Tips on Recruiting Your First Sales Team


Congratulations, you’ve worked like a Trojan, and built your business to the point where you’re ready to employ your first sales person.  One of the biggest causes of new business failure is not poor products or services, but poor sales, so this is an important decision. Here are some tips for recruiting your first sales team:

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It’s a big investment that you must get right.  When you look online for advice, most of it relates to the recruitment process. However, the effort you put in prior to recruitment is vital for making a successful hire. So, what are the most common pitfalls, and how do you avoid them?

The Pitfalls

  1. Hiring a clone of myself
  2. Blaming the sales person when things don’t work out
  3. Both

Surrounding yourself with people just like you doesn’t make for a balanced team. As your business grows it becomes increasingly important to have complementary skills. It may be more comfortable to hire someone you’ve a lot in common with, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the best sales person.

In start-up mode, you’ve probably been fulfilling multiple roles - developing your product, managing finances, making sales.  It can be hard to stop yourself from ‘interfering’. What are your expectations? You’re not hosting The Apprentice, so it’s critical to be clear on the sales person’s role and responsibilities, how they will be managed, and the level of support they will get.

Avoiding the pitfalls requires preparation, but investing time in advance of recruitment saves a lot of grief later on.

Recommended reading: 10 Mistakes Not to Make With Your Sales Presentation

Five questions to answer before you write the job advertisement

1. What kind of sales team do I require?

  • How will we contact potential customers? By phone, face to face, or a mixture of both?
  • Will I employ in-house or outsourced sales people?
  • Experienced or not? (This depends on your own level of sales expertise, the time you’re prepared to spend supporting them, and how much you’re willing to pay.)

2. Defining the job

  • Will I segment my team into Hunters and Farmers?  (Someone who specialises in finding new business or an account manager.  Your sales person may need to do both.)
  • Prepare a comprehensive job description that works for your business.  Don’t just download a sample from the internet.

3. What should I pay?

Consider the total package, not just salary. Your sales person is a major factor in your Cost of Sales, so you need to ensure you have sufficient margin on your product or service. If you don’t know where to start, have a look at similar jobs advertised. What does your competitor pay?  Perhaps your LinkedIn network or other contacts can help. What’s the balance between salary and commission? Will you cap On Target Earnings (OTE)? What is your expenses policy?

4. Where will I find them?

Using a specialist recruitment company is one option, but tight budgets may prompt an alternative approach. Social media and your own website will give your job advertisement some exposure. Understand how potential candidates look for work - online recruitment sites, professional associations/colleges, LinkedIn, print ads, etc. There’s always business networks, family and friends (be careful of the line between personal and work relationships).

5.  How do I manage them after I hire them?

Don’t abdicate your responsibility to set up your sales team for success. Your actions have equal influence over sales results as their performance.

  1. Who will manage them?
  2. Develop activity standards and targets
  3. Create a reporting process
  4. Write an induction plan
  5. Assemble training and support materials
  6. Prepare to manage and coach

These tips are just the starting point. If it sounds like a lot of work, don’t despair. It’s really not as daunting as it seems, and gets easier the more times you do it. If you’re feeling ‘stuck’, I suggest either consulting someone you know who is more experienced at hiring sales people, or consider using professional recruiters. Either way, the more thought you’ve given to defining the right sales ‘fit’ for your company, the better the result.

Before recruiting your sales team, consider the wisdom of Red Adair,

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Over to you now. What's your experience of hiring sales people for your business? Tell us in the comments below.

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