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Taking the stress out of hiring your first sales rep

You've decided to hire a sales representative to help grow your business. Now what?

Hiring can be an unpleasant and often stressful process, especially when dealing with sales people. The level of stress can rise exponentially when the one doing the hiring is an entrepreneur.

Many entrepreneurs don't hire sales people early on, instead waiting till things get really going. This often means they spend less time thinking about the skills they need and to properly execute the hiring process. Waiting too long can slow momentum and have negative consequences.

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It's critical to plan well in advance of the hiring event, when you have time to reflect calmly on what you want to achieve by adding a sales resource and how the hire aligns with your overall goals. Trying to do all the above when you need a rep "now" will cause you to rush and may ultimately lead to making a hiring mistake.

Before even trying to determine who to hire, how they will fit in or what personality traits they should look for, entrepreneurs must first ask themselves a few key questions about themselves, their ambitions, attributes and objectives. The more clarity they have on these fundamental points, the greater likelihood of a successful and lasting hire. Without first looking in the mirror, an entrepreneur is far more likely to make a series of bad hires, and may even give up on the process altogether.

An entrepreneurs should also consider how they will manage the new sales rep. Some entrepreneurs assume that everyone is like them – a self-motivated, hands-on go-getter able to execute on their own. But this is not always the case with sales people. Often they need structure to succeed and in order for them to improve, they're need to be challenged.

The other end of the spectrum is the entrepreneur who is so fixated on the details of her business that she wants, or feels she needs to be involved. Her inability to let go will not do her sales rep any favours.

As you would expect, the best is somewhere in the middle – with clear goals and expectations. But you need to know who you are before you can pair with a rep that you can work with, and more importantly can work with you.

The other thing to figure out is what you are looking for: a pure hunter to drive new business or a hybrid hunter – nurturer. Almost every rep will tell you they are hunters, and at the time they are hunting for a job they are, but can they sustain that drive? Or will they revert to managing (and not necessarily growing) their base. Everyone says they want to be with an entrepreneurial company, but not all want to work in a way that environment demands. The facts are in their past, if they cannot demonstrate empirically that they have done what you need, pass, they will not last, and you will be the worse for it, and stress.

I am a big proponent of hiring slow and firing fast, which means you need to figure things out when you are calm, and sticking to you plan when the time comes. Do that, and you'll reduce your stress.

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Tibor Shanto is a principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. He can be reached at His column appears once a month on the Report on Small Business website.

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