Expanding Your Sales Force: The Pre‑Steps

When it’s time for sales leaders to create or grow their teams, I find most take this approach:

  • Quickly place an ad
  • Spread the word through a network of professional and personal contacts
  • Start interviews ASAP

Stop!! There’s something very important missing from this equation: Pre-steps. A few simple yet important ways to ensure the right sellers are hired and that you pave the way for their success.

So before the company even starts advertising, sales leaders should follow these six pre-steps to prepare themselves for hiring a fantastic sales team:

Pre-step 1: Assign leads and clients

Decide what your new sellers will be responsible for ahead of time. This will guarantee they can hit the ground running. If you already have a sales team, make sure you communicate your plans, carve up territories and leads fairly, and in advance. That way, when the new hires assume their designated areas, it doesn’t come as a surprise to your current team. Trust me, you want to do as much as possible to prevent surprises which lead to in-fighting.

Pre-step 2: Prepare to show the rewards

The best candidates will ask about your compensation plan. If you say, “I don’t know, let me check,” or stare at them blankly, they will lose interest. The strongest sellers are driven by the numbers: how they’re going to get paid and their chances for success.

When you prepare a compensation plan, include examples of what a first, second and third-year seller can accomplish. Use metrics from your team to illustrate how goals can be accomplished and what percentage is currently at or above plan. Having this information on hand will keep the best candidates engaged during the interview process and more interested in working for your company.

Pre-step 3: Establish indicators and bonuses

It’s frustrating but true: new hires typically won’t land sales in their first few weeks on the job. However, you as a sales leader can still evaluate their productivity with leading indicators. Determine how many calls the new hire should make or how many opportunities they need to create within a certain timeframe. And reward them when they hit the mark.

For example, a manufacturing client with a very long sales cycle recently fired an unsuccessful seller and now needs a replacement. For this second rep we’ve created a bonus program that rewards them for qualified leads aligned with the company’s sweet spot, as well as for first meetings and proposals, connections with sales managers, and other activities that will eventually lead to sales.

Not only will these indicators and rewards help to motivate my client’s newest hire, they’ll also provide objective and measurable key performance data for gaging future success.

Pre-step 4: Create a seller profile

List the attributes and criteria needed to sell your products before you start booking interviews. Communicate this information to everyone involved in the hiring process. Clarity on these attributes in advance will make it easier to remain objective when evaluating candidates.

For example, your hiring panel might be wowed by someone who interviews well, has a great personality and has found huge success in nurturing long-term clients within one-year sales cycles. However, if you happen to have a 30-day sales cycle, this person is clearly not the best fit. You need someone who can turn around sales quickly.

By creating a list of required qualities for the position in advance, you can stay focused on hiring the sellers who will work best for your particular company. 

Pre-step 5: Prepare for success

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to sales leaders I’ve worked with: they meet a candidate they love and hire them right away – only to have the new seller arrive on Day 1 and find there’s no desk, computer or phone set aside for them. Instead of getting started on those indicators for success mentioned in Pre-step 3, they sit around awkwardly waiting to be set up by IT and office management.

Before the interviews start make sure you have all the tools and technology in place. You’ll then be prepared for any quick hires, and they’ll feel more welcomed to the sales team knowing you’ve saved a seat for them.  

Pre-step 6: Have an offer letter ready

It’s important to prepare this document before interviews so you can offer the job right away to the strongest sellers. Don’t find an incredible candidate and then make them wait weeks on end for you to create and/or move the offer letter through legal. While they’re waiting for you to act, another opportunity could come along. And let’s face it, the best candidates get snapped up quickly. Have that offer letter ready to go during the interviewing process.

Set yourself up for success! Follow the six interview pre-steps above and you’ll have all the right components in place before the interviews begin. In return, you’ll have a smoother hiring process and even better success at finding great sellers for your team!