How do I hire the right salesperson?

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Dear Norm,
My partner, Jon, and I have a two-year-old technology start-up. Our problem is that neither one of us is a salesperson. Jon is an engineer, and I’m a systems analyst. I’d rather have dental surgery without Novocain than go out and sell. So we need a salesperson, but I’m worried about hiring someone who will give away the store. We offer a one-year, complete-satisfaction-or-your-money-back guarantee. If we wind up buying too much back, we’ll go out of business. With our reputation at stake, we can’t afford to go the gold-chains-red-sports-car route. How can we make sure we get the right type of salesperson?

Dear Eric,
You need to begin by recognizing that you are, in fact, the best salesperson for your product. You know it better than anyone else, and you have a passion for it. You probably have trouble making the initial contact with prospective customers. Fine. Hire someone to do that for you. Look for a personable individual who is good at cold-calling, turning up leads, and identifying prospects—and who can deal with the hardest part of selling, namely, rejection. Let that person bring you prospects who are pre-qualified and ready to buy. You’ll become the closer. That way, you’ll have control over their expectations.
Yours truly, Norm

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