How to Hire and Grow the Perfect Sales Team
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Running a creative agency isn’t always a walk in the park, and the need to constantly find new leads can leave you feeling like a hamster stuck in a wheel.
Cold calling doesn’t always work, and advertising can be hit or miss. For many agencies, the most reliable source of lead generation comes from doing consistent, high-quality work for current clients and then hoping for a referral.
To make matters worse, a lot of creative agencies are run by creative types of people – or those that would rather build a website than sit around making sales calls.
That’s where the sales team comes into play.
Many agencies are experimenting with hiring small sales teams to do some of the dirty work of finding new clients, but a sales team is really only as good as the people hired.
If they can sell your product or service on a consistent basis, great! If not… you end up wasting valuable resources and you still don’t have the ideal client list. That’s why it’s important to learn how to hire and grow the right sales team.
When it comes to selling, it’s important to define “success”.
Does success mean selling X amount of products in the fiscal year? Does it mean signing up X amount of customers in the next six months? Does it mean building X new websites for a certain type of industry or niche?
After you have determined what “success” means, then your next step is to figure out how to sell.
Can your offering be sold over the phone or does it require face-to-face interaction? Will you need to provide live demonstrations or will an online demo suffice?
Salespeople meeting with potential customers over the phone or via email often require different skills than someone going door-to-door or conducting conferences or live demonstrations. For example, if your sales channel is going to deal with in-person sales pitches, you need someone who is confident with speaking in front of people.
Your selected sales channels will ultimately affect the makeup of your sales team, so be sure to nail out the details before you start the hiring process.
Hiring the Right Team
Of course, once you have a clear vision, it’s time to start hiring. Whether you decide that your company can afford to put together a robust team or you decide to transition a few spare office workers, the hiring process can make or break you.
Have a Solid Hiring Process
While having a great hiring process is paramount to having a successful sales team, the trouble is that the characteristics often looked for during an interview are not always the ones that drive results down the road.
While things like educational background, prior experience and previous performance are important, it’s better to identify potential team members who possess work ethic, motivation and confidence.
Eric Sui, CEO at Single Grain, recommends asking different questions during the interview process to elicit more telling responses, including:
- Is this person coachable?
- Ask the candidate to sell you a bottle of water
- Ask the candidate to tell you about a time where he or she demonstrated an entrepreneurial flair
He also suggests asking questions pertinent to their knowledge of the product, service or industry, to show that they have a solid grasp on the requirements for the job itself.
Assess Your Current Team
But the hiring process isn’t all about bringing on new employees. Don’t be afraid to promote current team members into new positions, or likewise, say goodbye to anyone who is not pulling their weight.
Just because you hired someone who was bright and chipper at the beginning doesn’t mean that they’re still doing a great job months or even years later. Having a great sales process doesn’t prevent against burnout.
According to Entrepreneur, some of the traits a successful sales team should exhibit include drive, optimism, people skills and persistence.
If your current team no longer reflects those attributes, take some time to reevaluate and make changes.
Growing Your Team
Once you’ve settled on some great people to form your team, the next step is focusing on steady growth over the long haul.
Focus on People, Not Just Results
One of the ways to keep your sales team from burning out is to focus on the people who make up the team and not just on the results they are producing.
Keith Benton, CEO of Benton Marketing Strategies, says in this article:
“The bottom line manager asks, ‘Is the team as a whole meeting their quotas?’ The people manager, on the other hand, is deeply involved in his team’s everyday struggles and doesn’t pay close attention to the bottom line.”
Benton suggests that “people managers” tend to receive longevity from their sales team with much less turnover, though he also notes that “people managers” can sometimes have inconsistencies in production.
However, these inconsistencies can be avoided by focusing on building the team through regular training.
Training Your Team
Master sales coach Jack Daly says that the majority of companies simply hand people a box of business cards and tell them to go sell, but if you aren’t training your team, it can cost you. He suggests having a thorough, consistent training program for your team.
For a proper training approach, Daly notes that there are two considerations: First, are your people getting the training they really need? Second, which of your people are getting the most time and attention?
Contrary to popular belief, Daly says that it’s not about training every single person on your sales team, but rather concentrating efforts on those team members with the most skill and potential.
He says, “Start training your five best people how to be even better.” And he’s not afraid to tell you to let the stragglers go if they aren’t producing consistent results.
Ultimately, hiring a great sales team is about looking for potential and going beyond the basic interview questions. You are looking for bright and determined individuals who can connect with your potential and current clients.
Be sure to define what “success” looks like so you know which people will work best for the sales tasks at hand.
Once you’ve made a hiring decision, don’t be afraid to reevaluate and reassess those team members at any given time. While it’s ultimately about results – after all, you want your lead generation numbers to be high – it’s also about preventing burnout. You may consider promoting, transitioning, or releasing team members that just don’t fit.
Look for training tools that help give your team longevity and be sure to focus on what they need to succeed. After all, if they do their jobs well, it means more business for you.
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