Here’s a question you should probably be asking every day, and potentially haven’t sat down and thought about in years: What makes a good salesperson? What should you be looking for?
There are lists about this all over the Internet, and if you threw a rock onto LinkedIn or other professional social platforms, you’d find lots of advice on it too. We all know the main words you would hear: confidence, listening, conversational ability, relentless, “can sell ice to Eskimos,” etc.
But let’s say you’re thinking of outsourcing sales, because it’s an inexpensive way to scale up predictable revenue. If you’re bringing in salespeople who won’t necessarily be on phones at your HQ every day, what do you need to be looking for?
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The basics are still the basics
Yes, you need someone who can listen, who can communicate with customers, who has a good work ethic, who knows how to work with marketing, who can convey the product’s value prop, etc… all those things matter, and all those things will appear on every list on this topic.
And, in fact, one good reason to outsource is that internal hiring is usually political and initially driven by HR, who may not understand a sales role that well. Because interview questions are then often subjective, you may go through an entire 20-to-30-day hiring process and still get a bad hire. When you outsource and do your research, you can get better people — and ending an outsourced arrangement (i.e. retainer) is typically easier than trying to fire someone.
What about “relationships?”
This is a big — BIG — mistake that people make when looking into outsourced partners. Look, relationships are very important, especially in sales. We would never argue that. But do not over-focus on “relationship selling.” It works, yes, but it works to a point. If you hired a firm because you think they have amazing relationships, cool! But what happens when you get to the end of their call list? If they don’t have skills to convey the product, now you’re in a dangerous revenue place.
What you want to be looking for is someone (or a firm) that has experience conveying the value within your industry or vertical. Now it’s less about their list of connections and more about value-based selling, where the product or service will take center stage.
How should you do research on outsourced sales principals/firms?
Talk to people you know and trust. Get referrals. Every single sales outsourcing firm on the planet will say the same stuff on their website, so you can do some research on the site, but go to trusted partners, former colleagues, etc. Do your due diligence so you know what the firm offers and how it works. Check if they have some focus or speciality like geography, industry, sales approach, …
Are they “baked in?”
The reality of human interaction is that people tend to value what’s immediately in front of them; this is a big reason why flexible/remote work, while increasing in popularity, still isn’t the norm in most countries. Sales is an important function, and executives will care about it regardless. But if the salespeople aren’t going to be in front of the executives every day — if the execs can’t see them working phones, etc. — then the performance needs to be amazing or else the executive will get an itchy trigger finger to kill the deal. So you are looking for people who can hit the ground running, and who can “bake in” to your team … meaning they operate like an extension of your team from afar. They attend the same important meetings, etc. If you can find outsourced sales that feels “baked in” and as part of the team, even better.
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