How Do You Grow A Small Business-#3?

An eon ago a comic by the name of George Carlin had a stand-up bit called “the 7 words you can’t say on TV”. It’s worth the time to locate this because it is truly side-splitting humor. I can’t rival Carlin but I can adapt the 7-word format to small business. Here are the most pathetic words a small business owner can say, “I assumed he (she) knew how to sell”.

The third key factor in growing a small company is that the direct salesperson understands selling concepts and is not an order taker. Case in point. Several years ago I interviewed a salesperson for a client. Based on a short meeting with the salesperson I told the client to hire the person. He knew the business my client was in and had solid contacts in the vacant sales territory. Regardless of all that, the salesperson struggled! I traveled with this gentleman on several occasions and I discovered that he was an order taker and not a salesperson. My client blew 18 months before letting the person go.

This scenario is repeated often in the world of small business. Can you imagine how this impacts revenue and expenses for these businesses? It’s scary! The majority of small business owners are not skilled interviewers, they don’t know how to read between resume lines, they don’t have the time to do extensive reference checks, and they for sure don’t travel with salespeople to determine if they really can sell. In the world of small business, hiring is a crap shoot but it does not have to be.

Here are several thoughts on how to hire more effectively:

  1. Use an assessment tool to evaluate salespeople before you hire them. (I have used both DISC and Profiles International.)
  2. Work with an experienced HR consultant who can flush out the poor salespeople from the keepers. (You can also use a “sales manager for hire” to help in the process.)
  3. When you interview the salesperson have them “sell” something to you during the interview. Ball point pen? Paper cup? Tablet of paper? Any of them will do.
  4. Make certain that the salesperson has some experience with the type of product you sell. If the rep sold only tangible products and your company sells intangible products there could be an issue.
  5. Have other people in the company interview the rep and have him or her travel with one of your salespeople for a days worth of sales calls.

The key to hiring a salesperson is to be patient and thorough. Time spent early in the hiring process will probably eliminate the pain of hiring another rep six months down the road.


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