As your small business grows you may well need help with sales and marketing. If you've been managing this role yourself, it can be hard to find employees whose experience and enthusiasm match your own. Here's how to recruit the sales and marketing staff that will meet your needs
The right sales and marketing staff can help a start-up grow into a thriving small business. Finding the best recruits is critically important and paying more for someone with the right experience could well pay dividends. Employing the wrong applicants can have a disproportionately harmful effect on a small firm that doesn't have the resources to manage under-achievers.
Understand your sales and marketing recruitment needs
Create a sales or marketing recruitment plan based on your business needs. Think about what you are trying to achieve in your business in terms of future sales, expansion into new markets and customer service. Assess any marketing weaknesses and areas of underperformance. Growing businesses often decide to recruit additional marketing skills - for example, in internet or social media marketing - to fill roles that have previously been contracted out to external suppliers.
Don't try to replicate yourself
Be realistic about what your sales and marketing staff can achieve. You may be your company's best salesperson because you know exactly what your product or service can do - and if anyone can communicate what your company does with passion, it's you.
However, your enthusiasm may be the main reason for the sales you've made to date. Yours is a personal connection to the business which cannot be replicated - so don't attempt to. Remember, it is also beneficial for your business to bring in a wide range of skills, experience and styles.
Draw up a job description
Start the job description with the job title. Spell out the essential elements of the role you are offering and outline the duties involved. The remuneration package is a key ingredient of the offer, including details of any commission-based pay.
Clarify what type of position you are offering - full-time or part-time, temporary or fixed contract. Explain how the role fits within the organisation: whether the job forms part of a team, how many staff (if any) need to be managed and who the successful candidate will report to. Highlight any important conditions, such as working out of hours or travelling as part of the job. Avoid any requirements that might be discriminatory. It is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race, gender, disability, age and so on.
Consider the characteristics that you want job candidates to have, such as qualifications or experience of your industry. However, be cautious about over-reliance on qualifications unless they are genuinely essential. In sales roles, experience is usually more important.
That said, marketing and sales management qualifications can be beneficial, especially if you are recruiting for a more senior role. Best known are qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), the Institute of Direct Marketing and the Market Research Society.
Look for candidates with the right experience
Employing salespeople with a track record in your sector can make life a lot easier, especially if your business is selling professional services. While experience is key, it needs to be relevant. Look for candidates who have worked in similar roles to the one you are offering, ideally in the same industry.
For sales recruitment, existing relationships with your target customers may be a prime requirement. Junior sales roles, particularly in areas such as telesales, often demand a positive attitude and a thick skin. However, telesales experience may be of little use in a role that relies on servicing a handful of key accounts. If you need someone to develop new business rather than act as an account manager, you will need a candidate with that specific experience.
Finally, consider recruiting people with relevant contacts. People buy from people, so employing salespeople who already have a list of prospects could lead to more sales. The best salespeople will always have such a list and, as a rule of thumb, the better their list, the more they're worth.
Contacts are also vital when it comes to employing marketing staff. Your marketing people need to have good connections, networking skills and a solid understanding of social media marketing as well as a good grasp of marketing strategy.
Finding marketing and sales candidates
Personal contacts, recommendations and networking may help you find suitable sales and marketing candidates but most business owners rely on advertising - on job websites or social media platforms such as LinkedIn - or they use a recruitment agency.
Using a recruitment consultancy has certain advantages. The right agency will typically have promising candidates on their books - often including individuals who are not actively looking for a job. A good recruitment consultant can also screen applicants for you so that you only interview promising candidates.
The ideal recruitment agency for your business will already be recruiting for sales and marketing roles for other companies in your industry. Searching the online job sites for the kind of job you want to advertise should turn up the names of agencies recruiting for similar positions.
Make sure you have agreed the recruitment agency's fees before using them. Fees can be substantial but they may be negotiable. Most agencies operate on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Assessing sales and marketing recruits
Look for evidence that candidates can deliver: for example, a record of achievement in previous roles. Tests such as role playing a sales scenario or discussing market opportunities can help reveal an applicant's true ability.
It's worth using two or more interviewers to help you make a better assessment of candidates. It's easy to be swayed by the "halo effect" in interviews - where one positive detail blinds you to a candidate's negative attributes. It's also a good idea to introduce candidates to your team and ask them for their first impressions after the meeting.
You may well have to sell the job to the best applicants, highlighting the competitive strengths of your business. Salespeople in particular will want to be convinced about the likely level of sales and commission they can achieve.
Staff motivation and training
Motivation is a key component in the successful management of sales and marketing employees. Incentive schemes typically form part of this process, but if they are poorly planned there can be unhealthy competition within the team and resentments can build up.
Training and development is perhaps more important in sales and marketing roles than in any other part of your business. Consider accompanying your employees on sales calls or using coaches or consultants to help develop marketing and sales skills. Leading marketing associations such as the CIM offer a wide range of workshops, seminars and online training in sales and marketing.