Questions

Going from no sales rep to sales rep.

My web company has been in business for close to ten years. We sell a digital product. I bootstrapped the business and for the longest time we saw steady growth. I had experience in web advertising and that is what I pursued. Bringing people in to us from the web.... One thing I never did is hire sales people to go out and try to bring in bigger clients who would purchase larger amounts of our product. (And our business model is the type that would sustain this.) At this point, we have gone through some tough stages and money is tighter than usual. We are down to only a few necessary employees. I am wondering if there is a process for a company at my stage to find and hire salespeople. I honestly don't even know where to start. I do believe that if I had someone who could regularly hit up various companies, etc. that we could grow, but right now we don't have the budget to just hire a full time sales person out of the door. I know I can do this job as well and have been doing it as my time allows, but I only have so much time to devote to it. Thanks for any help or advice!

5answers

Finding good commission salespeople is almost impossible. I've hired companies who supposedly specialize in this, and no results.

Base+Commission is probably the best you're going to get. The base has to be slightly less than what the salesperson can survive on, which will induce them to go get sales. But your commission % must be high: at least 30%. Or competent salespeople will laugh you off as they walk out of the interview.

Honestly, though, and this isn't going to make you happy to hear, but as the business owner if you can't sell your own products or services, you're not going to make it. Nobody believes in your business as much as you. Nobody cares as much as you. Not your significant other, not your employees. And if you can't do it, no one can.

In your situation, which is essentially a startup in the rare situation of having some case studies to point to, YOU need to be spending at least 70% of your time on prospecting for new business. If you're programming, or supervising, you're putting your energy into the wrong thing. You need revenue. Now.


Answered 5 years ago

As a 20+ year salesperson/sales manager, and Dir. of Sales & Marketing in the software/technology arenas, from your description, I would say a salesperson is not the right answer to grow your sales. You're not in a position to support the runway necessary to give a salesperson an honest shot at success and it is virtually impossible to find a great salesperson in your industry without an aggressive compensation plan and a solid pipeline of opportunities. I would suggest that you pursue aggressive use of content marketing / thought leadership tactics (eg., Blog(s), Actively publishing posts on other Blogs / Magazines, Social Media - espec. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, & SlideShare), Webinars, Case Studies, White Papers, In-Person, Company-Sponsored Events, Research Reports, eBooks, Microsites, eNewsletters, Speaking Opportunities, Tradeshows, etc.).

Properly executing on these tactics should fill your pipeline - handle the leads internally - then consider bringing on a salesperson once the pipeline justifies it. I think you have many other tactics you can use to drive business at this time.

Feel free to give me a call to discuss your situation in more depth. Good luck!


Answered 5 years ago

Sales people, especially senior sales people, are expensive for a small company. It's also a hiring area where a lot of hires don't work out -- the people who look good on paper often have massive-company experience and startups are totally foreign to them -- which makes it even more expensive. Without naming names, there are dozens of small companies in Silicon Valley, including those coming out of prestigious accelerators, that have had to shut down because overinvesting in sales made them run out of money.

I suggest you take a look at what Upshift Partners' founder has to say about this; he trains technical- and product-oriented startup founding teams to scale their sales without bankrupting their companies. I've worked with him as a consultant but he's better in his own words: http://firstround.com/article/Looking-to-Scale-Your-Sales-Seven-Bullets-to-Dodge


Answered 5 years ago

Good question, thanks for posting.

You are facing a common challenge for founders of service companies. Tap the personal network for business in early years and then need to find new sources of business as time goes on.

I ran a web services company in the 90's and my current business regularly recruits sales people for web / new media companies. Before you attack your sales hiring need, it might be worth taking a step back and making sure that your value proposition is clear and differentiates you from other competitive offerings. This is not only critical for establishing a sales force, but also will help drive inbound leads which are critical for growth and profit.

Assuming you have this all sorted out, you also have a second option for driving new sales besides hiring a sales person - that is to continue selling yourself and hiring someone that does the other things that are preventing you from devoting time to selling. This may or may not be possible depending on what are your other obligations, but I know from experience that finding good sales people who can sell web solutions is not easy - takes a rare mix of technical and domain knowledge, creativity, consultative sales ability and sales DNA.

If hiring a sales person is your best option, then you are unlikely to attract one who can consistently contribute (the only kind you want) by offering commissions since good sales people are employed and earning good income - they will not want to give that up for the privilege of earning 100% commissions, even if the upside is huge on paper.
That said it is possible, if you go outside your industry...I posted some comments on this in other clarity threads:
https://clarity.fm/questions/1006/whats-the-best-way-to-find-commission-sales-reps
https://clarity.fm/questions/1291/what-do-bootstrapped-startups-offer-to-new-sales-hires-commission-only-what-are

In terms of attracting the right people I would recommend...
1. Be clear on exactly what you are looking for in skills, experience and DNA - discussed above.
2. Look everywhere- online, social networks, job boards, conferences, referrals, LinkedIn, etc.
3. Write job ads that will stand out and attract attention from the right type of people (vs. typical list of job requirements) - treat the candidates you want to attract like customer prospects and write your job ads with compelling copy
4. Offer careers, above market compensation (not necessarily cash), and the chance to work with a great company/management/team
5. Never stop recruiting because great people are rare and t takes a long time to find them

All the best!


Answered 5 years ago

The least expensive added sales service you can get is a meeting booking service. I am thinking that if you just get someone to book online meetings for you then you yourself would be the best person to actually close a deal with the client.
The cold calling / market prospecting work is very time-consuming and you need to get someone else to do this so you can focus on the last half of the sales process.
Meeting booking services are normally not commission based but rather a fixed fee per meeting booked (or per month), but fees can be quite low.
I run such a company myself so contact me if you're interested.


Answered 5 years ago

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