How to Find and Keep a Good Salesperson?
January 10, 2013 2:38 PM   Subscribe

How do I find a salesperson? How do I pay them? What kind of freedom do I give them? How can I make it worth their while so it can be a long term relationship? I believe there are people out there interesting in helping me, but I've never been able to figure out how to find them. One man bands do everything but seem to burn out faster, and I don't want to do that. I need help.

I am an idea person, and I am the person who does the work. But I don't seem to be that good in the middle - at going out and meeting people, or knowing who to meet or where to meet them. I mean, I know that conferences, joining groups, attending workshops is where to meet people. And I know that social networking, direct mail and free promotional giveaways helps tell people about products and services. But I would like someone else do the work of drawing those potential customers while I focus on what I like. Do I look for students? Out of work sales people? Sales people willing to moonlight? Someone wanting to be part of my vision?
posted by CollectiveMind to Work & Money (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What is it you're trying to sell? A product? Service? Idea? Your talents? You're going to need to be more specific.
posted by greta simone at 2:46 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you know any good salespeople that you could bounce this off of? Depending on the industry, sales can be something of a close-knit group. Many of them cross paths, work with each other and go way back (even if they occasionally compete with one another). My experience is mostly with IT sales and resellers, but everyone seems to know everyone else, and most job referrals and leads come through the collegial grapevine.
posted by jquinby at 3:00 PM on January 10, 2013

//Don't tell your sales person about the great product that is coming soon because eventually that will slip out and kill sales of your current product. You might be able to discuss new product ideas with your sales person, but beware that involvement in product development may negatively impact their ability to sell the stuff that needs selling today.//

This is flat out wrong. Your salesperson is the one person out talking to customers and potential customers. He will know better than anybody what features are desperately needed, and what features are a waste of time. If I had a buck for every new feature that no customer ever wanted...

Your question is hard to answer. As a start up, you definitely don't wank a rookie sales rep. A sales rep in a start up will inevitably also do some marketing, product management, customer service, and probably even help out with beta testing. Ideally, you hire away somebody from a direct competitor that already knows where some possible sales are lurking. If you can't do that, hire somebody experienced selling a complementary product - another enterprise app, or similar consulting services. or whatever it is you are making.

Compensation will probably be a base plus commission set up. The percentage allocated to base increases with the complexity of the sale. If you are selling a complex enterprise app or high end software consulting the base is probably $60-80K in Salt Lake City, plus 5-10% of the sale. If it is a more transactional sale where they can reasonably close 2 deals a week you can scale back the base. What you can not do is expect somebody to invest 5 -10 months closing a complex sale on a straight commission plan.

Another, more difficult option would be to bring an equity partner into the business to focus on sales and marketing. Finding somebody who wants to be a co-owner and can live on peanuts for 6 months while you ramp up in exchange for significant equity is possible, but won't be easy.

Feel free to Mefi Mail me if you have more questions. Most of my career has been as the sole sales guy (or on a small team) for small tech companies - mostly software.
posted by COD at 4:54 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Without knowing what is being sold (Goods? Services?) or to whom (individuals? Businesses?) or in what setting (Retal? Online?) this advice will be general.

It sounds like you're starting with zero sales team and don't even have a list of contacts to hand over. First off you don't want an inexperienced person going into that role because what they do will become policy for future sales staff. You also need someone who is networked in to your potential customers. One of the first things you want them to do is set up a CRM system for you and future sales staff. Marketing and Sales don't necessarily overlap. Do you want them to? If so you'll have to find someone who can wear that hat too.

A good sales person knows your industry, and ideally are particularly excited by what you specifically sell. Do you have a community of fans or enthusiasts you can recruit from? When interviewing, one of the first questions you should ask is how your product/service is better than competitors. If they don't know then they didn't do their homework and aren't as excited or knowledgeable about your business as could be hoped. Have them try out their pitch on you. Be a tough customer and see how they react. A good salesperson won't be pushy but will ask good questions about your concerns and then address them honestly. A great salesperson will recommended something they don't sell if it's clear that they're not a good fit for what you sell. The good-will that creates will come back to you.

Since you're a small business I'd probably look for full-time person, but the right full-timer person. I know, it's more expense, but part-timers often don't understand that their performance is directly responsible for their paycheck.
posted by Ookseer at 7:19 PM on January 10, 2013

I'm not saying you shouldn't learn from your sales people, just that it is extremely dangerous to give them much insight into what is coming down the product pipeline.

If you hire the right person it won't be an issue as they'll have already been burned countless times by missed release dates and buggy features to know better than to sell based on the product road map. But yeah, an inexperienced software rep will definitely do that.
posted by COD at 8:02 AM on January 11, 2013

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