Training & Staffing Part I: The Foundation of an Excellent Sales Team

May 5, 2021

This article originally appeared in Water Quality Products magazine April 2020 issue as "Finding the Passion"

About the author:

Jennifer Smith, CWS, is vice president for Moti-Vitality. Smith can be reached at [email protected] or 810.655.9600. 

This article is the first in an in-depth series focusing on how to build, train and retain an amazing sales team. Read the rest of the series:

Whether you are adding to an existing sales team or you are introducing a sales department to your existing business, it is common to become overwhelmed with the whole process. Hiring, training and retaining a sales team can be a challenge. The cost associated with bringing on a sales team is not inexpensive, so you want to make sure you get it right.

In this three-part series, we will discuss best practices for hiring a sales team, the do’s & don’ts of training and retaining a team that will represent your company (and the industry) with honesty, integrity and passion for years to come.

Where to Start

Prior to building a sales team, you need to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. There are many owners who feel starting a sales team will solve all the problems in the company. More sales mean more revenue and everyone is happy, right? Well you need to make sure your company and your existing team are ready for more sales. 

Do you have a strong team to support increased sales? Do you have an office staff that is available to answer calls and schedule consultations? Do you have a competent service and install team that represents your company well? Do you have a hands-on manager that can congratulate employees on successes or address issues as they arise?

Do your current employees have concerns with the dynamics of the company? Many times, employees have a different outlook than management does. Sometimes it is helpful to bring a third party in to speak with each employee to get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Weaknesses should be addressed prior to adding to the team in order to retain top-notch employees.

The Job Posting

To save time and energy, make the job posting as appealing but transparent as possible. List the benefits and the challenges.

Here is an example: “This is not a 9 to 5 position. While one of the greatest benefits of this position is the time flexibility...long hours, some evenings and Saturdays will be the trade-off.” If you are looking for individuals responsible for creating their own business, here is another example: “While sales leads will be provided, this position will require you to create your own business and customer relationships using techniques instructed through our training program.” 

Make sure to brag about your company’s successes also. It is also important to list company benefits in the posting. Health care is a benefit many candidates look for. If you offer health care, then you may receive more resumes; however, if you note health care is not covered, then you will get serious inquiries that are not looking for that benefit.

There are many job posting sites you can use. Some require a flat fee, a daily fee, per click or free. Remember you get what you pay for on some sites. If you are looking for inexpensive job postings, try emailing your existing customer base (if they love your equipment they will love to sell it), posting on your company Facebook page or posting to your community Facebook pages. Excellent resources are the Water Quality Association (WQA) Career Center and the industry magazines. These will not only attract professionals from within the industry but those interested in joining the industry.

Reviewing Resumes

Reviewing resumes can be time consuming. Keep an open mind. Suggested previous experience to look for could be servers, teachers, coaches or social workers. Candidates who volunteer within their community are also wonderful. These are people that have a giving and teaching mentality. It is advised to stay away from people with too much sales experience. These people are sometimes untrainable and come with bad habits. Once you find great characteristics, you can train the employee to represent your company the way you want your company represented. 

The Interview Process

The more you meet with someone, the more you will get to know their personality and their drive. A four-step interview process is a great way to assure the excitement is mutual.

Your first contact should be a quick call to schedule a phone conversation. This allows the candidate to have time to review the job posting and focus on the conversation instead of possibly talking while at their child’s soccer practice. The scheduled phone conversation should be brief and cover the job posting itself. Sometimes when applying to multiple positions a candidate may overlook important requirements, such as “straight commission” or “must be available for evening consultations.” If the candidate seems concerned about a requirement, then it may not be a good fit.

The first face-to-face meeting should be similar to a sales appointment. Realistically, they are selling themselves. Ask the receptionist what their first impression was of the candidate. This would be similar to the first impression a homeowner would have. Was the candidate respectful and friendly to the receptionist? This will be telling of how the candidate works with the team.

Ask the candidate what excites them about the position. Have they researched the company and the industry? How could they see themselves growing with the company? Are they beginning to feel a passion for helping homeowners with their water treatment needs.

Do not limit yourself to stock questions. Many companies and employment agencies prepare job seekers with a list of stock questions and how to answer them. Asking where they see themselves in five years or what drives them does assist in getting to know your candidate, but adding a few unusual questions will help get to know the individual. Ask a riddle with stipulations on how they can solve the riddle. Here is one example: “You can ask me any questions as long as I can answer with a yes or no.” See if they immediately tell you the riddle is impossible. See if they follow directions. See if they just give up. Give them the answer after a few questions, but it will be telling how they react when they do not understand what a customer is telling them.

The second face-to-face interview is the ideal time to cover the sales pay structure. If they are truly excited about the position, they will be willing to wait until this phase of the hiring process to get to the compensation. This is a wonderful time to discuss any questions or concerns they have about the position. It is also a great time to discuss any concerns you have with them. Did they talk politics or maybe swear in the first interview? Did they wear too much cologne? When you address these concerns, pay attention to their reaction. Do they apologize or do they make excuses? At this point you should have a really good idea who you are looking to offer the position to.

For the third and final face-to-face interview, plan a lunch or dinner. Invite the significant other. Make it clear this is not a requirement, but it is a courtesy. This will give the opportunity for the significant other to ask any questions they may have about the position or the company. Often, the candidate will go home and “sell” the position to their significant other but leave out important information. Allowing the significant other to get a better understanding of the company and responsibilities of the position will ensure support at home. This is also an opportunity to see how the candidate interacts with the waitstaff, which is often a sign of how they will work with others within your organization.

Adding a sales professional to your team can be exciting. Maintaining that excitement during the training phase is as important as the interview process. In the June issue of WQP, we will discuss the best practices for preparing your team for this amazing industry.

About the Author

Jennifer Smith

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