Considering Sales Agents

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Bridging the Gap

Entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed pay all kinds of people to help them sell their products and services.  They pay SEOs, social media firms, marketing companies, advertising firms, lead generation companies, and, of course, their own sales representatives.  However, if you’re trying to grow your business at a faster rate or test a new market, the answer may well be to construct a new sales channel. Very successful entrepreneurs have recruited sales agents as a bridge to new markets and higher growth rates.

Imagine applying the real estate or insurance models to your business.  The sales agents earn when they sell. The upside is you can expand your reach with minimum risk.  You could have one or one hundred sales agents, and they only get paid when they sell. The downside is that you have to spend time and energy finding and training the agents and only some of them will be successful selling for you.  That, and you have to track revenue per sale carefully to make sure they are selling into the right market.

Success of agents varies widely.  Some sales agents are entrepreneurs themselves, and treat their sales activities as a serious business, tracking prospects, activity and closes.  They win the most business, hands down.  Many of these agents earn six figures from selling other companies products and services.

Sales agents can be selected because of their experience and knowledge with a particular market.  For example, if your business is trying to sell to the military, sales agents who are Veterans and understand that market are your best bet.  If your market is retail companies in women’s fashion , sales agents that come from that industry and still have contacts there are probably going to be the most successful.

There are various types of sales agents.  For example

1.  You can have your products and services sold by a direct selling company where most sales are still face-to-face.  Estimates for 2009 are that there are over 16 million sales reps in this industry, about 82% are women and that they sold over $28 billion in products.  Example alternatives have been identified by Internet Moms.

2.  You can hire a sales agent company, or a company with sales representatives who sell clients’ products and services.  In this case the company recruits and provides sales training to the representatives and manages their results.  You still need to provide training on your products or services, however.

3.  You can recruit your own sales agents.  Firms I’ve interviewed have recruited individuals to be sales agents from online recruiting sites and from referral programs.  They then screen and interview, to reduce the time spent training people who are not going to effectively sell their products and services.

Training is critical no matter what type of sales agent you select.  No one can successfully sell a product or service they don’t understand.  Reasonable commissions are also necessary.  The payout has to make it worth their time and attention to do it right.  Successful selling isn’t easy.

Figure out your cost of sale.  Include costs for your sales people, advertising, and sales support.  That’s your bar.  Can you pay the same or less than that to sales agents to sell for you?  Very possibly.  Commissions vary widely by industry depending upon the time involved in a sale and the amount of revenue generated from a sale.

Need a sales boost?  You may just get it from sales agents!

All the best!


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