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How to Build Your First Sales Team

Steve Surdez

Your company is growing. Fast.

The one-person sales dynamo you’ve been just isn’t sustainable any longer. You’ve built a sales process for your own benefit and as a guide for improving your personal sales performance, but other areas of the business need your attention. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you’re starting to feel worn down.

It’s time to make your first business development and sales representative hires, but you’re not sure where to start and how to best approach your first sales team build out.

To establish a baseline, let’s assume you have some sales processes and reports in place, and you've been utilizing a CRM to track your sales activities. That means any sales hire you make isn’t walking into an environment completely deprived of sales enablement; they will have some infrastructure to guide their sales efforts.

sales process assesment

Now, what’s the best approach for a growth-stage company building its first sales team?

Let’s look at five key best practices that will help you find the right sales talent and develop it for sustainable success.

Take the Time to Understand Your Sales Needs

Carve out “thinking time” in your crazy schedule and make it a priority to map what sales hires you need to make. You need to establish what you’re looking for before you start actively recruiting sales talent.

For example, do you need a single, more seasoned business development rep? Or maybe just a few inside sales representatives? Do you need an inside sales person and one field sales hire? How many hires do you actually have to make to hit your growth goals?

Determining the right mix and your target hires in advance will help you find the right sales professionals and set them up for success.

Develop and Execute a Consistent, Formal Sales Hiring Process

If you own or lead a rapidly growing business, it’s very possible you’ve neglected to formalize your hiring process. From posting job ads to interviewing, hiring, on-boarding, and training, you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants without a cohesive process in place — and you’ve had some hits and a few misses.

When it comes to hiring a sales team, it’s imperative that you develop and execute a strong, formal hiring process that is consistent and strategic about what you’re looking for.

A business development lead or sales representative represents a big change: You will no longer be the brand ambassador out in front of potential clients every day. Your new sales person will be. That’s a big difference.

Flubbing an administrative or internal marketing coordinator hire will inevitably have an impact, but they’re inward-facing roles. Botching a sales hire could do serious, long-lasting damage to your brand reputation and future client relations.

With that in mind, take the following tips to heart when developing and executing a formal hiring plan for your sales team:

  • Take time to craft your job postings so they reflect the sales role and your needs accurately; don’t throw together the ad last minute and throw it up on a job board site.
  • Make the interview process inclusive and stepped; start with a phone screen, then an in-person interview with key team members, and end with you interviewing the candidate. The more eyes and ears involved, the less likely you are to make a big mistake. You make the final call, of course, but let your team help you make the right call.
  • In general, look for sales hires that exhibit the following traits:
    • They’re coachable: You want to be able to mold them and they must be willing to adjust to your business approach and culture.
    • They are proactive: Have they researched your company, product, or service in advance of the interview? Have them demonstrate how they’ve prepared for the interview and ask them for an example of their “go-getter” personality.
    • They’re entrepreneurial: Ultimately, the best sales and business development hires treat your business like their own. Ask them to demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit by providing examples.
    • They’re a culture fit: Although sales team members spend a lot of time out of the office, they still work hand-in-hand with your internal teams. Make sure they fit the existing company culture and are a strong fit for the sales team culture you want to create.
    • They’re potential management material: If you’re just starting to build your sales team, always keep an eye out for management potential; if you see it, considering making the hire and then work hard to develop that hire into the manager you need.

Create Accountability Through Metrics and Goal Tracking

It’s critical to remove as much subjectivity as possible when evaluating sales team performance. The only way to know if you’ve made the right hire or hires is to utilize sales metrics and mutually agreed upon goals as an objective tool to judge performance.

  • First, you need to be able to accurately track and capture key data points using your CRM or other reporting tools, even if they are all just crammed into a slew of Google Sheets.
  • Then you need to work with your sales team hires to establish sales goals and performance benchmarks.
  • You will need to establish monthly, quarterly, and annual performance meetings to monitor results, provide praise, or raise concerns about performance.
  • Establish clear bonus structures and reward systems for outstanding sales work. Be sure to also build out performance improvement plans (PIPs) for underperforming sales team members so they have a chance to do better and you have documentation to support a future termination.

Fire Fast — But With Process

Many sales experts advise companies to fire fast when it seems a sales hire is not performing. And this is good advice.

Not firing a poorly performing sales representative because they are “nice” or “you feel bad about it” or you are loathe to go through the hiring process again is a huge mistake.

Every day that a bad sales hire is in front of potential customers is destructive to your brand as well as your bottom line. Remember, if they’re not hitting their goals and you have a strong sales system in place, it’s likely they are not representing your brand well to your audience.

Cut bait quickly, and remember to do so with process, including meetings where poor performance gets addresses and a PIP is executed. But when their chances are up, they must be let go.

Sticking to the process — which should be regimented relatively quick — will protect your brand and your company from possible lawsuits by disgruntled sales hires.

Be a Teacher and Motivator

Until you find the right sales manager to teach and inspire, this is on the business owner and company principal or principals. Like building out a formal hiring and firing process, businesses in growth mode need to be conscious of providing professional development, training, and motivational opportunities for its salesperson or sales team.

For your sales hires to grow with your company and thrive, they need tools, support, encouragement, and tough love. Building a culture that holds employees accountable and praises and rewards success is imperative for attracting, retaining, and coaching-up sales talent.

If you’re looking for a sales enablement expert you can trust, Illumine8 Marketing & PR is always here to help. Reach out to us today. We’d love to learn more about your company and how we might be able to take your sales performance to the next level.

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