Six Tips on Building a Successful Outside Sales Team

If you’re building an outside sales team, hopefully you’re not starting over from scratch.Creating a sales teams It’s so important to be able to rely on your sales leaders, especially during a season of transition. Throughout my lengthy sales career, I’ve been through a number of such transitional periods, and I’d like to share these six tips that I’ve personally used to develop successful outside sales teams.

#1: Introduce New Hires to Your Sales Leaders

If I asked you who your sales leaders are, you could probably name them off the top of your head. These are the people who have been successful over the long haul for your company. They are your role models. When new individuals join your sales team, they should get to know the sales leaders and aspire to be like them.

#2: Provide Step-by-step In-house Sales Training

I recommend a week of in-house sales training for all new outside sales representatives. Before new hires go out on any sales calls, several different staff members should guide them step by step through the inner workings of your products and services, as well as building a call database, conducting a demo, assessing the customer’s needs, closing a deal and more. Online training may be valuable, too. Make sure that after a week of training, they are fully prepared to get on the phone and schedule their own appointments and demos.

#3: Coach Them During Initial Appointments

Once in-house training is complete, you should accompany your new hires on the first few appointments they have made. Coach them but don’t criticize.

One thing I like to do before we get out of the car is to decide what our goals are for a particular appointment. If it’s an introductory meeting, then it’s to get a demo. If we’ve already done a demo, then we want to close the sale. Explain how they can get to the goal. Show them how to walk the customer from point A to point B.

During the appointment, lead by example. Perhaps you do the first demo and then let them know they are responsible the next time. Review processes with them and let them know your expectations. Then, let them take the lead. Let them gain the experience and confidence they need to be successful.

#4. Set Standards and Expectations

You must let your outside sales new hires know what your minimum acceptable standards and behaviors are. Otherwise, they won’t know and they won’t succeed. If you expect 140 phone calls in a week, then let them know that. Then, if they only make 25 calls, you can manage that at a more granular level (perhaps a daily goal) and take steps for correction.

#5. Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Change

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past is hanging on too long when new hires aren’t working out. Usually it’s because I think that if I could just help them more or encourage them more, they’d improve. But, when you’re honest with yourself, you know within the first week or so if people are right for the job or not. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, allowing them to remain even though they aren’t going to be successful can create a certain negativity in your department.

Some early signs that place new sales hires on the bubble include:

  • Coming in late on a regular basis.
  • Not taking the initiative to ask questions about their training and your products and services.
  • Making excuses about why they can’t do a demo or make sales calls, especially if you offer them scripts. (Read my earlier post about overcoming call reluctance.)

Anyone can have an off month, but consistent mediocrity won’t work in the long run. Even if you feel like you’ve invested a great deal of time and energy in your new hires, it’s better for them and your company to call it quits sooner rather than later. Then, you can go back to your pool of possible candidates and try again.

#6. Create a Team that has Fun

Bottom line, you want to have an outside sales team that has fun and develops camaraderie. And, when there’s success, people are having fun and building positive relationships. Therefore, do everything you can to surround yourself with salespeople who are capable of being successful.

How to Recruit for B2B Outside Sales Positions

How to recruit people for b2b outside sales rep jobsAlthough economic analysts tell us the hiring candidate pool is overflowing right now due to the recent recession, I still think it’s a challenge to hire the right person for a business-to-business outside sales representative position.

In our industry, copiers and printers are more than just office equipment, they are technology solutions that improve business workflow. An outside sales rep needs to not only be assertive, personable and motivated, he or she also needs to have a strong understanding of the technical products and software we offer. It requires just the right fit.

If you’re in the process of recruiting for an outside sales position in your industry, here are three sources of potential candidates I recommend trying:

People You Know

If you’ve been in an industry for a decade or more, then you probably know at least a few (or probably many) colleagues in your industry or related ones. You may even be good friends with some of them. This is the most logical place to start when you’re recruiting for a sales position. The chances of finding a good fit among this group are better than average.

Characteristics of those who may be interested in a new position include:

  • Those who are unhappy in their current position or locked into a smaller earning potential. A salary plus commission and bonuses can be very appealing to some.
  • Those who want to get more in-depth with the kind of technology you offer or are excited by working in a field where things change frequently.
  • Those who might enjoy the work environment you offer, whether the selling point is flexibility, family atmosphere or the latest tools of the trade.

People Your Employees Know

Another great source of job candidate referrals may come from your current employees. This is based on the same principle as my first recommendation. When you know someone, you not only have a good idea about personality, work habits, knowledge, etc., you also have a vested interest in his or her success.

At Copeco, we welcome employee referrals for our open job positions. If we hire, train and then retain someone an employee suggested, we’ll give the referring employee a bonus.

People You Connect with via Agencies, Ads and Websites

I list this option last because it requires the highest time investment and sometimes nets the lowest return. That’s because you have to wade through a pile of resumes from candidates who:

  • May be overqualified or underqualified
  • May not have the right personality for the job (which is pretty tough to tell just based on a résumé)
  • May not have the right experience for the job

Afterwards, there needs to be a screening interview and several in-person interviews to gather multiple opinions about the candidate. And, although you should always have candidates go through some type of interview process (whether you know them or not), the agency referral is usually the complete unknown.

Keep the Pool Filled

However, sometimes even the most promising candidate doesn’t work out. You usually know if a person is the right fit within the first week of training or on-the-job interaction. So, just in case your first choice doesn’t work out, be sure to retain your list of potential candidates so you can seamlessly continue your search.