No farmers in Start-ups
This sales idea is a short-read reference for business leaders who are thinking about employing a sales team.
When businesses are in start-up mode, processes related to hiring and firing a sales team may not be firmly established. Often business owners do the selling themselves. Maybe they decided having some independent sales people as the next stage.
Yet, further down the line the following encouraging signs indicate the need to build a company sales team:
Customers or prospects are giving positive product feedback
More and more leads are coming in
Revenue are growing enough to afford hiring sales people
Product demand is visibly going up
More, worrying, signals are:
Reducing lead to sale conversion
Lack of lead follow up
New sales/revenues slowing down
Reduced new leads flow
Timing is crucial. Hire the team too early and your cash burn rate will increase. The less positive signals above could mean you have some catching up to do.
The best sales people are hard wired to make sales. They are not strategists or product developers. Give them a ready-made product to sell that has at least proof of concept and demand.
Before starting to recruit ask yourself what kind of sales team your business needs most. Here are key considerations other than defining who your customers are and how they want to buy:
- Hunters and farmers. The sales hunter is best suited to a business where finding new customers is the priority. An additional benefit of the hunter is that they are not lead dependent. They create their sales leads.
Farmer sales people focus on the longer-term customer relationship to maximise sales from existing customers. They are experts in developing existing relationships and retaining them against the competition. Most start-ups need sales hunters much more before they need sales farmers.
- Field sales. Some products and services need face to face selling and relationship management. Product complexity, uniqueness and deal values are drivers for this. Field sales people should spend most of their time doing one of the following: finding new customers, quoting and signing new deals.
- Inside sales. When your product is simple to explain use and lower in value, an inside sales team may be all you need. The job is very similar to Field sales yet, sales are made from the office and face to face meetings are very rare.
- A combined field and inside sales team can be useful where the initial sale is made by a Field seller. The ongoing relationship is with an in-house sales person or team. The in-house sales team can also qualify sales leads before the field sales team gets involved.
- Partner sales. If selling to partners, who sell your product on your behalf, is your strategy, your sales will develop more slowly. Sales farmer qualities in a sales hunter are useful here as this is a relationship-based sale.
Once you know what your sales team structure looks like, the next step is to devise a reward system that encourages each team member to overachieve in their role. Compensation schemes can be tricky to design so here are two tips:
- keep them close to your company strategy,
- make them as simple as possible to understand.
Now it is time to hire your top team. A simple hiring process will pay off as you are likely to have to interview a good number of candidates to find the very best. The following guide will help designing it.
- Use an agency to do pre-selection or do it yourself. The main advantage of using an agency is time savings. You may well have to go through 100 cv s or more so let the agency do the job and it will save you a lot of precious time. The advantage of doing it yourself is that you know everything there is to know about your business. (Hiring the best means you will have to sell the job role to the candidate you want)
- Have a clear role description. You can share a role description with candidates/agencies. Include key responsibilities (use numbers where possible), role scope, location, benefits, why your company exists, how it works and what is sells. It is good to state what experience you seek in candidates' track record.
- Define the hiring steps and time frames such as: 1) CV review, 2) Telephone/Skype interview, 3) F2F interview with CEO, 4) Decision.
- Have a set of similar questions for each candidate to avoid going by gut feel only. Stay with role specific questions like: "Tell me about your best sale to date. How did you go about it?"
- Ask for proof of previous sales successes. Commission statements are a great way to validate a candidate's past successes.
Once you have made successful job offers, there are three strategies to keep your team fired up and motivated:
- Knowledge: Keep building the team's product and market knowledge. Your customers see them as experts in their field
- Skills: Whilst the best sales people have a very special talent, most must learn and develop their sales skills in prospecting, engaging prospects, needs discovery, product presentation and closing skills.
- Attitude: Personal motivation, passion and drive are just three elements of what creates the right attitude for successful sales people. Keep feeding their passion for the company cause.
There are a lot of considerations as you move forward with building a sales team from the ground up, but it’s worth taking the time to develop a plan that will take you forward. Following the above steps and honestly evaluating whether you’re ready to start building your sales team, will help to ensure that your is positioned for maximum growth.
I have built successful sales teams in the past and am very happy to share my experience whether you sell traditional goods or state of the art service solutions.
Gert Scholts +4438010170