5 Questions to Ask When Designing Your Sales Role

Successful selling starts with properly defining the sales role. Answer these 5 questions to get you started.

 One of the most important steps in the hiring process is to define your sales role. Not all sales roles are the same and a salesperson may perform exceedingly well in one type while being ill equipped for another. When you hire someone without taking this step, you run the risk of hiring a good salesperson and setting them up to fail. To avoid this, start by asking these five questions:

1. How much prospecting is involved?
Is your sales role more prospecting-oriented or more farming-oriented (mostly account management and customer retention)? Hunting and farming are two very different roles. If a sales candidate is wired for cultivating existing accounts and following up on warm leads, requiring them to cold-call for new business can set them up for failure. Don’t assume that they are similar roles and that the average sales candidate can fill either one of them successfully.

2. What is the primary medium for selling?
Will they sell over the phone or face-to-face? Selling exclusively over the phone requires a higher focus on word choice, tone and length of call. Face-to-face selling requires a higher level of presentation skills, a strong professional image and good social interaction abilities. The stakes are usually higher with outside sales reps because of the higher-level of contact within an account; so a broader set of skills are usually required of a sales rep in an outside role.

3. How is the compensation plan weighted?
Is the compensation plan weighted for this sales role – more towards commissions or base salary? The higher the commissions, the more driven a salesperson must be to make money. Salespeople whose financial drive is average or low rely more on a base salary. If you have a low base salary and a high commission structure then be wary of salespeople who focus too much on base salary questions during the interview. Typically, top performing hunter types prefer a heavily weighted commission structure. In other words, the more they sell, the more they make.

4. How will this sales position be managed?
Are they under close supervision of a Sales Manager – or are they in a satellite office on their own? There is a big difference between having a Sales Manager whose office is down the hall and having one who is five states away. Be sure to assess the capacity for self-management and drive for autonomy in your salespeople who work in a remote sales office.

5. What happens after the sale?
Do your salespeople turn over the customer to an account manager after the initial sale or do they service what they’ve sold? A salesperson that hunts for new business may not want to service accounts. They may only prefer new account sales. Some salespeople, however, prefer to leverage existing customers for new business.

Don’t make an assumption about a sales candidate who was successful in their previous role. They might have had more time to prospect for new business simply because they had no account management responsibilities. Requiring sales reps to maintain on-going relationships with their customers after the sale can reduce prospecting time. This one simple difference between almost identical sales roles can prevent a formerly successful salesperson from meeting their quota.

Answering these five questions will help you define the type of salesperson you need to fill your sale role. During the hiring process, use an in-depth sales assessment and then explain the role clearly so that they fully understand your expectations. Accurately define for the salesperson what the job requires and you’re far more likely to set them up for success.