One of the key things we are doing as an organization right now is building a sales team. We are looking at 2009 as our breakout year with a goal of $1 million + in sales and a big part of hitting this goal is hiring talented sales people. A few weeks ago I sat down and started mapping out our sales plan, writing job postings, scheduling interviews, and just thinking about the sales culture we want. I’m also writing our training, call scripts, and assigning markets.
I wanted to share my ideas this week. My biggest belief is that if any business can build an effective sales organization then they can build a great company. So here are my thoughts on building a great sales organization.
- Outline the vision and culture of your sales organization. The biggest key to building a great team is knowing what you want. Start by outlining the culture you want to create including personalities, attitudes, work ethic. Then write out the vision you are going after. Sales people like everyone else need a leader. People want to know their leader/manager knows where they are going. These two thing are your foundation. Everyone in your organization should understand these philosophies and if they don’t, they shouldn’t be a part of your organization.
- Write effective and transparent job approaches. The biggest thing everyone hates is not having their expectations met. If you are deceptive in your recruiting or you oversell the opportunity and a person’s understanding of the job is different than reality, you are setting your organization up for failure. This does not mean you need to have long job postings, but make sure the person applying knows what they will be doing. Key things to include: job description, experience desired, links to your websites, links to a client, general description of the product they would be selling. Your goal is to hire sales people who are excited about the opportunity and excited about the product or service they are selling. I’ve posted a job description I’ve used below.
- Prepare for your interviews both over the phone and in person. Interview preparation is not just the candidates job. The burden lies on you as a manager as well. Google good interview questions, read over a candidates resume in advance, and make sure you are focused when you call a candidate. Give them the same respect you want. Hiring the right people starts with the very first interaction you have with someone. A qualified candidate is basing their desire to work with your company on their impression of you as their leader as well as the company and product.
- Don’t oversell. The biggest mistake a manager can make is to oversell the job position. I have had jobs in the past where I was told I could make 6 figures in the first year. About 3 months in, I realized this was not the case and my motivation diminished and I left the company after 12 months. This is a waste of your time and bad for your organization. Balance this out by being very realistic about first year earnings and then painting a picture of what years 2-5 will be like. Remember people want to grow with an organization not jump ship after a year.
- Prepare your staff for the interview process. One of the keys to recruiting great people is letting them interact with current members of your staff. The caveat is teaching your staff how to interview. First, tell them to be transparent and honest. Teaching them to interview is not about being deceptive, but about making them professional. Explain to them your objectives, give them an interview outline, and give them a couple questions that are unique to them so they are not duplicating your questions.
- Create a standard interview process. A routine is helpful for interviewing and it also prepares a candidate for what to expect. Our process is a phone interview, in-person interview with myself, second interview with our staff and pat, and then a final decision. We ask for references after the first in person interview so we can check these at the same time a second interview is taking place speeding up the process.
- Educate and instill confidence during the interview process. The two things I remember wanting to know as a sales rep are: What will i be selling? and What training and support is provided? I knew that with great training and a great product I would make good money, so compensation was not my main concern. Educate during interviews by demoing your products and by giving candidates product sheets so they can visualize your product and get excited about selling it. Create confidence during interviews by explaining how you train and support your sales people.
- Remember that recruiting good people does not stop with day 1 of training. Great people stay with an organization because they are challenged and have purpose. Hold your staff to the expectations you laid out in the interview. Challenge your staff by creating a an expectation of a good work ethic and by teaching them new stuff so they have the drive to learn new things. Lead your staff and create purpose by sharing the organization’s vision, goals, and achievements.
These are the things that I have found effective in building effective sales organizations, recruiting great people, and creating high retention.
If you have some more tips and ideas, please share them in the comments or email them to me directly.
Sample Job Posting:
Subject: Inside sales positions with San Diego internet start-up, ArtisticHub.com
Collar Free is an internet company that brings together graphic designers all over the world to build design competitions for large brands. We built our own clothing line and community www.collarfree.com. We are now using our experience to do this for major brands and companies under the name Artistic Hub, www.artistichub.com.
Check out some articles about us on the press page on ArtisticHub.com and one of our founder’s blog: The Life of a Founder
Artistic Hub’s #1 goal is to build design competitions for large brands and on-demand storefronts for organizations. Here is an example of a storefront: Front Row Foundation. The storefront reduces promotional product expenses for organizations and creates a 15% revenue share giving them an additional revenue stream.
We are growing as fast as we can, but we are self-funded so we need some great sales reps willing to take a little bit of a risk and grow with us. As a result this position is commission only to start. The upside is we pay 70% of the first sale as a bonus and a 30% commission on-going. Also our sales cycle is around 4 weeks so the risk isn’t that great. It really depends on you!
Here’s what we’re looking for:
* A skilled, talented, and full of energy person
* Someone interested in working in a Web 2.0 company
* Someone who wants to be a vital part of a growing team
* Someone who wants to work with and help build a cool company
What we offer:
* Great products that are easy to sell
* A fun office in North Park San Diego with a cool team
* An environment where you will be a big contributor
* A position in a super-fast growing start-up
Interested? Email us with your qualifications, resume, and why you would want to work with us.
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