Welcome to the third and final installment in this series on hiring your first sales rep. In Part 1, we focused on getting ready internally for the hire, with an emphasis on culture, structure and compensation. Last week, in Part 2, we explored the actual hiring and training of that new rep. In today’s post, we talk about how to best support your first sales rep – the investments you’ll need to make on their behalf and how to best manage them for maximum results.
Investing in your first sales rep
Once your first sales rep is in place, there are still a number of investments you’ll need to make to help them be successful, including:
- Tools: make sure they have all the technology they need – laptop, cell phone, a CRM platform, perhaps LinkedIn Sales Navigator (if ‘hunting’ is to be part of their job) and other software subscriptions, as needed.
- Events: Be ready to invest in them going to various conferences, trade shows, etc. Perhaps as an exhibitor, but just as likely as an attendee – to learn, to network and generate sales leads.
- Marketing: The ‘sales’ function can’t do it alone… it needs support from ‘marketing’ to help build awareness in the markets you serve, establish a position in the minds of buyers and generate sales leads. Make sure you support sales with a good website, an active social media presence, content creation, email marketing, SEO, digital advertising, etc.
- Space: When your sales rep is in the office, make sure he/she has a quiet place to work – a place to make phone calls, do online presentations, etc.
- Client-focused dollars: make sure your first sales rep has the ability and some latitude in the use of discretionary dollars for things like entertaining clients, sending ‘thank you’ gifts, etc. Now is not the time to go “on the cheap.”
Managing your first sales rep
Even though sales reps are looked at as the most independent and self-motivated of all employees, they aren’t completely self-sufficient… they still need leadership, guidance and help.
- Start with a sales plan. Make sure they know what they’re selling and to whom (by industry, market, etc.). Provide clarity and direction on this. The plan should include sales goals, as well. And whether or not they tie into compensation (and they should), all motivated sales reps still need these goals. Think about revenue goals for existing clients, new clients and key accounts. Consider revenue by industry served and by service line, too.
- Reporting is key, not only to help you stay on top of what’s going on, but to help hold your sales rep accountable. There are likely some reports available in your CRM (around selling activity) and certainly from your accounting team (around revenue), but THE most important report is the sales pipeline. Not only does it keep you apprised of where your sales rep stands with every sales opportunity, but if your sales rep is smart, he/she will use it to help manage themselves and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
- As we discussed in part 1 of this series, your first sales rep is likely not stepping into a sales culture at your firm… and there may never be one there. But, public recognition of the successes of your sales rep will begin to show everyone in your firm the value a sales rep brings to the table, the impact they’re having and the importance you place on their role.
- Patience: the more you understand selling, the more you’ll understand that it is a process and that it takes time. Getting clients to know/like/trust your sales rep won’t happen overnight. Sales cycles can take months. So, the most important thing you can do as their manager is to be patient. Give them time to be successful. It’s OK to push them a little and create a sense of urgency, but if your first sales rep’s first sale doesn’t happen in the first month, don’t freak out and give up on the rep (or worse, the concept of a rep). Success in sales is a long-term play.
- And, most importantly, give of your time. Be a manager, be a coach, be a mentor. Give them feedback – good and bad – frequently. Travel with them when you can. Share your knowledge and experience. Take them out for drinks or dinner occasionally and just talk. Simply put… be available!
As you can see from this blog series, having success with your first sales rep is not as easy as hiring the first decent candidate you find and saying, “Go get ‘em!” To be successful:
- Your entire firm needs to be prepared for the new position.
- You need to hire smartly (and differently), then train effectively.
- Then, when he or she is ready to go, you need to manage and support them, giving them every opportunity to be successful.
Whew! That’s a lot of work. But when you do it properly and don’t rush the process, your first sales rep might [literally] transform your company and take it to heights you never thought possible.