Staffing our Sales Department

I made a choice to make a big change in my life recently and that change has allowed me to see things from a different perspective at times.  An example of this different perspective is staffing a sales department.  I want to go ahead and put a disclaimer out there that I am guilty of this exact issue that I am bringing up when I was an owner and manager!  So, it pains me to have to swallow my pride and admit that I believe I was wrong when it came to my hesitancy to add an additional salesperson.  In my short time helping others in this industry I have seen the need for adding sales people more than I could have ever expected.  Why do so many owners and managers hesitate to add sales people even when the numbers are telling them the business is ready for it?

One of the first reasons for not adding a sales person that I heard was the morale of the sales department.  We like how the sales team works together and don’t want to disrupt that environment.  I definitely value a good environment, but eventually this reasoning will lead to a complacent sales team that could be more effective.  We have to learn to accept that a growing and healthy business will always need change in the sales department and waiting to make that change can be costly.

Another reason I have seen discussed is “we don’t want to lose our top sales people and are worried what they will think when we add another person to compete against for commission.”  I don’t doubt that this is said by many of our salespeople, but our best ones are never the ones that should be worried in this situation.  As the story goes you don’t have to be faster than the bear.  You just have to be faster than at least one person in your group!  It isn’t your established sales people who should fear a new salesperson.  It is your bottom performers that have the most to lose.  Truthfully if the bottom performers would make a slight improvement we would not need to add but that line of thinking never works out for the employer.

I have had others mention that it takes a while for a sales person to earn their pay.  This can definitely be the case, but preparation can at least give you a good idea of how to structure that situation to remain within what you consider acceptable.  It is simple math to chart out what you expect from a new hire on a week to week basis so that you can know when your subsidizing their pay should end.  If you are giving constant feedback to your new employees then you and they both know when they are not meeting expectations.  If they continue to fall behind your expectations, you can always stop before even getting to your threshold to minimize your financial exposure.  It can be frustrating when a new sales person doesn’t make it, but one really good sales person will make up for several mistakes in the long run.  Another way to justify it in the short term is to look at how much a normal employee produces in sales (total net sales / number of employees).  The additional salesperson almost always makes that number go up in very short order.  In other words you are getting some of your training costs back by getting more work from others in production.

These are just a few of the various arguments that have been made when a business doesn’t want to hire a new salesperson even though the statistics say they should.  There have been other reasons but the simple fact is numbers don’t lie.  If the different statistical indicators are saying your business needs to add to your sales staff then you need to figure out how to work through any of these issues as well as any others to get it done!

If aging, complacent, under-performing, passive and under achieving are terms that describe your overall sales environment you do not have a healthy sales environment.  The existing staff play a large role in this and the best way to fix that is to add to the mix which will require everyone to push hard to sell.  We do a great job of selling some of the time so we need to the sales staff in order to continue a healthy selling culture.  Don’t be scared go ahead and hire another salesperson!

Mike Kunkel        Lee Worman

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