3 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Hiring a Sales Rep

Interview with Donald Miller and Nigel Green

Episode Description

As entrepreneurs, we love ye olde seafaring metaphor, don’t we? We’re call ourselves the captain. We’ve got our crew. We’re steering the ship. There’s no scurvy. Life is grand.

The last thing we want to do in our seafaring analogy is throw an anchor overboard and slow down the ship.

But that’s what hiring a salesperson feels like. You’re sinking all this money into a hire when, hey, couldn’t you just keep doing it yourself? Or wait awhile until the cash flow improves? Or promote your super-smart assistant?

If the idea of hiring a salesperson for your growing business freaks you out, today’s “minisode” of the Building a StoryBrand podcast is for you.

Here are the three mistakes entrepreneurs make when hiring a sales rep — and how to fix them.


Mistake #1: Entrepreneurs Think They Should Be Selling

Every minute you spend selling represents lost potential. If you’re an entrepreneur, your company needs you to lead, not sell.

Even if you’re gifted at it, it’s taking you away from creating strategic plans, taking care of your staff, or dreaming about the next big thing.

Plus, you probably have a blindspot. As entrepreneurs, we tend to be so close to our product or service that we don’t know how to talk about it well anymore. We fixate on product details. We take weird tangents. And we forget that leads won’t give a hoot about any of it.

Your business exists to create customers. Why not have people that spend their entire day finding more customers for this wonderful product or service that you’ve created?

Mistake #2: Entrepreneurs Wait Too Long to Hire a Salesperson

Hiring a salesperson feels like — and is — a major investment. As a result, we tend to put it off. “Maybe next quarter,” we think, and before you know it a year has gone by.

But good salespeople pay for themselves, and quickly.

Here’s how to tell when you should make your hire:

Sit down and ask yourself, “How long does it take from the very first time I talk to a potential customer before they decide to make a transaction with this company?”

Average those responses, and that’s your sales cycle. Once you know that, you determine how long it will take before a sales rep can, at the very least, pay for his or her own salary.

For most businesses, this is going to take about 90 days. So congratulations, you now have a timeline for hiring a salesperson (and no more excuses not to).

Mistake #3: They Hire Someone From Inside

Let’s recap: you know you’re not going to keep selling. You know that the time to hire a salesperson is now. Next, let’s figure out how to get the right person on board.

Why not move your super-smart staffer Nancy over to sales? Nancy knows your business. You know Nancy. Nancy is a hard worker, and she’s smart. You can train Nancy to sell. Why not Nancy?

Here’s why Nancy probably won’t work: the best sales talent is hired rather than trained.

That’s because great salespeople naturally migrate to selling. If Nancy is your killer salesperson, she is already selling because she can’t resist it. If not, you need to look elsewhere.

Here’s how to find the perfect salesperson:

  • Look for people who are already working and selling successfully at other companies. Think about it: someone who’s applying for a job has probably been unsuccessful selling someone else’s product. That’s not who you want to bring on.
  • The main thing that contributes to a sales rep’s success is how passionately they believe in the product or service they’re selling. So start by looking at your existing ambassadors and customers when you’re hiring a salesperson. Your offer may be compelling enough to walk away from another gig.
  • Give your new hire clear expectations of the path to success: “We expect you to meet with this many people, or have this many phone calls, each day.” In the early days, this is more important than results. That’s because we know that, in sales, activity always precedes results.

Are you making any of these mistakes? If so, decide today what you’re going to do about it. Leave me a comment and tell me what you’re thinking — I’d love to hear from you!

Can One Sentence Double Your Revenue?

Before you hire a salesperson, make sure you have a one-liner for your company — a clear, concise sentence that tells people what you do so they want to learn more. Our free upcoming webinar, Words That Sell, will show you how.


Podcast produced by: Tim Schurrer
Additional editing by: Nick Jaworski

Subscribe to the Building a Story Brand Podcast