Q. What exactly do you do?
It's actually quite simple... I build sales teams. That means I do what you, the CEO have probably been doing as far as sales goes, or what you would pay a VP sales to do. The difference is that I have built many teams, in a wide variety of industries, from bootstrapped start-ups to companies already earning over $50 Million a year. What they all wanted was an expert who would reliably build a team and run it so they could focus on developing products and operating their businesses. You are unlikely to find any one person with my depth of experience because of the nature of my practice.
Q. Why does your site say "I" instead of "we"?
Because this business is me. I have staff but I am not "corporate." I am personally involved in the projects. You get me personally not some junior manager or a guy overseas working for a dollar a day. I built the site myself. It says exactly what I want it to say and just like I would say it to you personally. I could have spent some money and got a fancy web designer and a corporate logo. I like it this way where I can add content or change things in a few minutes.
Q. What do you charge for your services?
Since there are many situations and variables, I need to learn more before I can decide if I can and want to help you, make recommendations, and provide pricing. If what you have going intrigues me, I may offer to do an initial analysis to create a sales strategy and design a team structure.
I do have some modest fees to cover out-of-pocket expenses. These would need to be paid anyway if you did it all yourself. I don't win unless sales happen, just like you. If you want a "free" sales team I advise you to go to Craigslist.
Q. Why are your prices so low?
I hear this often after providing a quote. The answer is that my pricing used to be up to 5 times more than I need to charge now. I have refined and re-engineered my processes many times to reach a point where I only do what I do best and am very efficient doing it. I can be profitable and save my clients a lot of money at the same time. Price is only one part of the equation, and not the most important, which is results. With me you get both results and low cost so you can preserve your margins as you hit your sales targets.
Q. Why shouldn't I give it a try myself so I won't have to pay anything up-front and call you later if I fail?
You can certainly do that. You may want to consider the risks:
- The opportunity cost... what's a year of lost revenue worth to you?
- Delay in valuation increase or meeting milestones for funding.
- Loss of advantage or market share to competitors.
- Exodus of your best staff if they see no real opportunity or you can't afford to keep them.
- Reps quit when they find an amateur running the team making amateur mistakes like skimpy or arbitrarily changing pay plans, faux-motivational pep rallies, useless training, territory changes and so on. After the initial rush of interest you get barely a trickle of resumes.
- Becoming demoralized yourself and losing the best years of your career and life.
Q. Why should I pay you when commission-reps should be free?
I am not a commission-only rep. I build entire sales teams typically composed of commission-only reps. To compare me with a rep is like comparing a baseball fan to a baseball team owner. Here's a handy chart that details this: The Difference.
Q. Do you build phone sales or outside sales teams?
I do both and will recommend whatever type of team can best reach and close your prospects. Phones sales is usually the best way to go since the reps can reach many more prospects per day. In-person visits are expensive and take up lots of selling time. Some high-end products justify this type of team, most don't. Few companies encourage reps to visit since they operate lean with staff doing 2 or 3 jobs each. They don't have time for chit-chat. It is also much more difficult to recruit when the rep has to be in a certain area as opposed to phone sales where the reps can be anywhere.
Q. Will the reps do the prospecting?
For outbound teams the reps will research to develop a call list and then cold call the list. If you have a list already that will speed things up. It is expected that any leads you generate will be given to the team to follow up on and close. For inbound teams a steady stream of leads sufficient to keep each rep busy is expected from you. You may already have more incoming inquiries than you can handle or you may need to generate more. We can scale by adding more reps when the existing reps can't handle the volume.
Leads are actual interested prospects and not merely names on some list. Lists are prospecting even if they're your own list of past inquiries or customers. In that case we would have the lead generation reps work the list and kick deals into play. For manufacturers reps the whole idea is to buy access to their relationships. If they can't do that they are expected to cold call to build those relationships.
Q. How about inbound sales calls?
If you are marketing and generating inbound calls from prospects, I can set up a team to take the calls off a queue, assist prospects on product selection, close sales, and process orders. we can also do live-transfers from lead generation staff or a receptionist.
Q. Can you supply reps to cover a list of territories?
Yes. I can recruit reps to cover metro areas, states, and countries depending on what you need.
Q. Can you set up or sell into channels.
Yes. We can establish a network of resellers and distributors in the U.S. or anywhere worldwide. Channels are the best way to pretend you have distribution and a sales effort with manufacturers reps a close second. We know how to get mindshare and action so they actually suggest your products to applicable accounts instead of merely listing you on a vendor list and filling orders if somebody specifically asks for your product.
