As the owner or manager of an answering service you have many areas to address. Each one demands focus and requires attention. These include operations, customer service, sales and marketing, technical, accounting, and administration. Few people can master all six, so the wise leader builds up key staff to take over these essential areas, especially those where the owner or manager is weak. For many businesspeople, sales and marketing stands as a challenging area, which they struggle with. If this describes you, the obvious solution would seem to be hiring someone else to do this work. If you can find the right person who can produce and not drive you crazy in the process, that’s great. Unfortunately these folks are hard to find and harder to keep. Often you end up investing several months to find, train, and groom someone to handle your sales and marketing, only to end up back where you started. Though outsourcing sales and marketing is one smart option, if you want to keep this task inhouse, you’ll need to learn how to handle it yourself. Make Sales and Marketing Your Focus: As the owner (or business manager) no one has as much passion about your answering service as you, and no one has more at stake. Delegate all other aspects of your job to key staff and then take over sales yourself. This may mean you become the new sales manager, but, more likely, it will require you do all the sales work yourself. Give sales and marketing 100 percent of your time and your full attention. The future of your business is on the line if you fail. Master Selling: Once you get a handle on selling and have a steady stream of new business coming in, then you can hire a second salesperson. Work with this person side by side. Train them. Mentor them. Model sales success. Follow this simple training progression: 1) You do and they watch, 2) You do and they help, 3) They do and you help, 4) They do and you watch. At this point they should be ready to go out on their own. They will still require your supervision to keep them on track, but they should be able to independently close sales. The second step in building a viable sales team is complete. Become a Sales Manager: Once the first member of your sales team produces consistent sales, then hire a second one and repeat the process. At this point you become a sales manager, who still sells. Balance your time between managing and selling, but never lose sight of the selling aspect. This is key because your sales staff are watching you, and they will learn from your example, so make it a good one. Develop Your Sales Team: Continue to grow your sales team one person at a time, sequentially adding additional staff. Now begin looking at your team with an eye toward promotion. Tap one of your sales team to take over your job as sales manager. Train them to manage, just as you trained them to sell. First they can become the assistant sales manager and later move to sales manager. Now you have a strong sales team to grow your answering service into the future. This approach to sales and marketing takes time, but it can work. However, if this requires more than you’re willing to give, an alternative is to hire a sales and marketing firm to handle this for you. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.