Selling records-storage services within a self-storage operation can be tricky, which is why many operators choose to hire an outside sales force. Part-time personnel and independent agents are a great resource for growing business. But without the skills of a sales manager, how do you guide reps to meet expectations? Control your sales volume and quality by selecting the right sales method, hiring the right candidates, and offering appropriate compensation.
Finding Sales Staff
Agents work independently, outside the control of your enterprise. You just provide them with the means and inclination to sell for you. They can generate qualified leads or actually close deals on your behalf. Compensation will be structured accordingly.
The best agents generally come from your community’s existing sales force, i.e., they already call on and sell to businesses in your market. When possible, choose those who work in fields related to records storage. They fall into three categories:
- Small-business owners— These entrepreneurs may offer items such as copiers, printers, business forms, imaging/ scanning services and office products.
- Over-the-counter businesses— These might include the local copy center and package-shipping store.
- Accountants and lawyers— These professionals have a responsibility to assist clients in protecting their records. Referrals from them come with a great deal of trust.
Part-time personnel are different, as they are actually part of your company. This gives you a greater degree of control. They can be hired to work any number of hours, and their pay is based on closed deals only.
Part-time staff is more difficult to find, but with a little homework and planning, you should be able to locate highly qualified people. Consider stay-at-home parents, for example. Many were once part of the active work force, and are well-educated and trained in any number of professions, including sales. Eager to continue using their skills, they are generally available to work between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when their children are at school.
Making the Right Hire
During the selection process, you need to address two key issues: First, consider whether a candidate is someone you would want to represent you in the marketplace. Then determine if he possesses the talent you require. Once you have found several prospects, interview and test them for the appropriate skills. There are many online testing resources that provide profiles of potential hires and generate a series of effective follow-up questions.
The Compensation Plan
Setting expectations for sales reps is fundamental to achieving results. Without goals, there is no way to determine if an employee is performing to standard. The trick is knowing what you want, which may take time and effort. You need to decide how you want the agent or employee to represent you. Also important is a system for referring leads and closing deals, as well as a compensation program that clearly states the method of payment and rules of engagement. This is usually documented in a formal agreement.
Developing a compensation plan isn’t difficult. It simply requires a thoughtful process to determine what you are willing to sacrifice for the desired result. Records storage is a long-term revenue opportunity, and the amount you pay on the front end can be directly related to overall growth. Storage revenue is considered “permanent,” as the accounts will remain with you for many years—if you provide good service. For this reason, it’s not uncommon to pay out as much as 50 percent of your first-year storage revenue to sales reps.
Compensate agents with a set fee for each referral that closes. If they participate in the actual selling, pay them more. Part-time staff, on the other hand, is responsible for the entire sales process and should only be compensated for completed deals. The commission structure can be the same as that offered to full-time sales staff (minus the salary).
Set new goals annually for all members of your sales staff, whether they are agents or part-time hires. The success of your records-storage enterprise depends on stating expectations. If you don’t feel up to the task of managing your reps, consider hiring a professional sales manager to coach and enable your team.
Cary F. McGovern is the principal of FileMan Records Management, which offers full-service assistance for commercial records-storage startups and sales training in commercial records-management operations. For help with feasibility determination, operational implementation or marketing support, call 877.FILEMAN; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.fileman.com.