Building a Sales Team for Your Small Business

Are your small business's sales up to par? If not, perhaps you need a better sales force. A poor sales staff can struggle to sell even the best product or service, while skilled salespeople can generate huge sales for average products or services.

Ready to build a first-rate sales force for your small business? Here's a step-by-step roadmap to get you started.

Hire in-house salespeople. You might be tempted to hire outside sales reps who represent products from many different vendors. But having an in-house sales force offers you direct control over your team, and lets you take an active role in planning and executing a sales strategy. In addition, in-house salespeople work for you and only you - their primary goal is to sell your company's goods or services. Outside agents, by contrast, sell many products from various vendors, so they have less loyalty to your firm. An in-house sales force costs more, however, so make sure your company has the budget to support those costs.

Hire carefully. Great salespeople are few and far between. To find the best, look for salespeople with these characteristics:

  • Highly motivated by money
  • Eager to learn
  • Self-confident
  • Enjoy challenges
  • Persistent
  • Competitive
  • Able to cope with rejection
  • Great listening skills
  • Physically and mentally energetic

Spell out your expectations. Salespeople need to know what is expected of them in terms of monthly, quarterly and annual sales goals. Be clear about your expectations. Set sales goals that are tailored to each salesperson and that are challenging, but not so far out of reach that your sales team gets discouraged.

Train your salespeople thoroughly. The more you train your salespeople, the better they'll performß. Your sales team should have a thorough knowledge of your products or services, the competitors' products or services, and the market in which those products or services are sold. They'll also need training to understand your customers' needs, practices, and concerns. Hold regular training sessions, and encourage your team to attend outside training classes, as well as sales and industry-related seminars.

Motivate your sales team with a strong compensation system. Design your sales compensation plan before you hire your first salesperson. A commission-based approach usually works best, but it should include a base salary. That way, a salesperson is guaranteed a minimum income - which can help morale during slow times. You can find compensation standards by contacting your industry's trade association.

Make the most of nonfinancial motivators. Salespeople are typically competitive and like to be recognized and rewarded above and beyond their salaries. Nonfinancial rewards such as being named "salesperson of the month," receiving comp time, or earning prizes are all good ways to motivate your sales team.

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