Hiring a freelance sales person: 10 rules for success
Lots of businesses have used the services of freelance sales people, usually in the B2C Market. And they can be really effective, but if not approached in the right way, and a well thought out plan, hiring them can just as easily end in tears.
The number one mistake that businesses make is they they assume that freelance sales people are just like employed ones, just paid differently.
That’s not the case.
Hiring a Freelance Sales Person
He/she (from now on I will use the he and his just for ease of use!) has a mortgage to pay and children to feed, just like you.
He also needs to provide the tools that he will need for the job, which in usually means a phone and a laptop and a decent reliable car, as well a supply of
He is about to take a risk on you and your business and is taking a leap of faith (after due diligence) that you will pay him on time and not go bust. He also has to be sure that you will provide the service promised to the clients/customers he finds for you.
And most of all, he needs to be comfortable that there actually is a market for your products at the prices you are asking him to sell at.
He may well be able to sell coal to Newcastle, but only if it’s a different sort of coal, or the service is better, or the price is cheaper.. there must be SOME advantage that he can leverage.
If you haven’t been able to sell more than 2 widgets in 3 years, it is unlikely even the best freelancer will be able to sell 2000 in the first week.
Rule 1. Keep it Real
Be honest and be realistic. If you have found selling your product yourself difficult, or it has a long lead time, tell him so. A professional sales person will be able to tell you straight away what the problem is, and if they can find a way round it. If you choose to ignore their advice, don’t be surprised if they don’t join you in the first place or leave fairly soon after joining.
Rule 2. …Learn from other’s success
Learn from businesses who have successfully used self employed sales people before. Tap into your own network. To successfully employ a sales freelancer you have to keep them busy, by providing leads, appointments or data to work with (depending on the type of business).
Expecting a freelancer to provide all his own leads, with no data provided is a sure fire way to stop them from succeeding. The better the sales person, the quicker he will leave, because the good ones are always in demand. If it’s not working with you, he will find somewhere else which will work better.
Rule 3. Pay Quickly!
The quicker you pay his commission the more loyal and hard working he will be. Pay weekly on income you have received through his sales. An employed sales person who has all his expenses paid, and who has a basic salary to rely on will be willing to wait to the end of the month following, or indeed to accept a quarterly bonus. A freelancer doesn’t have that luxury. They need their commission this week to pay for them to see new prospects and keep their business going.
Hold their commission up and it will hold up your sales.
Rule 4. Motivation rules!
Sales people are a complicated breed, and freelancers the most complicated of all! They spend their lives motivating themselves. They are, as a group, the most optimistic, enthusiastic people on the planet. But, when things get tough they need help. To keep a freelancer motivated and on task, you need to be aware of your role in managing him.
Anything you do, any process you have, any communication (or lack of) could affect whether you are the parachute, the soft place to land, or the trampoline which will get him bouncing back up again. Educate yourself on how to be a great sales manager and don’t just rely on them to do it all.
Rule 5. Remember he is NOT an employee!
Do not expect him to work under the same terms and conditions, or to have the same relationship with you as an employee. This is worth repeating again and again. He is his own man. Whilst you can expect him to represent your business in a professional way, you do not own him or his time. He doesn’t earn money by filing reports, so don’t expect him to (or at least keep them very simple and infrequent) If your business demands them, then pay him for his time to complete them.
Rule 6. Train Train Train!
Give him the best product and product related sales training possible. Even if he is experienced in selling a similar product, he still needs to know yours inside out. He also needs you to tell him who to sell to (see Rule 2) If you don’t know who your potential customers are, or how to target them, don’t expect him to either.
Rule 7. Do NOT confuse marketing with sales.
He needs you to provide him with the marketing tools, presentations (and pitch), leaflets, business cards and back office support. Give him that up front support and then support him with the materials he needs (I repeat, do not expect miracles!)
Rule 8. Think of recruitment as ongoing.
Freelancers rarely stick around long. If you factor this in at the beginning of your journey, much frustration and disappointment will be avoided! Understand and recognise their needs and make it as easy as possible to work with you. Build loyalty by following the first seven rules.
Rule 9. Always recruit more freelancers than you think you need.
The drop off within the first month of contracting with a freelancer is very high. The reason is simple. Just as you aren’t needing to commit to them long term, so they aren’t needing to commit to you. Many businesses offer a freelance sales job to someone they aren’t 100% sure about, on the basis of “Oh well, it doesn’t cost us anything to give him ago…” (not true, but that’s another article). But don’t forget, you are also on trial too.
Many times they will accept a role during a “resting” period despite reservations as to whether it’s right for them. “Something is better than nothing” or “Well, I’ll give it a go and see”… and then very quickly they realize it isn’t for them and move on.. sometimes as quickly as at the end of their training.
Rule 10. Budget for Success.
If you think the word freelancer, when written in front of the word “sales” means you can enjoy the benefits of having a highly skilled experienced sales professional pulling in lots of great customers for you and making you wealthy all for FREE, then you’ll want to think again.
To get the right person/people you need to have a budget.
There are 3 main areas to budget; recruitment, training and management costs. Self employed sales professionals look for new opportunities in the same places as any other salesperson, such as Monster, Jobsite or Totaljobs. Note – don’t use Gumtree or any other free service as the quality will be reflected in the candidates you get.
Many small business turn to freelancers, as the business owner lacks sales experience. If this is you, you might want to think about getting some sales management coaching to help. You will want to learn about recruitment and training, setting up your new sales force, and the tools to manage your sales team in the future.
You are not tied to your freelancer, and they are not tied to you in any traditional sense. So some final thoughts to leave you with.
- Set up your processes right
- Give them the right tools
- Make it as easy as possible for them to succeed
- Treat them with respect and as equals
- Be prepared to go the extra mile for them when necessary
- Focus on your education as well as theirs
- Give them time and don’t expect miracles
This article has been modified from one previously posted on the Women Unlimited website by Liz Sparkes form Physis.