There comes a point in every business growth journey when you just have to bite the bullet and make that first sales hire. However building a sales team can be one of the best and smartest decisions you make or equally you can feel like you are trying to herd kittens if it is not tackled in the right way.
Here are some tips on how to build successful sales team and avoid some of the common pitfalls.
1. Understand and map your own sales system first
There are many parts in a full end to end sales process which require differing skill sets and expecting one hire to come along and build or take over the entire process is unrealistic and they will fail, especially if you’ve yet to map and understand your own winning sales process first.
A better solution is to hire for parts of the sales system initially where you can increase momentum before continuing to scale up. For example, could you find an incredible digital and social media manager who can serve you much better quality leads, what about a telephone terrier who can skillfully make that initial contact, scope an opportunity and set appointments.
Perhaps you have a recurring income based model with an existing client base, but are lacking resources in skillful account management which would allow you to increase the depth and penetration of your existing client base, especially if they are blue-chip or multi-national clients with lots of untapped opportunity.
Or perhaps you do indeed need a skilled B2B sales professional, a hunter who can chase down those leads and close more new business (but beware these types are not natural lead generators and will struggle if you do not have a lead generation system already established).
When it comes to types of sales skills and sales roles, one size does definitely not fit all. Decide which parts of your Sales Engine would increase exponentially with more resource and start there.
2. How much do you have to invest?
People are expensive, as is the time and cost to recruit them. Depending on the lead times in your sector you will need to accommodate a time lag in results, in your budget calculations and cashflow.
As a general rule of thumb allow 6-9mnths. Ironically this maybe faster in larger businesses with more established sales systems, but in a smaller business where a new person is effectively building from the ground up, it takes time for the uptake in sales to make its way through the pipeline, and you need to be in a position to underwrite that increased overhead in the medium term.
Remember as well as someone’s salary and contributions they will need some tools to do their role, be that laptops, mobile phones, software licenses and unless they are purely office based they will incur travel expenses.
Of course you can scope and recruit for a part-time role, or consider Outsourced or Freelance consultants who can bring skill and experience often on an hourly or daily cost base. However, if you want to get sales moving faster than what I’ve suggested above, then one quick shortcut is to hire the top performing sales person from your competition.
And finally when it comes to building a sales team, the old adage ‘hire slowly, fire quickly’ could not be more true. If you realise you’ve made a mistake and someone is just not going to work out, then act fast and conserve cash, don't pray for a miracle that won’t come.
3. Mix the skill sets, don't build a team of clones.
Unless you are at the stage where you are building duplicate teams in new geographical territories, avoid building a team of clones – initially.
Instead follow the thread from the previous point and continue to recruit for the differing parts of your sales engine, or at least different channels or sector specialisms. Don’t recruit clones, play to each others strengths.
We ourselves have a 2 to 3 stage sales process and within our team, we have good openers, good pitchers and good closers so we all play to each others strengths, with each person setting the prospect up for the next part of the process and skillfully handing over the client management to the next most appropriate person to move that sale along. It’s a team effort and everyone shares in the reward.
This may not be relevant in a transactional sales model, but in more consultative sale elevating the sales relationship internally which mirrors the elevation of authority with the prospect, is a great way to ensure your most experienced and usually expensive sales people are focusing on the more challenging, lucrative and profitable deals.
4.Induct them properly
Finally, ensure you induct your new sales hire properly. Essentially you want your new person to be up to speed as fast as possible, so be prepared to invest the time needed, especially in a smaller business.
Who do they need to shadow for those first few weeks, not least YOU! They should be glued to your side for the first few days at least.
Make a plan for what they will need to learn about your company, your way of doing things. Create a Sales Bible (your sales operational manual), begin with just a shared folder on your server and copy down as much best practice as you can – build it as you go. For example, create a folder entitled ‘Example email closes’ or ‘Example Linkedin introductions’ and simply drag across information as you create it.
There will be so much best practice already in your business, the trick is to have it documented centrally so that others can learn from it, and improve it ongoing.
The quality of someone’s induction can massively impact their effectiveness, morale and desire to succeed long-term. Not something to be overlooked or done on the hoof.
Building people capacity and scaling your sales operation is a crucial part of business growth and can mean the difference between long-term success and failure. Do it right from the outset and you create the foundations from which to build Globally.
By Nicola Cook, CEO of Company Shortcuts, an agency dedicated to excellence in business growth and leadership.