new markets and put them in charge of hiring additional sales reps. In a growing organization, you may be promoting people to management in several weeks. The process of product and field training will be ongoing. Eventually, you can send trainees out with more experienced reps before assigning them to new territories. Your role will become that of a regional sales manager who oversees all markets. However, if you are an owner, you will also have marketing and other strategic responsibilities as well. You may eventually consider hiring someone else to run the sales department.