Q. How many reps do I need?
Depends on the type of team:
I get calls from over-zealous entrepreneurs that say they want hundreds or thousands of reps. Invariably they have no sales experience but instead are techies with spreadsheets. You are not ordering light bulbs. Reps are people. You need to ensure that each rep has sufficient market to maximize earnings without coming close to running out of prospects. If you want to confine a rep to a small territory or list then you better pay a salary. Then your stupidity won't harm the rep. I will build your team in a systematic orderly fashion to cover the entire universe of prospects in the most efficient reliable manner. Hiring 10 reps and watching 9 quit because they feel boxed in is not the way I would do it. I am not going to exploit people so you can buy a yacht.
- Outbound. We can estimate this by considering the number of viable (not possible) prospects, how difficult it is to reach the decision maker, and your sales cycle, and how fast you want to reach the market.
- Inbound. Enough to handle the calls and appointments you generate. We can estimate the the time needed to get a prospect on the phone, deliver a presentation, follow-up, and close.
- Manufacturers Reps. Enough to cover open territories and reach all viable prospects.
If you have big money, and want to offer (at least) a small base salary and commission, I can get you as many reps as you want. Venture funded companies with hundreds of millions to burn do this all the time. Note that we will be competing against them for the best reps.
Q. How many reps can you get?
As many as needed to contact every viable prospect in the U.S. or worldwide. It may take a while but eventually we can get there. If, of course, your product is salable and the pay plan motivates the reps. I have built teams with a few reps and teams with hundreds. My system is completely and quickly scalable.
A position will attract reps based on the perceived desirability of the job. The candidate's perception, not yours. Also factored is the reach and effectiveness of the recruiting effort. Ours is about as good as it gets so the key variable and task is to make the job stand out. The best way to do this is to ramp up and get some reps closing deals and happy to tell other reps how great the job is.
I have done both commission and salary teams. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Any way you look at it commission jobs take longer to fill than salary. More reps will choose security and a chance to try a job out on your dime than do it at their risk and be forced to deliver. I can however create salary teams that allow for fast ramps while minimizing your risks down towards zero.
Q. How do I know the reps are qualified?
We develop the criteria for acceptance together. Most reps have bachelors degrees. For technical products I look for education and work experience in engineering, science, computer science and so on. If you need MBAs, JDs, PhDs then that's what I will find. Some positions allow for entry-level sales reps and for others I may want 5 or 10 years proven sales expertise.
Q. Can I meet, interview, or approve the reps?
Absolutely. You can do phone interviews or if you want want to pay for travel you can have candidates go to your office. You have the right to approve who represents you.
Q. I need reps to cover ethnic markets in the U.S. or international markets that can speak the language.... can you find them?
Yes. It may take a while but we can find reps with the language skills
and cultural insight you need to compete domestically and worldwide. I have done many projects with a point-person that was part of the community and paved the way for others that would be considered outsiders. I have worked overseas for 2 years and lived in various areas so have a deep understanding and respect for various cultures. You don't learn this is in college.
Q. How does a virtual team compare with the traditional employee model?
With a virtual commission team you can recruit the best talent from a much wider area and can easily afford a larger team since the downside risks of salaries and office expenses are eliminated. Companies that insist on using expensive salary teams housed in expensive office
space, with the overhead and liability that goes with it, are going to look around one day and find themselves out flanked and overrun by smarter nimbler competitors.
The situation is the same with outsourced IT, financial, manufacturing, engineering, design, and other services. You can do these in-house, but for every competitive advantage that you don't pursue and your competitors do, you are that much closer to extinction.
Q. Do salary reps, who get more job security, outperform commission reps?
This is a myth. I had a chance to definitively test this with a client in business for 37 years launching a new online product. The client wanted to test W2 salary reps working at their offices and IC commission-only reps working remotely. Every other variable was equal - training, support, territories. I recruited, trained and managed them equally. The IC team outperformed the W2 team by over 50%.
Why? Because the salary reps were comfortable and at low risk. The commission reps were hungry and at high risk. They reacted exactly as Maslow predicted.
As for job security, what rep gets terminated first if sales drop, the salary rep or commission rep?
Q. What do I do with the sales manager and reps I have now?
You can keep them, fire them, or transfer them to me. They will be off salary and some or all of the overhead can be eliminated. Unless you won the hiring lottery, you probably have a manager that was never properly trained and is guessing at how to build a team. The best
solution is to bring in an expert to create a virtual team while keeping your manager to be the liaison and support person for the team. This way you get the best of both worlds.
