As your telephone answering service grows, there comes a time when you need a sales manager. While one move is to promote from within, as you do in most of the rest of your answering service, the smart move may be to hire a professional sales manager from the outside. When that time comes, here are some tips to help make your first hire be a successful one who lasts for the long term. Insist on a Proven Record: Don’t make the mistake of hiring a want-to-be sales manager. A successful salesperson who dreams of becoming a manager is not someone you want to spend time training. The chances of it working out are too slim. Along with this, don’t consider an assistant sales manager or someone who “covered for the manager when she was on vacation.” Only consider a sales manager who has a proven record of sales management success and has at least a couple years of direct sales management experience. Require Experience Selling Services: Next, remember that selling answering service means pitching something intangible. You can’t hold it or touch it. And although you can give a tour of your facility or a trial of your service, the service itself is not concrete. Selling an intangible service is far different than selling a tangible product. And if candidates try to tell you otherwise, it proves they don’t understand the challenges in selling a service over a product. They must have experience selling an intangible service and more importantly, managing a sales staff who sells an intangible service. Seek an Entrepreneurial Mindset: Corporate types don’t fit well in an answering service environment. A successful sales manager must think like an entrepreneur. This means the candidate needs to have a hands-on mindset, a willingness to wear many hats, and a nimbleness that allows him or her to switch between tasks with ease. Search for Quality: When interviewing sales managers, remember they should be good at sales. So, they will try to sell you during the interview. Expect this, but make sure they’re selling value and not flaunting fluff. Drill down into what they say to make sure they are selling you substance. Quality is essential. Offer Incentivized Compensation: Successful sales people, along with the executives who manage them, are motivated by money, rewards, and recognition. Accept this, and offer incentives to motivate them. The compensation plan you offer should emphasize bonuses tied to successful results. If they balk at this and want a straight salary, or a plan with a high base, then they’re the wrong person. Pay the Best to Get the Best: Last, expect to pay top dollar for top talent. This isn’t an area to skimp on. An inadequate compensation plan will attract only underqualified, unproven candidates, while sending the top performers elsewhere. If all this overwhelms you, outsourcing sales and marketing is always an option. Regardless, don’t struggle with sales and marketing at your answering service. Hire help to run it right and turn sales and marketing from a weakness into a strength. 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 email@example.com or 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.