Growing your sales team the right way

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How to start growing your sales team the right way

You’ve got your business going and you are smart enough to know that your main focus needs to be generating sales as quickly as possible in the first years. Your marketing is on point, your product has been proven in the market, you have systems in place so you are ready to handle the new growth and it’s time to hire a professional to start generating sales. So where do you find the perfect person to add to your team to help it grow? How do you hire the right sales team members to grow your business?

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These five steps will get you prepared not only for hiring the best possible sales professionals, but it will make sure you have the tools they need to be successful:
1. The job description:

Sales professionals need to be great communicators and they need to be able to sell themselves as well as they can sell your product. That means sometimes your next great sales professional can be your favorite local business’ customer service representative, your favorite bartender, or your neighbor’s hyper-motivated nephew, but for most of us, a job description is where you get started.

The first thing to remember when creating any job description is to make sure it is aligned with your company culture. If you run an ad for killer sales machine that knows coffee is only for closers, while the rest of your business is run like casual Friday every day with safe spaces in every room, you will be destined for failure from the beginning. Company culture mis-matches will break the best employees, but particularly those that have to withstand the turmoil that can come along with a professional sales career.

You should also clearly define what kind of sales you are expecting the professional to perform.  In most situations you should look for people with a track record of success in corporate product sales over service sales.  This is because corporate environments focus on results and performance, and products can’t be tailored and manipulated like services can to make sales easier.  Someone with a history of success in a corporate environment selling products will most likely be able to find success in any system you put them into.

Clearly describe who you are looking for on a personal level as well as a professional level, and make sure that person actually fits into the environment you have created in your business. If you’ve had repeated failures with sales hires this is one of the first places to look at for potential problems.


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2. Pay:

This is a tricky situation for multiple reasons, and is more aligned with the previous topic than you may realize. If you value security heavily on a personal level, particularly financial security, and hire commission only salespeople, you may have a serious mismatch at a cultural and personal level that you need to be prepared to handle. On the flip side, if you are running a company that is growing at a furious pace and taking healthy risks and asking your team to go along for the ride, a lower “safer” salary may not appeal to the kind of team players you need to help you reach your goals. One idea often overlooked by employers is the concept of longevity as well. Consider building long-term residual commissions into hiring contracts that entice people to stay long-term to receive greater rewards to reduce the churn often seen in professional sales environments.

For most sales professionals a balance between security and the potential for massive rewards is the ideal pay structure, but consider the type of people you want to attract to your organization before making a final decision on this.

3. Take their resume seriously:

You need high-level communicators that are convincing enough to get prospects to trust them with their time and their money. If an applicant sends you a resume that doesn’t wow you, they aren’t the candidate for your position. Even if most of the communication will be done over the phone, there is always some written communication, particularly in today’s world of texting and un-answered phones, so if they can’t put together something special for a potential boss, you should assume they won’t do much better for a potential sale.

This is another place to look for culture mis-matches and save yourself headaches down the road. If the applicants language choices, interests, or history are an obvious clash with your company culture, consider that a serious red-flag in the hiring process.

4. Have a standard interview process:

It’s easy to get excited by a conversation or a resume and think you’ve found the savior of your business. And while getting sold that hard by someone is a good sign when hiring a sales professional, you need to have a standard interview process that can help you identify holes and issues before you’ve already committed to something. A phone interview with some standard questions is a good place to start, but consider adding a critical thinking process as well. If after giving a prospect an overview of your business and your processes they can’t come up with solid solutions to common issues they will face, or if they aren’t even willing to do the work required to understand your company and answer those questions, are they likely to be a good fit for your company?

Other simple tricks include asking for a simple yet obvious task to be performed directly in the job ad:  Title your email with your favorite 80’s movie, at the bottom of your cover letter add the name of your favorite teacher from high school, etc.  While being detail oriented isn’t one of the most critical skills in some sales position, this will show you if your applicant is likely to pay attention to details requested by prospects and potential customers as well.

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5.  Clearly Identify Your Ideal Customer

This is one a lot of businesses get wrong in general and not only in the hiring process. If you don’t clearly know who you are trying to get as your customers, you will be stuck running a business accepting business from anyone who gives it to you, and that is a recipe for misery and failure.  Consequently, it’s also a recipe for failure for your salespeople who will bring you any kind of business they can close because they don’t understand the focus of the company they are working for because neither do you.  If you don’t already know exactly who your ideal client or “avatar” is, think of your favorite existing customer or the customer you’ve been dreaming of get them and clearly describe them.  What do they read, who do they listen to, where do they work, what kind of income do they have, where do they go on vacation, where do they live, etc?  As a bonus, once you’ve identified your customer at that level, they not only become easier for your salespeople to identify, they also become much easier to find with your marketing because you now already know exactly which demographics to target.

And now that you have your marketing, your targeting, your goals, and your new growing sales team completely aligned, you can’t help but find success.

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One bonus tip, stolen completely from “built to sell” is to hire salespeople in 2’s whenever possible.  Salespeople by nature are competitive or they wouldn’t have chosen such a difficult career, and giving them someone to compete with on results can dramatically improve their results and their motivation.


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