Bringing on your very first independent sales rep is an incredibly exciting time for any company. But did you know that reps who work for themselves are extremely selective about the companies they choose to work with?
Unlike employees, self-employed, commission-only sales reps do not earn a salary from the companies they work with. They incur their own expenses while developing new territories, therefore in order to stand the very best chance at not only attracting, but retaining the very best sales partners, your company must ensure that you have certain processes in-place first.
The ‘Agent Ready’ Checklist
Consider this checklist as preventative medicine...
If you’re not quite “agent-ready,” yet, you may do more harm than good by bringing on your first salesperson.
Yes, DO take the plunge if you’ve got the below covered. But if not, the investment of time it takes to get these items checked off your list is going to help your business in more ways than just with hiring commission-only salespeople. The good news is, it doesn’t mean you have to wait to start getting customers!
If you can check off all the items on this list, you are ready to hire your first salesperson and we’re right here to help you with resources and the necessary tools to do so.
You’ve mastered the sales process yourself: A commission-only salesperson has many choices of companies to represent. The first thing they need is to be sold on the product itself, the vision, the company and YOU. They want to see that you believe strongly in your product and understand the market you serve.
Embrace now that you will always be your company’s first and best salesperson. A CEO has to sell everyday: to investors, employees, the Board of Directors, Underwriters, etc; a CEO is always selling. How do you know if you’ve mastered the sales process? Have you signed at least 10 new clients that you don’t know; prospects who have gone through your entire sales funnel from a cold contact to a paying customer?
You can afford it: Let’s get this one out of the way. Even if you use a commission-only model, supporting a salesperson takes time and money that you will have to invest before you see results. You’ll have to give them the right tools, training, and potentially even funnel them leads. You may have to cover certain expenses or increase your liability insurance. You’ll need to make sure you can pay them quickly, sometimes before the customer pays if it’s a long sales cycle.
You’re ready to be a sales leader: No other employee may challenge you as much as your salespeople. They will challenge you on your product, your pricing structure and your marketing strategy. Sometimes it may be a valid cry from the market for a better product. Other times the salesperson may need coaching to overcome objections. You need to be able to distinguish these two and respond accordingly. Everyone needs a leader and you’ll absolutely need to be that to the sales partners you bring on-board. Salespeople are constantly facing rejection, so they need an extra supportive environment at work.
You have strong marketing in place so the salesperson can sell: Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of lumping sales and marketing into the same category, and even the same job title.
Here’s the distinction: Marketing is engaging people all the way to the point where they express interest in solving their problem. Sales is taking that prospect from “curious to client.” They are completely separate processes. A salesperson’s main role is to close a prospect. If you put a salesperson in charge of generating their own leads, Marketing AND closing them, it will be a long time until they see results.
This can potentially lead to a burnout. By nature, they need to “win” to stay motivated. A good indication that you’ve got marketing covered is when you have too many leads to follow up on your own. This means you’ve refined your value proposition, your ideal customer and how to reach them. Would you say you have a strong and sustained marketing strategy in-place to support your sales partners with their efforts?
You know where you fit in the market and why someone would choose your product over the competition: You can ascertain who your competition is from research, and the BEST research includes exponential research: going out to the market and selling. You will come across direct competition (easier to identify) and indirect competition (not so easy).
You know who your Ideal Customer is inside and out (and what they ate for breakfast): That’s not really a joke. If you know exactly who your ideal customer is, you can tell me if they had a bagel, cold pizza, a protein shake, coffee or nothing for breakfast. You probably had an ideal customer in mind when you first started your company, but it is only once you start talking to the people that you will understand more clearly who your ideal customer is… and they are the ones that actually end up buying from you. You will absolutely need to convey your company’s ideal client to your new sales partners in order for them to hit the ground running.
You have a clearly defined sales process: How do you create a clearly defined sales process? Once you hone in on your own sales skills and start closing clients, you will need to document the process that works to close customers (and ones you retain).
You can document this in a Sales Playbook which outlines everything a salesperson will need to follow to close the sale. Creating a Sales Playbook takes an investment of time that will save you money in the long run. To help you out, we’ve created this free Sales Playbook Template (the very same template that grew a $40M per year independent sales team for a New York startup) so you can start filling in the areas of the sales process. Being able to hand over your completed Sales Playbook to your new reps will inspire confidence and give them the blueprint to hit the ground running.
You understand your market’s most common objections and how to overcome them: The last thing you would want is to spend time and money finding and hiring the right person, getting them excited about your product, and then have them run into objections from prospects they can’t overcome.
They will lose confidence very quickly. Being able to sell your own product first (there’s #1 again!) will help you deeply understand why they did or didn’t buy, so you can refine your pitch and learn how to overcome the most common objections in the sales process (remember, objections are a natural part of the sales process). You can write out exactly how you were able to overcome the most common objections in your Sales Playbook.
So, are you ready to start selling? Once you download your Sales Playbook, you’ll get access to training that will help you sell your own product or service before hiring people. It takes time and is worth the investment.
Director of Agent Recruitment & Success