Q. How do I know you can deliver?
It all depends on what you mean by deliver. Can I hit some arbitrary number you cranked out with a spreadsheet? Who knows? I will probably do a lot better than you or anybody else you may find, and I do it with a very low downside risk. I have a systematic process to create winning teams. I have perfected this process over a 24 year period. That's what I can promise you.
If you hired a sales manager or some reps, what guarantee do you get? You could pay out a fortune in salaries and get nothing, or a lot. Who knows? I look at sales forecasts the same way I look at weather reports or predictions for the economy. I never promise to hit certain arbitrary goals for the simple fact that I can't predict the future. I can only predict that if I take you on as a client you will get my best efforts, and that my friend, is a lot.
Q. Do you offer a guarantee?
If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster. If you already had the customers you would not need a sales team. An entrepreneur by definition takes risk. It's not what you build that matters, it's what you can sell. I know how to sell. I know how to recruit, train, and manage reps to sell. If your product is salable, we will sell it. If not, you will be best served by finding that out early rather than later. I can walk my talk but I can't walk on water. If anybody says they can guarantee sales, ask them to walk on water to prove it.
Q. Can I get a forecast?
Watch the weather on TV. Or read the blatherings of countless self-proclaimed market gurus and economists as they predict opposite futures, and are then quick to claim victories when they guess right or offer endless streams of excuses when they don't. Lawyers can't predict trial outcomes, doctors can't predict surgery outcomes, yet I am often asked to predict sales for a team I haven't built yet for a product I haven't sold yet. Anybody that purports to predict the future or who provides spreadsheet forecasts based on fantasy input data, is suspect as far as I am concerned. You may want the easy answer. I offer you instead the only real answer, forecasts are useless and meaningless. Sales results are what counts.
Q. What about control of the team?
What exactly is control? Many entrepreneurs, especially those with technical backgrounds and MBAs, seem obsessed with metrics. Sure you can time calls and compute ratios until your spreadsheet spontaneously combusts. But can you quantify enthusiasm? Or perseverance? Or the fact that the rep simply must succeed for his own personal reasons?
Reps either want to sell or they don't. It doesn't matter much if they sit in a cubicle down the hall and make calls or work from home across the country. They will sell or make excuses. Stay or quit. If they are making money, treated well, trained effectively, and see a good future they tend to stay. If not, they don't. Sure a salary is nice. And benefits. But if they don't see a real upside, and do see a better job, they are gone.
Many of the best reps want the upside that comes with taking on some risk. They actually prefer commission-only gigs. How do I know this? Because that was me as a rep and I have hired thousands of others. I know.
Perhaps most important, they must believe. In you, your company, product, support team, your entire organization. And in me.
As far as outsourcing goes, you ultimately rely on others for every job function, whether they are called employees, contractors, or vendors. You select the best and run with it.
Do you want a nebulous concept like control, or lots of very real sales with very little risk? Look at the potential sales gain by having a larger better performing team. Consider what you could do with all that time and money by investing it in product and growing your business infrastructure. Be sure to go over this with your CFO. Build a spreadsheet and crunch some numbers. If it makes sense, call me.
Q. How do I know if the reps are working hard?
With traditional W2 arrangements with reps working in your office you can see what they are up to. With virtual teams, unless you go to their houses and watch them work all day, every day, you won't know directly. You will know indirectly by activities (completed presentations) and especially by sales orders submitted, the only metric that ultimately
I offer transparency. This means you will know everything I know about each rep on your team.
We set up a CRM system for each team that the reps are required to use. We have minimum activity criteria such as number of presentations completed each week. All calls are logged with detailed notes required to initiate account protection for the rep. You will have full
unrestricted access to the CRM system so you can see firsthand what your team is doing every
day. The good news is since they are commission reps you won't be paying anybody to hold down a chair, just to turn in a sales order.
Q. How can you manage more than one team?
I have created a systematic process not just to make sales happen, but to make teams happen. I apply a lot of technology in the background and have rigorously re-engineered every process repeatedly to ensure I can get results while serving multiple clients. I have systematized each aspect of the business so I am very efficient.
I have a team, it's not just me, and I delegate whenever possible, especially for routine administrative functions. I routinely use contract recruiters to find and screen candidates for me, which is in addition to my own direct efforts. If a sales team grows large enough I promote (or recruit) a sales director who will be the first line of support for routine questions and issues. More
importantly, the director will assist to close sales, and the pay plan reflects this priority.
My highest function, never delegated, is to engineer the sales process and make sure it evolves so that the team succeeds in its mission. I also personally lead the advanced training sessions using my proven methods developed over many years of pushing the envelope on the theory and field testing. I stay in tune with the feedback from the individual
reps on what is working, and what is not. The art here is to distinguish between excuses and useful feedback. Even more critical is to keep the esprit de corps going, making sure there is a sense of belonging and a shared bright vision for the future.
