Building a Sales Team You Can Trust:
One of the best part of our jobs here at Go Media is connecting with fellow creatives. Recently, Jeff Gapinski, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Huemor Design in Farmingdale, New York, reached out us. Jeff had some great feedback about Drawn to Business, as well as some questions about developing a killer sales team.
We thought we’d share the exchange with all of you. Enjoy and please feel free to continue the conversation with us in the comments below!
Lead Your Sales Team to Success
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the time and effort you took to put together the book “Drawn to Business”. I honestly wish I would have had the book when I started out, it would have made my journey to this point a bit easier, but none-the-less there was still insight to be gained from the read, even though we’re slightly beyond start-up stage.
I often found myself going YES YES THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FEEL throughout the book, which was extremely reassuring because:
1. It made me feel like I’m not crazy
2. I’m not alone
3. I have to be doing something right if I’m following the same path
That being said, I do have a question that perhaps you could shed some further light on. Towards the end of the book you discuss always having an active sales team, and I have to say, in terms of my business, it’s definitely a weakness of mine. We’ve been lucky enough to always be busy from the start, but it’s a huge fear of mine that the work will run out, and when it does, we won’t be prepared. My question specifically is, who did you seek for your sales roles? Did you find individuals with a background in sales for our industry, or did you find someone with a knack for sales and show them the ropes? I’m finding it especially difficult to find qualified individuals I feel are worthy of being the “face” of my brand that aren’t myself, or my business partner. Problem is, we both wear a lot of hats, and it’s especially difficult to actively pursue new leads on top of our 100 other tasks.
Hey Jeff! Thanks for the feedback. I’d be happy to shed some light on the latest and greatest insights I have on using and developing a sales team. Let me start by saying I was also terrible at developing and properly using a sales team. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve gotten it right. 2013 saw a 75% growth in design services – directly attributable to our new sales team and how I used them.
You should be afraid of running out of work! That’s healthy. It’s easier now, while you are busy, to ramp up your sales efforts than it will be if you run out of work. Being out of work and trying to spur sales is a stressful place. Make this a priority now! Use your strong cashflow to get marketing and people in place to push sales.
Find a good salesperson, not necessarily someone who knows the design industry. At the end of the day, sales is about communication, relationships, being competitive/self-motivated and having a knack for closing. None of these traits are specific to the design industry. Go Media’s top sales person didn’t have a background in design. We had to teach her. Of course, it’s a bonus if you can find someone with that knowledge base, but it’s not necessary. I would recommend finding someone with sales experience. Ask to see their track record and talk to their previous managers. And of course, all new employees need to be a cultural fit for your company.
Turn your salesperson into a clone of yourself. I completely hear your concern about your salesperson not being “worthy of being the face of your company.” So, here’s the solution: MAKE THEM WORTHY! You don’t hire a salesperson, give them a little dull sword and throw them into the lion’s den! You have to spend a long time training them. By the time they go sell for you on their own, they should have a full suit of armour, battle ax and mace! I think the best way to do this is to have them mirror you. Take them on sales calls with you. CC them on all your client e-mails. Have them on the phone with you. The salesperson needs to learn your “pitch.” They need to learn your personality, style, company culture, company story, anecdotal business stories, jokes – everything. Your salesperson is going to become a mini-you, a clone. This doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re starting from the premise that your sales pitch is working. So, you want to teach them what’s working. Did you see the movie The Wolf of Wallstreet? He became successful because he taught other sales people his pitch – he gave them a script!
So, how does this look in the real world for your sales team? The salesperson starts as an assistant to you. They take notes in the sales meetings. They listen and learn. They write the proposals – which you review. Bit by bit you let them do more and more of the sales work. Every step of the way you read what they write and listen to how they talk. You give feedback on what’s good and what needs modified. And of course, you teach them about the design industry. Once you’re confident in them, you start letting them lead the sales meeting and you simply sit and listen. Eventually they start going out on sales calls without you.
Over time a good salesperson will shed some of your personality and infuse their own. They will learn ways to get sales that you didn’t even think of. The education will go back and forth between you and your sales team. But your sales team needs to learn the rules before they can start breaking them. In the past I failed at building a sales team because I “put them on an island” and expected them to just sell without my help. That was completely wrong. Now I hold their hand, put words in their mouth and teach them all I know. The results have been dramatic.
Not chasing down all your leads is leaving money on the table! The owner of a company will ALWAYS be wearing many hats. I also have a hard time chasing down leads. This is exactly why you need a person (or two or three) that are only wearing one hat – the SALES hat. This way, when you are out networking and someone offhand mentions a slight interest in your design services – a lead that you might otherwise let pass you by, now you have someone to pass that lead along to – a hungry salesperson!
Don’t forget about developing your existing customers! Chasing down new leads is important, but even more important is developing the customers you already have. If you’re too busy to chase new leads (and wearing your many hats), then you’re probably not developing your current customers fully. How often do you call to check in? How often do you ask them what upcoming needs they have? How often do you pitch them on new services? Are you being a proactive salesperson or a responsive salesperson? If you only send proposals when your customers ask for them – you’re leaving money on the table. This is where your dedicated sales team shines. This is exactly the kind of work that you don’t have time for, but a dedicated sales team does.