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October 26, 2016
Team Development  |  10 min read

Small Business Owners: Here’s How You Should Hire Your First Salesperson

By Aki Merced

From the beginning, you probably did everything yourself—selling to customers, delivering your goods, and most importantly, keeping your clients happy. Putting in work is nothing new to you; you didn’t get this far sitting around.

However, as your business grows, doing things single-handedly—maybe enlisting the help of family members here and there—isn’t the most efficient way to operate. As things pick up, you don’t want to spread yourself too thinly. Not only is that a highway to inefficiency, you’re also setting yourself up for entrepreneur burnout. 

In this post, we put together some tips to help you make informed decisions throughout this new phase.

Before starting the hiring process

Let’s begin by going over your current situation. How do you prep for this big step?

Document your sales process

Hiring a sales rep shouldn’t mean getting someone to figure out the sales process for you. If you’ve gone so far as needing to hire someone to help you sell, you do have a sales process in place. 

Need help documenting your sales process? It can be as simple as a flowchart or a checklist.

Use this as a guide in outlining your sales process: 

  • Prospecting: Prospect research, list building, lead qualification
  • Outreach: Initial contact, setting appointments, identifying needs
  • Sales proper: Product presentations, addressing objections, closing deals
  • Post-sale: Order fulfillment, asking for referrals, follow-ups

Highlight the points of friction throughout. What are the common objections? Where are the bottlenecks? 

Having your sales process documentation ready smoothes out the bumps that come with onboarding a new employee. By condensing the information, it’s easier for the new hire to hit the ground running. 

Talk to your existing customers 

Reaching out to your customers before hiring your first rep serves many purposes, one of which is to share this milestone with them. Use this opportunity to thank them for their business and for being part of your success. Now that you’re getting ready to hire someone to help you expand, ask your customers for feedback on your current operations—both good and bad.

There are many ways to go about this. It all depends on the nature of your business. You could ask for feedback on your social media pages, visit your best customers, or contact them through email.

Knowing what your customers think is as important as knowing what you want out of hiring a sales rep. The key is to find someone able to positively impact your bottom line while being a reliable team member as well.

Determine compensation plan

There are many factors to consider when choosing a compensation plan for new sales hire. Consider the industry average, what your competitors are paying their reps, the cost of living in your area, and the difficulty of the job.

There is no single approach that works for all businesses. However, you must know that how you pay your rep will play a huge part in their performance.

According to Mark Roberge, author of the Sales Acceleration Formula, a major component of a good sales compensation plan is immediacy. “When salespeople succeed, they should see it reflected in their paychecks immediately. When they fail, they should feel the pain in their paychecks immediately. Any delay between good (or bad) behavior and the related financial outcome will decrease the impact of the plan.”

Recruiting your first sales rep

First thing’s first: Write down a detailed job description.

SalesForce Search Founder Matthew Cook shares, “When writing an effective sales job description it's always a good practice to put yourself in the sales rep's shoes and envision what details they need to know about their job to be successful.”

Putting your expectations and goals to words help with the entire recruitment process. Whether you’re enlisting someone else’s help or are doing the recruitment yourself, having a document to refer to will keep you on track.

Where to source candidates for the sales position

Job boards

There are a number of online and offline options when it comes to job boards. There are industry-specific job boards, both paid and free, that you can look into. This is a more passive approach and may not be the best route for a small business going after their first sales hire. There are thousands of job listings on most boards and you wouldn’t want to be lost in that sea of ads.

Businesses you patronize

Top notch sales coach Tom Hopkins suggests starting your search by going to stores where you shop.

“Start paying attention to the good salespeople you encounter when you're the consumer. What is it they're doing that makes you feel good about working with them? Learning to recognize good salespeople is the most important first step.” 

The next step is to give positive feedback these salespeople and ask for referrals. While pirating them might not be the best way to go about things depending on the context, they might know other professionals in the area that could help you out.

Your network

Consulting with your customers, partners, suppliers, and other business contacts is a great way to get solid, reliable referrals. Even if you can’t get immediate referrals, letting people know you’re hiring is a great way to get the word around. Make it easy for them to send you referrals by giving them extra business cards or a recruitment-specific email address. 

Suppliers are a particularly good source of recommendations. They wouldn’t give you bad suggestions lest they risk losing your business.

Business schools

While experience is a great criterion when looking for someone to join your company, hiring someone who’s still hungry to learn and haven’t formed sales habits could also be a good route to take. Call the secretariats of local business schools and let them know about your job opening. Most schools would have a job placement program that you can take advantage of.

Interviewing candidates

When accepting applications, make sure you emphasize that you prefer applicants to drop by your office. You want to get face-time with applicants as soon as possible. If for some reason this options is not ideal, pre-qualify all candidates over the phone.

Remember: Even if this is your first sales hire and you have an urgent need to boost sales, there’s no reason to rush things and not be thorough in your process. Ensure that you have at least two steps in your recruitment process. This is for two reasons. Number one, you want to have enough time to evaluate applicants. Number two, you don’t want to hire based on initial impressions.

What to ask during interviews 

Here are some areas you must touch on when screening and interviewing applicants:

  • Work experience: Ask them about their full work experience and dive deeper into the sales roles they’ve held before. If interviewing a candidate with no prior experience, ask them about their professional involvements in and outside of school.
  • Reason for applying: How did they find you? Why are they considering a job in sales or an employer switch? What part of the job description appeals to them?
  • What they know about your business: You want to hire someone who cares about the job. Asking this would weed out interview-hoppers who are just looking for the first place to bite.
  • Habits and behaviors: Toss some situational questions in the mix. This way, you learn about their decision-making skills in specific work situations.

Interviews help you get a feel of an applicant's capacity to meet goals and expectations. A common mistake in these interviews is focusing on sales experience. Sure, that’s very important. However, you want to uncover personality and behavioral traits during these interviews, which, in the case of a newly expanding company, might be more important than sales experience. 

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As with any business decision, hiring your first sales rep is something you need to put preparation and serious thought into. Your first sales hire should help take your business to the next level, so you need to make sure that you’re on the lookout for signs that you’re hiring a person who’s capable of doing just that.

Sales Team Hiring Guide - Download Now

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Aki Merced writes about B2B sales and marketing as a content marketer for Tenfold, a modern revenue performance platform helping businesses succeed by allowing them to measure, analyze, and improve every aspect of the customer journey.


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