Over the past two weeks, we had the opportunity to chat with wholesale pro Nicole McIver about how to succeed at trade shows, from choosing the right trade show to standing out from the rest of the crowd. However, as McIver points out, running a trade show booth alone will leave you exhausted.
You’ll be fielding questions on all sides from visitors, and you may have your hands so full that you can’t attend to everyone. At times like this, it is crucial to have extra pairs of hands to help you succeed at the trade show.
However, hiring sales representatives for B2B is different from hiring retail staff for B2C. Although sales representatives for both markets aim to build on existing relationships with the customer to ensure retention, they have different selling styles. Retail sales often center on immediate gratification, while a corporate sales decision requires a longer time frame for planning and evaluation.
With this difference in mind, here’s three steps to create an amazing B2B sales team -- from hiring the right people, to training them, to equipping them with the tools to succeed.
Hire the right peopleWhat are you looking for when you’re hiring?
On one hand, there are the basic requirements for the job like a Bachelor’s degree, high communication abilities, and at least a year’s experience. But these requirements alone aren’t enough.
You also want to hire sales representatives that will be a good fit for your company. They’ll have to complement your company’s selling style, and that’s where other qualities such as their personality and energy level comes into play. For example, if you’re looking to hire outbound sales staff, you need employees who are unfazed by dismissive treatment and can maintain a high level of enthusiasm throughout the day.
In addition to these, you need to be clear about the roles you are trying to fill. Don’t leave the description vague. If you have a tangible result in mind (e.g. cold-calling about 60 numbers a day), you need to write that in your job description. After all, having intimidating job descriptions encourages self-selection, as only people willing to rise to the challenge will apply for the role.
When you’re interviewing potential sales representatives, simulations of selling situations are a great way of observing their behavior.
Take a leaf from Procter & Gamble’s hiring process: Before the interview, they provide candidates with a case study that describes a selling situation, and the assignment is to select target customers and develop a sales pitch. During the interview, the candidate has to explain their plan and role-play the situation with a sales manager. By doing this, you’ll be able to judge their preparation skills and their sales ability.
Keep them on their toes with on-the-job trainingHiring the right sales representative is only the beginning. For them to really excel, you’ll need to equip them with the knowledge they need to sell. If they don’t know the product like the back of their hand, chances are they won’t be able to meet the goals you set them.
But this doesn’t mean you should make them sit through multi-day sales training. According to a report by Sales Performance International, “without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement, approximately 50% of the learning content is not retained within five weeks... Within 90 days, 84% of what was initially learned is lost.” Instead, offering on-demand resources and on-the-job learning can offer your salespeople the foundation they need.
For on-the-job learning opportunities, it’s time to get your most experienced and successful sales representatives to train your new hires. While it’s true that doing so may make it difficult for you to hit your sales target during the training period, it’ll pay off in the long run. You’ll be able to get your new hires up to speed more quickly, resulting in higher productivity across the board.
Equip them to impressInstead of giving your sales representatives unwieldy catalogs and paper order sheets, why not make the switch to mobile technology?
With mobile technology, they’ll be able to sell on the go. A mobile sales app can turn a smartphone or a tablet into a catalog that showcases high quality images of your products. Better yet, if you have an amazing new product to sell, all you need to do is snap product photos with your smartphone camera and these will be updated across all your sales channels.
As your sales representatives are showing customers your mobile catalog, they will be able to add products to the latter’s order and write up sales orders on the spot. With inventory management software you’ll be able to sync your inventory levels across all channels, and your sales representatives won’t need to call headquarters to check on stock availability.
To ensure your customers are kept up to date on your latest product offerings, encourage your sales teams to send customers an invitation to your private B2B eCommerce portal. You’ll be able to customize your B2B portal for your individual customers, from prices to products.
That way, instead of your sales representatives having to deliver a new reprint of your catalog every month, they’ll be able to update customers with a phone call or email.
Now that we’ve covered how to hire, train, and equip your sales team to impress, it’s time to delve into the logistics side of things next week. As the B2B side of your business grows, you may want to stay ahead of the competition by offering perks that will make fulfillment a breeze for your buyers.