The transition from business owner to sales manager
As any small web design or marketing agency grows from being a single freelancer to small team and beyond, at some point there will come time when the owner will need to bring on a sales rep to assist them with bringing in new business and/or to manage the accounts.
This is often a moment of trepidation from most small businesses. Most marketing companies are started by individuals that were marketers themselves and while they have learned the skill of selling to other small businesses, this can often be a completely different experience than hiring other employees.
They may have hired SEO, development or designers more easily because these were skills they were familiar with and may have even managed people like this in other companies. Though they may have picked up and gotten the hang for sales, this is a completely different specialty in overseeing and managing another salesperson or even a small team.
Much like your creative team looks to you for guidance in many ways, so too do salespeople. They also, with their exuberance and pursuit of a singular goal relating to closing deals, can get a company caught up in turmoil just from the mere fact that they ae unfamiliar with your industry or capabilities of your company inadvertantly overpromise on matters thay know little about. (Does it sound like I have seen this situation before?)
When is it time to hire your first salesperson?
When you are finding that your business is developing more opportunities than you and the rest of your team can manage, it is time to look into hiring someone for this role. Signs can be prospects complaining that no one is getting back to them or that the business has stagnated in growth.
There is only so much that one person can do in managing a business and bringing in new revenue. It is at this point where an owner can make a few of choices.
- Stop trying to grow and keep everything the way that it is
- Raise your prices to increase profitability and keep the workload the same
- This can often be achieved by letting go of less profitable clients to make room for new ones
- Delegate other responsibilities of yours to focus more time on selling
- Hire someone to develop more business
Consider who is the right fit
There are basically five options when considering the qualifications
No industry experience / No sales experience
Ah yes. The always attractive option. By the way, I am not against this type of candidate. The question you need to consider is if you have the time and wherewithal to teach someone about your industry and how to sell. Remember, the first sales rep you hire is intended to free up your time and help you to build your business. In a role like this, is it worth taking the chance?
The obvious upside is that they are likely to be a low cost employee. They are there to make money and get the experience. If this is your decision, be sure to interview them more than once to be sure you are comfortable that they can learn everything that you need them to know and that they are truly motivated to do so. Why else would they be new to both marketing and sales? They are trying it out or heard that sales jobs are easy ways to make good money. That alone is not always the strongest signal.
Has Industry experience / No sales experience
Most often business owners will look to their existing team and consider changing their role to a business development rep. Perhaps they have made their intentions known that they would like to make a change and increase their income. You may have seen that they are good with clients and this is a natural transition for them.
No matter, this is not always a bad idea, so long as you know the pitfalls. Not all people realize the pressure of sales as well as the uncertainty. You likely know it is not as easy as it looks and involves more than just a pleasant smile.
The same can be said for a new hire who has been in marketing for years but figures they will try out sales to see how it goes. No matter which you choose for candidate, just know that for them to be effective, they will need to be taught how to sell for your company.
No industry experience / Has Sales experience
This is always tricky. Anyone who tells you, “sales is sales,” has likely never really sold something else. B2B and B2C could not be more different. Selling products versus services takes a complete rewiring of methodology. Every industry has its nuances and expectations of experience level in the sales rep can be enormous.
Similar to someone from your industry who has never sold, you will likely end up paying them more because of the experience they do have. What you need to do is determine if they are going to like and be successful in this industry that they have never worked in before. If they were selling cars yesterday and now want to sell PPC, this is a big switch. On the other hand, you may find just the person you have been looking for.
No industry experience / No sales experience
The advantages here just stack up. They can at least be fluent in their conversation about marketing and they have had experience closing deals. There is less of a lead time in training so they should be bringing in revenue sooner making your life easier. Ideally this would be the best solution, but they will likely be the highest initial investment of the four.
They may even already have clients ready to come with them so long as you keep in mind that they could also take them with them if they leave. Oftentimes they have non competes in place which can cause a sticky situation a month or two into employment. You would not be at fault, but it could cause headaches with a solution that was supposed to free up your mind for other initiatives.
Which of these you choose depends on the state of your business and what you are willing to take on.