Q. Would you also represent my "competition"?
I avoid direct conflicts of interests and will typically turn away clients in competition with existing clients. The definition of competition must be narrow, I will not allow my business to be boxed in with non-competes.
Q. How can you understand my product and all the others too?
I don't have to be the product expert. You and your staff cover that. I just need to set up a system so you can train the reps effectively without taking much of your time. The reps will be required to learn whatever you feel they need to know to properly represent you and get the sales process going. Your team will step in as needed to answer a prospect's technical questions, establish credibility by sharing your experiences and dropping names, and possibly to prepare quotes.
I recruit reps with the necessary work experience and education to succeed with your product. I have a broad background and have worked on a large number of types of products. I understand technology having a previous career in engineering. I speak geek and business too.
Q. What kind of products do you sell?
I can create teams to sell any possible product or service. I have a technical background so can handle any level of sophistication. I don't personally have to be an expert, I will find experts. I will only consider products that I find viable with a realistic market opportunity.
Q. What kinds of products won't you sell?
I am NOT interested in MLMs, investment schemes, or sales to government agencies or schools. For credit card processing, payroll processing, print publications (unless your circulation is huge and demographics extraordinary), website ad or listing sales (unless you have a million or more unique visitors per month). UNLESS you pay for a lead-gen program to provide interested prospects that want to talk to a rep. Asking a rep to cold call these is not viable. I may be able to work with independent dealers and local businesses depending on the situation - I can set up a national program and work with all the dealers at once.
Q. What determines if you can build a successful team?
There are many factors and if any are missing the odds for success plummet:
- Product. If customers won't buy then we can't sell. This is assuming a qualified team, great sales process, and training. There are many variables including features, support, perceived quality, competitors, and so on. All of which are beyond my control (unless you retain me to help with product development).
- Price. I like high prices. You can get them if you can establish perceived value. There are situations where the market is saturated with identical products so the price gets set by the bottom feeders. In that case you have to be competitive or play a different game where the margins are higher.
- Delivery. If you can't deliver then nobody gets paid and the reps quit. This means as promised and on time.
- No Takers. The job is seen as undesirable by candidates to the point that recruiting falters and stops. It could be the product or company is seen as non-viable or out-classed by competitors, low commissions due to low margins or simply being greedy.
- Lousy Website. Prospects are driven to a site which they find a joke.
- No Leads. Some products can be effectively cold-called and some can't. Unless a rep can make a good living on a few transactions they will quit.
- Throw Reps at It. This used to be possible but not any more. You can't just bring in a bunch of commission reps and see what happens assuming you can always get more. You can't get more easy. Those days are gone. You need a better plan.
- Great Ideas, No Money. Your great idea is not going to be enough. If you have no money then you had better get used to doing everything yourself until you have some money. If you build a better mouse trap, I hope you like eating mice because the world will not be beating down your door (just the bill collectors). This is true for 999 out of 1,000. Of course, when asked, everybody is the one exception. The only way to find out is to see if people give you money for your idea (product). That's what I do but not for free.
Q. Can you provide some references?
My agreement includes a confidentiality clause prohibiting my revealing the identities of clients or the nature of projects. This is to ensure that marketing plans are not revealed to competitors. My working to build a sales team in itself is such a marketing strategy. Trusted professionals like lawyers, physicians, accountants, psychiatrists, counselors or any number of consultants are held to the same high standards, often by state licensure regulations, and would never reveal the existence or nature of a client relationship. I do have a few clients that as a favor may offer to provide a reference but they are busy and given that I get over 50 inquiries a month for my services I cannot impose on them unless absolutely necessary and then only after an agreement is ready to sign and a project to be launched immediately.
Q. How come you aren't telling me what you think I want to hear and trying to sell me?
Because I have to live with my promises. I have to deliver actual sales. If I have learned anything in my many years doing this, it's that the customer is rarely right. Can you imagine how many times a day a patient visits a doctor and proceeds to say what he thinks is wrong and what the treatment should be? Or a passenger telling a cabbie they best way to get to 4th and Main? People go to experts and often don't listen. I will definitely listen but if I see a great plan that involves my walking off a cliff with reps in tow then I will decline.
Instead I'm betting that the true professional that I want to work with will appreciate candor and expertise, will retain me and get out of the way so I can make sales happen. If you want a more formal officious approach, with vague hedged corp-speak, I am sure you will find somebody out there to accommodate you.