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Great question…many different opinions and schools of thought when it comes to selling. Fact is lots of methods work and you do have to consider the nature of your product and relationship with the customer when finding the right sales person to hire. Car salesman have a bad reputation often for good reason but fact is the good ones sell cars using hard sell tactics…while this works it may not be how you want your business represented and often does not work well when the goal is to establish a long-term customer relationship.
For a service business like local marketing I have always preferred Solution Selling…which is basically a sales method focused on learning about the customers needs, their pain points and being an educator/consultant type of person to the prospect on how they could alleviate the pains they are experiencing. It’s a very different approach than hard selling that basically rams down your throat things you may not need and pushes you to buy before you have a chance to think it through. Solution or consultative selling is all about getting a prospects attention, taking time to understand their need and then provide a tailored solution they can buy into.
So, you need to be clear on how you want your company represented, are going for quick high-pressure sales or more of a consultative approach that usually has a longer sales cycle…how you approach this will determine the type of sales people you want to hire.
Sounds like Scott Gallagher is going to dig into more detail on this during the Local Marketing Source Member Call tomorrow so for now I’ll share a few higher level thoughts to consider.
Most people recognize that a good sales person needs a solid and unlimited compensation package based on performance as well as recognition. What people often overlook is that a good sales person needs to have confidence in your business and the product or service he/she is selling. In other words a good sales person is making promises, setting expectations and putting their own reputation on the line so they need to have confidence that the business can deliver and their client will be in good hands after the sale is finalized.
This is so often overlooked by businesses that just want to give the sales person some basic training and send them off with a script and menu of services. So, this may seem a bit backwards at first, but you need to be prepared to sell the prospective sales person on how great your services are…once they believe in your business and how they can confidently sell your services…they will attempt to sell you on why you should hire them…that is the mindset you want the candidate in to effectively screen their sales and people skills.
During the screening process put them through a number tests:
- have them send you via email their resume and a few paragraphs on why they think your business is a good fit for them (you are testing their ability to follow-up in written communication). Those who don’t send you the the email with 24 hours don’t make it to the next round.
- Then ignore there email for a few days…see how long it takes for the person to follow-up…keep ignoring emails until they pick up the phone and call you (you are testing their persistence and there ability to pickup the phone and call rather than hide behind email).
- For those candidates that call, reject them for some reason…”you don’t have over x years sales experience”, “you don’t have a college degree”, etc. (you are testing how they handle rejection…do they give up…do they get defensive…or do they persist and persuade you to focus on their strengths and how that will benefit your business).
Little tests like this are very effective in weeding out bad candidates so you don’t waste your time with a formal interview unless they have passed these basic tests.
If you really want to build an effective sales team it is my opinion that you need to hire them rather than go the independent sales rep route. Independent sales reps are basically just affiliates and while they can be effective you have very little control over their level of activity and how they are presenting your business.
Independents can work great for a quick product sale, but I have not seen them very effective for selling professional services that require a level of knowledge in the services being provided and a building of a relationship with the prospect to understand the customers pains and educate them on a solution. Most independents just won’t invest this kind of time and energy to effectively sell a specialized service.
Regarding leads, ideally you should have some form of marketing efforts creating leads for your business…this could be as basic as list of businesses for your target industry and market area or you may have a more developed marketing initiative with marketing campaigns such as a postcard mailer, seminar, etc. bringing in more qualified leads.
Ideally you don’t want a good sales person wasting time trying to pull lists…you want them focused on making contact with prospects. So, basically I am suggesting that the leads do not have to be warm and they don’t even have to be highly-qualified, but to get the most out of your sales person you should plan on providing some form of a list of leads that fits your target industry and market area.
This is also important when it comes to holding a sales person accountable for activity and projecting future growth. In sales, activity (contact with prospects) yields results so it is important to have some metrics to track activity…initial qualifying discussion with prospect complete, decision maker determined, initial consulting assessment meeting confirmed, assessment completed, proposed solutions presented, etc…
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