Want to stay ahead of the pack? Make sure you hire a qualified, experienced commercial representative to take your business to the next level.

You’ve finally decided you need to hire someone to go after the commercial business you are targeting. Rather than be narrowly focused, you are after someone who will be comfortable calling on a variety of commercial clients. Now the next issue is: How do I find the right person and get them started?

Your most important step in hiring a talented commercial rep is to precisely describe the duties to be performed to achieve success. Write down exactly what the person will be doing for their Job Description. Zero in on key discriminators, those things you absolutely must have and those that you’d like to see. Once you have these, you can talk intelligently about or write an ad on the specifics you expect from a candidate.   

Do some research on compensation benefits to determine what you’d probably have to pay for a top candidate. Frequently, many of those hiring pay either too much or too little, or lose potential candidates by their willingness to try and go cheap. Ask around among your peers, and take a look at your local newspaper’s job section or trade publication to see what compensation range is offered. I’d always recommend you advertise a range of compensation.

Be prepared for everyone coming in to think they’ll qualify for the high end of the range; whereas, you should be looking to start them out at, or slightly above, the bottom of the range until you see they’re worth it. Be careful with the bottom end of the range – don’t make it too high.

You should have a clear idea of what you are looking for in your new commercial rep and what you’ll have to pay, but where do you find him/her? One important area is networking with vendors, your association contacts, and friendly competitors outside your own market area. Keep your mill rep, friend or acquaintance from getting in the middle by giving them your card to present to your prospective new hire. And make sure the new hire mentions the name of the referrer.

Another way is to cast a wide search net by running an ad in your local newspaper (print and online); always mention a compensation range. A Sunday paper, especially if they are promoting a Jobs section, is ideal. This can be costly, so refine your ad, but don’t write it too short or you won’t get any response. My suggestion would be to read through previous editions and look at those ads that appealed to you or caught your interest, and model your ad after them. Make sure you list your ad under the appropriate section, Sales. You should also consider advertising on sites such as Monster.com or Jobs.com, and there are many others. Spend some time reviewing resumes available on those Internet sites.

You should consider hiring a recruiter/search firm if you have been unsuccessful in finding enough qualified people to interview. The right search firm that specializes in the flooring or related industry, can save you thousands of dollars in wasted time, effort, and hiring mistakes. I heartily recommend this approach if you need to hire someone quickly and it is going to be the high profile cornerstone of your commercial push into the market.

Finally, a great source for your commercial business can be a referral from one of your current employees. You can set up a simple referral program, which requires registration, a 30-60 day employment term to qualify, and a cash bonus of $300 to $500.  Put some thought into the exact terms of your own referral program; make it transparent, with no “fine print,” and then publicize this with your employees. Put a copy of your “referral program,” a written job description of the position you are trying to fill, in your employees’ weekly pay envelopes.

This is quite effective, as is a follow-up by email. When you hire a referral and they transition through the probationary period, use a sales meeting or other company function to present the referral fee with great fanfare! Cash, not a check; getting a check just doesn’t have the same impact! Accounting can always handle taxes separately.

Working with your new hire

Your next issue is getting your new salesperson (let’s say, Jim) started out right with an above average chance of making both of you money.

Start out by picking two commercial areas as a focus for Jim. Your choice may depend on Jim’s previous experience and contacts, or his talent or interest in a specific market segment. The use of advertising, targeted mailings and other methods to publicize your commercial initiative can be extremely beneficial.

You and Jim should both agree on what will be pursued. During the first 90 days, set the stage for success so you can measure his progress. During the first week of employment, have Jim make up a prospect list within the two commercial segments selected. These may be from written lists, Yellow Pages, the Chamber of Commerce, or other business directories. They may also be from your personal scouting of the area. The prospect list should have from 25-50 targets per segment.

Next, review the prospect list together with Jim and decide how to communicate your commercial initiative and the right number of personal contacts to target for the week. Other subjects for discussion are: How will he set up these contacts – by phoning for an appointment, following up on a lead, cold calling, or some mixture of all three? How is Jim coming along on learning his speech describing the company?

He will need an ample supply of show-and-tell products to take along, company brochures and business cards to leave behind. Your goal and Jim’s is to make new commercial contacts with potential clients within the segments chosen. He should make face-to-face visits, introduce himself and your company via the script and the company brochure, highlight a couple of products and the expert installation featured, and then ask some qualifying questions of the potential client.  

A call should last no less than 15 minutes or more than 30 minutes. This initial contact is not to make a sale, but an introduction to determine if this might be a client with some potential.  

If you and Jim plan your sales geography properly, he should average no less than five contacts per day, five days a week, for the first month. I strongly suggest that Jim write out his potential contact list, day by day, each week and submit it to you before the week begins. Cold calls can be used to fill in after planned calls are exhausted. After this, the new contacts will drop off because he should begin to see sales results from his contacts.  

You should require that Jim write up his notes after every call and put the information into contact manager software that you both can easily review. Reviews should be done each week. After prospects in the first two commercial segments have been contacted, move onto another segment; you may also do this to provide some variety, or if a particular segment is small.  

For the best chance at success, there is no substitute for a clear, written performance goal to follow. With this effort, it will be much easier to grade Jim’s progress or lack thereof. You will both know, sooner than later, whether he is the right person to make your commercial entry profitable.

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