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Jewish World Review April 17, 2001 / 24 Nissan, 5761

Small Business Advisor by Paul Tulenko

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Consumer Reports

Developing good salespeople -- DOES a good portion of your business involve selling your products to others through your own outside sales force? If so, are you happy with the results?

If the answer to that question is "no" then it is possible you have already considered turning a portion (or all) of your sales over to a firm that does nothing but sell, one of those 'rep' firms. Or maybe you're hesitating because you've heard a few of the horror stories from others who have made that move.

What can you do? Should you out-source your sales in spite of what you've heard? Should you hire successful salespeople (at least they tell you they're successful) from other firms and train them in your product? Should you take some of your own internal product people who evidence a desire to sell and train them as salespeople?

The answers to all the above may be "yes." But before you dump what you're doing now and jump to something else, I have a couple of suggestions for consideration ... after you have reviewed how you have done things in the past.

When building a sales force there are four areas where you, as the owner or sales manager, absolutely must get involved. These areas are: 1.) Hiring the right person in the first place, 2.) training that person adequately, 3.) providing proper management, and 4.) rewarding success:

HIRING THE RIGHT PERSON: Hire the salesperson who can demonstrate a track record of success at his or her last job. Ask for proof of sales in the form of commission statements, W-2 totals or other official records. You need someone who can sell; not someone who says he or she can sell.

Since you are looking for a person who can sell, if your prospective salesperson cannot sell you on his or her ability on the very first meeting with you, then look for another. A successful salesperson must be able to communicate well and present themselves in the best manner at all times.

Test your applicant for their understanding of the fundamental skills necessary to sell in your business. For example, if selling your product requires excellent math skills, provide a simple math test using your everyday operational material.

Don't hire a creative salesperson if you are selling packaged products to regular customers. You don't want your salesperson re-inventing the wheel on each sale. Conversely, you need creative ability if your product must be "sold" to each new client.

TRAINING YOUR SALESPERSON: Provide at least two weeks of training in your place of business, letting your new salesperson work in each department for a few days. Understanding how things work will provide them with the foundation to better serve your customers.

Your new salespeople cannot sell what they don't understand. Provide them with a working knowledge of the products or services they are to sell using either a manufacturer's or an industry sales school. Or set up your own.

Then spend two weeks with your new salesperson actually calling on customers. Keep accurate records of each sales-call and review them at the end of each day. Demonstrate the selling skills that made you a success.

PROVIDING EXCELLENT MANAGEMENT: Randomly, and without explicit prior notice, accompany your salesperson on at least one call each week for the first six months, and then at least one call each month thereafter. Use the occasion to review the selling skills developed in field training sessions.

Talk with your accountant and see if you can provide your salespep[;e with a lump sum to offset selling expenses rather than have them fill out expense paperwork that cuts into selling time. At all times keep in mind you hired them to sell your product.

Set Realistic Goals: Make sales goals logical and practical based on company history. Set weekly quotas of calls, presentations, and sales, then personally review with each salesperson.

REWARDING SUCCESS: Publish success stories in your newsletter. Sponsor a "winner's club" with appropriate rewards such as a ring or pin with progressively larger or more diamond inserts. Pay well for success; when your salespeople succeed, so do you and your company.

Paul Tulenko is the coordinator of the Small Business Development Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Comment by clicking here.


04/11/01: Direct mail marketing tips
03/27/01: Sales slump? Try a selling seminar
03/20/01: Take advantage of the economic downturn
03/14/01: Tips on making a presentation
03/07/01: Never too late to start a business?
03/02/01: Choosing a company name
02/20/01: Tax tips for small business owners
02/13/01: Don't get the small-biz blues: You're not alone
02/06/01: How to communicate at the office
01/30/01: Before advertising, do your homework
01/23/01: Before you start selling a service online

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