If you’ve been in a sales management or leadership position for a large or mid-sized corporation, it might surprise you to learn just how different the challenges for smaller businesses can be. With smaller staffs and a broader range of responsibilities and accountability for each team member, it is essential that the small business owner make the right hiring decisions, particularly when hiring a salesperson. And because a single salesperson is often the entire sales team, a hiring mistake in this area can cost a small business owner tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars.
- Hiring a Salesperson Too Much Like the Owner
Many small business owners are entrepreneurs and have a technical or operational background. However, these are not the primary skills necessary for success as a salesperson. Instead, the owner should look to hire someone with keen interpersonal skills and other essential sales-oriented traits. In other words, instead of hiring a “mini me”, the business owner should hire an “anti-me”.
- Feeling Compelled to Hire from Inside the Industry
Small business owners often look only within their industry when seeking sales talent. On the surface, this might make sense; after all, industry and client knowledge can be a plus. However, this approach can be a mistake for two reasons:
- “Recycled” salespeople from competitors might be experts on the competitive product/service, but not necessarily experts in selling.
- The industry insider salesperson might feel they can lure existing clients to follow them to their new company. Clients, however, rarely follow a salesperson to a new company, no matter how good the salesperson/client relationship might be. Remember: change is difficult; people resist it.
- Having Unrealistic Expectations Beyond the Hiring Budget
Naturally, business owners want a stellar salesperson with a proven track record, a “hunter” who is adept at bringing in the big game. But often, what the smaller business needs is a series of smaller sales that are more easily attainable. These can quickly generate cash flow and often lead to sustainable growth for long-term success. And because the small business typically does not have a large budget for hiring a top-notch salesperson, the business owner might be better off hiring a really good inside sales team or two moderately priced salespeople, instead of opting for one expensive outside salesperson.
- Not Having an Attractive Sales Compensation Plan in Place
The best possible candidate for the salesperson role in a smaller business doesn’t have to be out of reach if the compensation plan is attractive enough. But what if a top-level salary just isn’t possible? The best person for the job can still be reeled in if the sales compensation plan is crafted creatively and with performance-based incentives.
- Not Having a Detailed Job Description
What does success look like for the small business? What sales goals are needed to achieve this? What responsibilities will the salesperson be accountable for? The owner – who is often inclined to operate from the “gut” – must be able to articulate and document these things to make sure the salesperson they hire meets all the required criteria.