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For most businesses, putting together a great marketing plan won’t put people in a perfect buying mood if you don’t make an effort to have a quality sales force. The salesperson has to gain customers’ trust, motivate them to buy, and then actually close to the sale. Good salespeople can do that; bad ones can’t. You need a strategy that includes hiring the best people, keeping them at their jobs, training them so that they know what they are doing, and finally giving them an opportunity to advance.


Hiring The Best People

Compensation, support, and flexibility are the three factors that attract quality salespeople. You need to take the time to hire the right salesperson not just to increase sales, but because hiring and training a salesperson is quite expensive.



You don’t need to offer people a higher salary than anyone else, but you should include a commission or bonus structure that gives them a chance to earn more if they perform well.



Support is a subjective term. Every company says it supports its sales force, but good salespeople can immediately tell if you value them. You show support when you have a sales force advisory board that provides input that you listen to and take action on. You also show support when most of your sales materials are prepared in response to a salesperson’s request.



Good salespeople like to have the flexibility to adjust a presentation to their personalities. Don’t try to force a salesperson into a rote way of doing things. There is a commercial that has a salesperson ask an owner, “How do I treat someone who wants to make a return?” The owner’s answer is, “Treat them the same way you’d like to be treated.” You do need rules for salespeople to follow, but you make the guidelines, not rigid doctrine.


Sales tests

Hive people a written test before you hire them. Quite a few companies sell products for screening salespeople, and some of these tests are incredibly helpful. You can’t tell from an interview how positive or how consistent a person is, but these tests can tell you.

Don’t use them exclusively, however, as they are not always right.


Keeping People At Their Jobs

Respect is the most important thing you can offer a top salesperson. Salespeople are really out on their own. They need the self-confidence to succeed, and they won’t have it if they feel that someone is looking over their shoulders. Set goals for salespeople, explain to them what you need them to achieve, but then respect their abilities to get the job done.

Compensation, flexibility, and career advancement will also help you keep, as well as hire, good salespeople. But it is your attitude towards the salesperson that is most important.



Your training program tells a salesperson exactly how important the job really is. If you expect salespeople to represent your company well, you should emphasize that point by having a training program. If you don’t have such a program, salespeople aren’t going to think their job is important. With salespeople, what you do is much more important than what you say.

Besides the psychological benefits of a training program, you also need to show people how you want them to sell – i.e., relationship selling rather than a hard closing sale – and you need to give them the product and company knowledge they need to close sales.


Opportunities for advancement

In most companies, there aren’t many opportunities for salespeople to advance into sales or marketing management. But you can still build promotional moves into your sales force. Sales Representative can be an entry-level position. Sales Consultant could be the next step up, once a person has proved he or she knows the product line and can offer expert advice. Senior Sales Consultant could be another step up, and Sales Trainer could be a salesperson who mentors new colleagues.


It irritates experienced salespeople to have a new, untrained, unproven person join the company at the same title position as theirs. It doesn’t show respect for experience. Having a few advancement opportunities in the sales force gives you a way to reward performance and keep your sales staff motivated.


Action Steps

Prepare hiring and promotion guidelines for your company. This helps salespeople see that a sales position is important, and it helps you develop a coherent strategy.

Prepare a training program for new salespeople. Make training a top priority for either you or someone on your staff.

Conduct exit interviews with people when they leave the company. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, develop a questionnaire. Find out if the people felt appreciated if they felt they had enough training, and if they felt they had opportunities for advancement.

Bernard Taiwo
I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.