At Navigate 2015, our annual MSP user conference held last September, I hosted a table topic on “How to Generate More Qualified Leads.” As with all other sessions at the event, each of our partners in the group asked relevant questions and passed along helpful advice to peers. I had hoped my contribution would be to share best practices for acquiring more high-quality prospects through various marketing campaigns and activities, thinking lead generation was the biggest challenge the group needed to overcome. And while finding leads without having to rely on referrals is often a struggle for MSPs, this particular conversation quickly switched gears, with attendees asking:

“Now that I have all these leads, what do I do with them?”

There is no value in having an endless supply of leads that never close into new clients. Your marketing efforts are useless if they don’t grow your customer base. That being said, you can't have all your employees solely focused on making the sale. Have you thought about hiring your first sales representative? If you're like the people at my table topics session, you may not know when the right time to do this is. As you continue to plan your growth and think about what your business will look like in 2016, consider these takeaways from our discussion.

When to Know You Are Ready to Hire Your First Sales Rep

One of our partners located just outside of Boston hired his first salesperson about nine months prior and talked about how he knew it was the right time because of the 80/20 rule. Two of his technicians had been spending more than 20 percent of their time selling or completing sales-related tasks when that was not their core job responsibility. At this point, the partner (and business owner) knew he was ready to bring on someone specialized to not only help with new sales, but to also ensure the entire team's time and resources were being allocated appropriately. His technicians were then able to provide the necessary level of technical support for both existing clients and ones acquired by the new sales rep. 

In this case, the hire was to not only help close a gap in the business, but also to optimize existing employees’ time and day-to-day responsibilities.

Is there a need for you to hire a sales representative at your company? Have your employees write their own daily job descriptions to verify that they are spending their time where they should be. As an added bonus, you’ll amass a library of pre-written job descriptions ready to go for that next round of hiring!

How to Determine Who You Should Hire

For everyone who participated in the table topic group, building out a compensation plan, finding the right hire and training the new person all seemed like monumental tasks – and they can be. However, as I shared with our partners, there are hacks that make the hiring process easier, especially when it’s your first sales hire.

Use an intern from a local college. While this might seem risky as you’re trusting a young, inexperienced student to act as the “face” of your business, the following are four upsides to this approach:

  1. You can often offer low hourly compensation to the student or their college may even provide course credit for the work study instead.
  2. This is a great way to find and test out potential future hires. One of our partners used this approach and has since hired the two now-graduated students full-time. He uses his company’s internship program as a feeder for employees and a training ground.
  3. It provides a more scalable approach by limiting the amount of new business brought on, thereby keeping the volume of new customers that your technicians has to onboard and support manageable. While having a surge of new clients is a great problem to have, you don’t want it to negatively impact customer service.
  4. They might only need to be the “pitch person” or appointment setter. Once it comes time to close a deal, you can step back in.


How to Budget for Your New Hire

While a college part-time hire might solve your budget issues, when considering what to budget for a new hire, you should set your expectations accordingly. One of the round table participants suggested budgeting a sales rep as a business expense for at least six months. While it may take awhile to close some deals, based on your billing model and the contract sizes, it might take even longer before you see bottom-line return from the employee.

However, as mentioned previously, if your existing employees are already spending time as sales reps, cut this opportunity cost, free up their time and allow them to provide better service to your existing clients.

So Are You Ready?

There are several other things to consider before you make your first sales hire, many unique to your business and market. While the roundtable couldn’t cover or provide guidance on every scenario, several partners walked away more confident with a few simple ways to make hiring their first sales rep that much less daunting. We're looking forward to learning from partners again at Navigate 2016, September 28-30 in Boston, MA. If you're a partner, register early here!

When looking at your goals for the year ahead, whether hiring a sales rep is one of those initiatives or not, we wish you all the success in those endeavors. Here’s to a happy and successful 2016!