Finding the right salespeople is one of the keys to success for any hyperlocal startup with plans to sell to local merchants, but identifying and hiring professionals with the right skillsets isn’t always as easy as it sounds. “Selling to SMBs is a high touch process,” says PerksLocal founder Lauren Meyers. Like many founders of early-stage hyperlocals, Meyers has struggled to justify the cost of having a full-time sales force, and says few salespeople will work on commission alone.
In an effort to bring some clarity to the issue, we checked in with five hyperlocal executives and asked about their strategies for finding salespeople who can effectively sell to local merchants. Here is their advice.
1. Train reps with solid sales skills. “A lot of churn in the industry is self-inflicted because salespeople over-promise and create unreasonable expectations. To avoid this, we look for salespeople with solid, basic skills and train them to deploy personal, comprehensive local digital marketing technology and services. While salespeople do not necessarily need to be online marketing experts, they must be able to deliver [our] vision. Finding salespeople through existing connections or word-of-mouth has been very successful for us. LinkedIn is an incredibly strong way to engage and find bright, experienced salespeople, as well.” (Chris Marentis, Surefire Social)
2. Hire your users. “The best salespeople were the ones that were early users of our product. People who are our biggest fans usually represent us most passionately. With social media, you can see who are your biggest sharers, likers, and re-posters. I reach out to them to find my next employees. Your company’s own network is usually a great place to go.” (Hulya Aksu, CriticMania)
3. Check out the Chamber of Commerce. “Local Chambers are actually a great resource. Our sales manager was a Chamber member working for a direct competitor, and came to work for us when the competition folded. Two main things we needed in a salesperson was someone who had pre-existing relationships with local businesses and strong sales experience.” (Matt Toomey, LocalGruv)
4. Focus on online marketing experience. “Any rep we bring on needs to be an expert in online marketing. Building relationships with marketing managers requires a completely different understanding than selling to an owner/operator. We need to understand how they report success to their boss, and how we can help them track the effectiveness of their marketing as it relates to in-store sales. Our process is consultative, with a focus on data and impact, and less about forcing a client into a close. As opposed to pulling talent from places like Groupon or LivingSocial, we’re more interested in talent familiar with selling software as a service.” (Ben Jabbawy, Privy)
5. Be an inspiration. “In a startup environment, salespeople should be out pounding the pavement. They should not be spending too much time with you in the office. Most leaders mistake that as ‘little time with me.’ That is not true. I am the top performing salesperson on our team. Even as the CEO, my number one job is to sell. If I sell, then I can inspire my team to sell. If you don’t know how to sell, then you can’t really manage a sales team.” (Hulya Aksu, CriticMania)
6. Local experience matters. “ReachLocal looks for people that have sold to local businesses before. It is very important to understand the challenges that SMBs face. For examples, getting new customers, every dollar counts, wearing multiple hats, etc. We look for people with B2B selling experience — media or industry-specific sales. It’s a very different relationship than consumer or enterprise selling.” (Nathan Hanks, ReachLocal)
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.