Adding a Salesperson

The owner of a growing shop mulls adding a salesman and reaches an interesting decision. February 25, 2005

I'm probably going to add a sales guy before the end of the year. I might even actually be able to do some honest-to-god managing.

Do any of you have salespeople on your staffs? How do you compensate them? Straight percentage or salary plus? What percentage?

Do you hand them leads or expect them to find their own? Once the job is sold, how much of the detail work do you expect of them? Field measure? Cutlists? Shop drawings? Ready to go into the shop?

This is a big step for me. I've always been "The Guy". My name's on the door and I want do this right. I don't have any concerns about finding the right person, only about the right mutual expectations, so I want to know what's been proven to work.

Forum Responses
(Business Forum)
From contributor T:
I have been a draftsman and salesman. The better furniture salesmen I have found are excellent at selling and usually enjoy 10% of the gross sale and delivery and installation price. (They sell delivery and installation, too.)

Normally, a good salesman would provide a rough sketch for drafting and do the presentation to the client and then close the deal and move on to the next client. The engineering department/draftsman would take over the detailed field measure and shop drawings. They would also be responsible to be at the final punch-out list with the client to iron out what was sold and what is expected and to collect the balance due.

It comes down to not being able to find good salesmen who are detailed draftsman. So it is best for the salesmen to stick to what they know best. In contrast, I sell and provide the detailed drawings for 10%, but I do both well.

From the original questioner:

I have a friend who pays his sales guys 10% but makes them detail the job on Cabinet Vision. This always struck me as a little odd, since he's not the one who's going to eat the cost of any mistakes caused by mis-measuring.

I've been thinking about this since I posted, and this may be the last thing I hand off, unless the right guy happens along sooner.

I used to hate sales, even though I worked my way through college mostly by doing sales of one type or another. Once I found a product I really believed in (my own), it became a lot easier and I've found that selling really can be an art form. I think it's going to be tough for me to hand this off to someone. Or maybe it'll just be tough for me to let go of it.

From contributor T:
You can consider the other route. Do the selling yourself and hand off your work to a trusted manager or apprentice. I'm a strong believer in sticking with what you do best and trying not to do it all. Teamwork wins out every time.

From the original questioner:
I'm bringing in a promising person to train as my office manager, starting next week. This will free me from a lot of the mundane stuff I have to tend to now, and allow me to do more strategic planning and execution as well as carry forward with the sales hat on for a while longer while I map out how best to proceed.

From contributor B:
Here are some observations from a real life sales guy - me.

I would go with salary plus commission for a compensation package. Personally, I would not work for a company which did not offer both. Salespeople who are just on commission are too short-sighted and are very pushy with customers. I am guessing that you are a small business and you want to protect your reputation. I would not risk your reputation with a pushy, commission-based sales rep. Think car sales. Enough said.

The typical salesperson is not detail-oriented. Salespeople are social people who enjoy building relationships. I am sure your type of sale would require some type of technical aptitude, but I have seen a lot of very successful salespeople who know very little about technology who can effectively sell technology. My point is let the sales guy\gal handle the customer relationship and have your technical folks do the actual hands on work.

From the original questioner:
We've had some spirited board meetings recently about how to address this issue. Fortunately, the final decision is mine. I'm pretty much going to go the route contributor T suggested and build the administrative staff first, keeping an eye out for a good prospect for the sales.

And I'm going to go your route as well, contributor B. Detailing the job is going to be done by the technical department. This just makes much sense to me.

P.S. The new Office Manager is going to work out great. The transition is so far going very well and much good stuff is happening.