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To hire a salesperson or not?

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Steve MartinTo hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 19, 2010 at 12:53:33 am

Hello all,

I am contemplating hiring a sales person for my well established small/mid sized corporate production company.

As the owner, would like to grow the company but am already pulled in too many directions (production/sales/admin). I like talking to clients and helping them create a production plan that will meet their needs. I love working in the field (producing and directing).

But the problem is that I hate (really hate) prospecting and cold calling for new business - so I just don't do it. As a result, many of our clients we have are repeats with new customers finding us on-line.

A little about us...
We have a good reputation in our market and handle most corporate projects from concept to completion. We have 8 full time staff and a good group of freelancers. We own the majority of the gear needed for most projects although we sometimes rent specialty gear like Steadicam, jib or additional lighting when needed.

Although we are profitable & comfortable (perhaps too comfortable?), the truth is that we could do better. We have the capacity to do more with our existing crew and gear.

So I'm looking for insights of what has worked and what hasn't within our industry as it relates to hiring sales people.

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Steve KownackiRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 19, 2010 at 1:14:25 am

First comment - Have you ever met salespeople for a video company? I've heard them talk at networking events and can't believe what I hear. They're as bad as car salesmen. They're not going to have the technical know-how you do and be able to offer solutions like you because of your working knowledge. They might be great lead generators, but I believe you will ultimately sell the job.

Second thought - Here's a great post What Do Fries Have to Do with Increasing Your Profits? Before I'd go the salaesperson route (this topic has been covered many times from how to, to what to pay, etc.) I'd spend time making sure your current client base knows EVERYTHING you can offer them and also simply ask them for referrals. Maybe all you really need to do is keep in contact with your customers; offer them suggestions on how to re-purpose their video to reach new audiences. Make your satisfied clients your network to bring in new business. No cold calling, it'll be a warm - maybe even a hot - call.


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Glen MontgomeryRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 19, 2010 at 1:32:10 am

That linkedIn link is broken unless you are in the group it was posted in. Do you mind including the name of the group? Thanks, look forward to reading it.

Editor / Motion Graphics Artist

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Steve KownackiRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 19, 2010 at 12:56:35 pm

Doh! LinkedIn does have odd or non-existent sharing at times and I do try to link rather than copy.

Credit: Todd Frankford, Certified Business Coach at ActionCOACH, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

What Do Fries Have to Do with Increasing Your Profits?

Can you remember when the McDonalds cashier only asked “Do you want fries with that?” This simple question was probably the most profitable cross selling question ever. The simple and effective assumption was that at least 1 out of 3 people would say yes resulting in millions upon millions of revenues and profit. The customer was already there so why not ask?
Then McDonalds took it to the next level by offering the value meal. Cha ching! Then you could upsize your fries and drink. A few more coins in the coffer. Set aside your personal feelings about McDonalds. The simple system provided the opportunity to increase their average order and profits substantially.
Average order is one of the 5 key profit multipliers in any business. It is simply measured by taking your total revenue and dividing it by the number of transactions or orders. Fairly simple math and a fairly simple way to add profits without adding much work.
So, the real question every business should ask is “What are our fries?” or “How can we systematically increase our average order?” I would define systematically as applying the technique and language consistently rather than randomly. Here are a few ideas to increase your average order to get the profit party started.
• Assign natural companion products and ask the “Would you like…” question with each order.
• Create packages or product bundles that incorporate high profit items.
• Offer quantity breaks for larger orders.
• Provide a shopping list to suggest items – Think checklist for a painting project at a hardware store.
• Know your clients well so you are aware of what they buy and ask them to buy everything from you.
• Make sure your clients are aware of the full range of your products. Have you heard “I didn’t know you offer that?”
• Sell warranties, insurance or service plans.
• Measure the average order by company and sales representative and set goals. Most metrics improve immediately when they are measured.
• Stop discounting and add value! Average order will go up immediately if we discount less.
• Ask how they will be using the product. That will often allow the opportunity to suggest additional products or services to achieve the result they desire.
Add a few of these and watch your sales and profits soar! Measure your average order and make the process systematic to SUPERSIZE your results! Sound like any business you know?


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Steve KownackiRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 19, 2010 at 1:06:55 pm

At one time I had "shopping list" notepads printed. At the top I put in items for them to "check off" - book shoot, order graphics, schedule edit, order DVDs (for fun I had pay bill at the bottom but my wife had me take it off); then about 10 blank lines for them to use for groceries or whatever. They worked very well & didn't cost all that much for 300, 25 page pads, 3"x8". Get memorable to your customer.


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Mark SuszkoRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 19, 2010 at 2:58:51 pm

Perhaps a hybrid approach would work; getting some leads for a price, then doing what you already know and like to do.

Or you might generate the leads by having the leads come to YOU.

What if for example you booked a local bar for a night and held a video screening party? Showcase your best reels, have some fun. Hire a stand-up comic to do a routine that may weave some production humor into it. Or maybe a band. Invite the current client list, ask them to bring a friend. Have some give-away door prize, either a physical prize or a gift certificate for some production services. Schmooze them at the party, exchange cards, etc.

Or create or give support to some other event, say a charity 5 K run; put a company team in it and then shoot the race doc style and post it professionally, let the runners who ran, link to segments of the posted video where they are seen. Your logo is on all of it. Generate some buzz and name recognition.

Make a video for the local historical society about an important landmark. Leverage newspaper and web coverage of the program, the making of the program, the airing of the program, the award you win for making the program, etc etc etc.

