I get it—it’s hard to market yourself. How do you extol your skills and services without coming off like a blowhard? Or what if you just suck at selling?
Hire a commission salesperson. You read about hiring VAs for all the administrative aspects of your business, from bookkeeping to social media posting. Not enough is said about outsourcing your sales to someone who actually enjoys selling. But savvy people who are scaling their businesses are doing it every day.
Where Do You Find These Magical People?
Gone are the days when you could place an ad in the local newspaper for help. Job hunters are online for the most part, with the exception of “walk-in” type jobs where a business has placed a Help Wanted sign in the window. That doesn’t work when you’re looking for sales representatives.
If you are looking for someone to work with you locally, you can place ads in online job sites that have local listings such as Craigslist. Facebook and LinkedIn have built-in job posting functions. There are also local job boards as well as local sites like NextDoor and Patch. Your state’s employment office also has job postings. Here’s a helpful article with ideas on How to Find Employees for Free.
If you want to hire a commission salesperson to work virtually, there are many sites that can help you such as Upwork.com, Freelancer.com, SalesAgent.com, CommissionCrowd.com, and Guru.com. (Plus hundreds of others—Google is your friend.) The key is to define the position well and to be very clear on what you expect your salesperson to do for you. You will need to interview people to see how well they come across. You don’t have to spend a ton of time on this. Your initial “sorting and sifting” interviews can be 15 minutes, long enough to give you a feel for the person. A second round with the best candidates can involve longer interviews. Have a copy and paste email for the candidates that aren’t appropriate.
Should You Offer Base Pay?
For the record, a minimum base wage will not satisfy a true salesperson, but it will tell them that you have a serious job offer. Commission salespeople go into sales because they want to make a LOT of money. If you can keep an eye on the salesperson’s actual activity, that is, you ask for and receive an activity sheet (number of calls made, contacts, appointments, sales, etc.) on a daily or weekly basis, then yes. Some of the online job sites offer an hourly tracker that monitors when the person is actually working.
Another way to go is to offer a draw against commission: You pay a minimal base salary and that amount is taken out of any commissions received.
Your commission structure depends on a couple of factors: the price of the product or services, the cost of goods sold/delivery of services, and whether a sale generates recurring income for you or for you and the salesperson.
Frankly, even a 50% commission on a $20 item is not going to get a professional salesperson excited. You’ve got to sell a lot of widgets every day to make money. Now, if that $20 item can be sold in bulk, it gets more interesting. If the $20 service generates a $10 commission each month and it can build into a substantial monthly recurring income, sales can become more worthwhile.
If you’re selling a one-time, high ticket item that is pretty much hands-off for you to deliver, for example, a sump pump or an online course, the commission can be commensurate with price. I might pay a 20% commission on a $3,500 service that I deliver one-on-one and a 50% commission on a $500 online course that only requires me to answer the occasional emailed question.
I will also say that ease of sale should be factored into the commission structure. Some things are just harder to sell than others. People buy what they want, not what they need. There are things people need and don’t want to talk about (pre-paid funeral expenses, long-term care). Then there are things people want but don’t need (another big screen TV, yet another magic diet pill).
If you’re offering base pay or a draw against commission, set a budget for yourself, both in time and money. You have to give the salesperson time to figure out their job, but if you’re not seeing progress or results within a few weeks, they may not be a good fit or there is something missing in your process. You need to talk to them to see what they are running into that is preventing their success.
Set Them Up for Success
Before advertising for a sales representative, make sure they will have everything they need to be successful. This may be background information on your products and services, a sales script, payment methods, brochures, contracts, web sales pages, etc. You should also either have a clean list of leads for them to contact, or a very well-defined target market for them to market to along with a process on how they can find and contact those people.
You can’t hire a salesperson and expect them to generate marketing materials and systems for you. That’s not their job. If you don’t have a sales process in place and can’t figure it out on your own, you need to talk to a marketing and sales consultant. If you’ve been in business a while, you most likely have a sales process; you’ve just never written it down because you do it naturally. Think about the last five sales you’ve made and analyze what you did to successfully find and convert that prospect to a client. Write out the process (or create videos), make sure you have the marketing materials your salesperson will need (including any online sales pages and payment methods), and put it together in a logical order.
Hiring and Training Takes Time
At this point you might say, “It’s just easier to do it myself.”
Yes. It’s always easier and faster to do it yourself when you are looking at the training curve. But your business will never grow if you don’t set up systems that will free you up to do what you do best.
Expect that your first few hires probably won’t work out. That’s the nature of the beast. The position is new and you won’t have worked any kinks out of the system yet. Each person who doesn’t work out is an opportunity to refine your process. You may get lucky and hit on someone who is good out of the gate. Treat them like the gold they are.
Know that setting up the system is a one-time activity. It takes time, but then you can hand the actual doing off to someone else. A short amount of time upfront can save you a lot of time in the years to come.
Outsource Revenue Generating Activities
As a small business person, you’re constantly hearing that you should outsource, but that advice is almost always applied to administrative tasks. That’s great if outsourcing those tasks frees you up to carry out revenue generating activities. But if you’re still avoiding sales because it’s not your thing, then look at hiring someone to do that. There are people who shine at sales, who thrive on the interaction with people, and who are true sales professionals. Let them do what they are best at while you do what you are best at. Win/Win.