Give a little; get a little, is the idea. All along the way you are doing what you love to do best, and plantng the seeds for new client interactions and word of mouth advertising, the best kind.

And finally, realize that in any business, you get to a stage where your role has to evolve, or the outfit has reached it's limit. We are not all equally good at everything we try. Many management books tell of the problem of managers who got really good and comfortable doing one thing, and couldnt let some or all of that thing go, when it was time to move up and do more "big picture" stuff. That leads to nothing but problems, as they keep stepping down from their higher level to micro-manage the stuff that is not assigned to other staff. Staff resent it a lot, and the manager's own work suffers becasue he's trying to hold on to the old tasks instead of working ont he new ones. Nobody is helped by this situation. If you really want to stay "in the trenches" of the work, maybe what you need is not a sales person, but to demote yourself and put someone else in as your boss, in charge of keeping the company growing, to enable you to do the part you like to do. By which I mean, maybe you should merge with another similar outfit.

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Chris BlairRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 20, 2010 at 1:19:20 am

We're a similar sized company to the original poster and we've tried sales people on three occasions. Two of them were account reps who handled an already established group of car dealers. The other was a part-time salesman who actually worked selling other stuff (marketing related), but thought our services would be a good fit to increase his income. In short, none of the three has ever brought in a single new client or new project through several years of being associated with them.

We're a pretty well-established company in our area, have a very good reputation and are respected by people in the industry (at least I think we are). So it seems that by accident you could make at least ONE sale IF you were out there prospecting and making sales calls. The bottom line is that I don't believe any of these folks actually did much prospecting or much in the way of systematic sales. The best salespeople I know are relentless and they're incredibly organized and structured in how they prospect. They keep great records and know how to use CRM sofware. They know that the more people they get their name to, the more contacts they make, the more sales they're going to generate. They also know and understand when and how to contact people and realize that it might take 8, 10, heck 25 sales calls to actually get a nibble from a prospective customer.

Anyway...we've found it to be an incredible waste of time and energy and resources to hire a sales person...UNLESS they are a true sales professional and can demonstrate a track record of generating sales in the past.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
Read our blog

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Steve MartinRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 20, 2010 at 5:33:28 pm

Hi Chris,

I think you are spot-on and couldn't agree more. The key to hiring a sales person to get the right person. Someone that is wired for prospecting and is willing to do relentlessly. Anything less is just a chair warmer waiting for the phone to ring and is destined to fail.

The question then becomes, "How do I find, motivate and set that person up for success?"

I'm looking into Myers Briggs type personality testing as a starting point. From what I've been reading and learning, the type of person I'm looking for doesn't get his/her emotional needs by work. They don't care if they're liked or not, they have the focus and competitiveness of an athlete and they don't give up until they succeed.

I think I already kind of knew most of that instinctively, but as I focus on it in more detail and learn more about it, it's easier to start formulating a plan of attack. Wish me luck!

Thanks for taking the time to post your comments - I really appreciate your insight!

All my best,

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Steve MartinRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 20, 2010 at 5:21:51 pm

Great points Steve. Like many small businesses that are stretched thin, we do some things well and could benefit from some improvement on others.

There are several items on the "would you like fries" bundling list that we can implement. The "I didn't know you offer that" comment rings especially true.

We'll continue to look into the possibility of a sales person, but sometimes mining in your own back yard is the quickest way to find the gold.

Thanks for taking the time to post - I really appreciate it!

All my best,

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Steve KownackiRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 20, 2010 at 5:44:46 pm

[Steve Martin] "but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!"

Which is exactly why I'm not a doctor.

Aside from you doing biz dev, don't forget to ask your staff for referrals on salespeople or even the possibility of them bringing in business. Offer an incentive/piece of the action for qualified referrals.


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Steve MartinRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 20, 2010 at 7:16:23 pm

Yes - good point!

Everyone one on staff has incentives. When they help bring in work, they get bonuses + they get first dibs of being assigned to the job (so long as their skill set matches of course).

Also, instead of only having a base salary or hourly wage, they also get billable hours bonus for everything they work on.

The goal is for everyone on the boat to be rowing in the same direction on a rising tide!


Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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walter biscardiRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Jul 24, 2010 at 12:44:21 pm

I have had salespeople in previous companies and they honestly never got us a good lead. Not to say there aren't good salespeople out there, but I've found that participating in forums like this, participating in local business groups are generally a better way to get your name out.

And now I'm connected with the county Chamber of Commerce which is putting me directly in touch with all the TV and Film folks throughout Georgia.

Networking, listings in the Georgia Film and TV Production Handbook, and word of mouth have been our sole source of marketing to date. I can't tell you whether a salesperson would totally work for you, but in our case, we have hundreds, if not thousands of "salespeople" who spread our good name around.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" featuring Sigourney Weaver coming soon.

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Patrick OrtmanRe: To hire a salesperson or not?
by on Aug 2, 2010 at 7:44:25 pm

I have to add my 2 cents to this thread, too. We just got through a very unhappy three months with a sales/biz dev person I hired. It really did not work out well at all, and she brought us absolutely nothing.

In the end, we do well by doing pretty much what Walter suggests. I'd add social media to that list, too- we make sure we post photos and update our status on the various social media sites regularly. Anything to let people know we're around, we're active, and we're fun to work with. That's gotten us several good leads that I've converted into clients.

Web and Video Design

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