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Building service contractors (BSCs) often ask when the best time is to hire a salesperson and what they should look for in top candidates. A better question is, “What should be done before hiring?” There are several strategies that can help guide your business development effort. 

While there is wisdom in generating cash as fast as possible when starting out, eventually you need to transition from "sprint mode" to "marathon mode." Business-to-business (B2B) growth requires planning and perseverance. Unlike business-to-consumer (B2C) growth, where you cast a net to capture anyone willing to spend a dollar, B2B growth typically has a longer sales cycle. While we continually focus on business growth, we don't advocate hiring a salesperson and creating unreasonable expectations for rapid growth. 

Growth Capacity 

Assessing your operational growth capacity can be tricky; it requires a bit of wisdom, discernment, and input from various team members. Typically, your operations team will be more conservative in growth planning — since they must also continue serving existing customers. When planning, consider starting with what 15-20 percent growth would look like for your company. 

For example, if your company's annual revenue last year was $1.2 million, could you add $200K (run rate) in new growth in one year? If your average revenue/customer is $3K/month, you would need to add five or six customers per year.  

Going through an exercise like this is important to help your team assess capacity. Then, challenge them by pushing this estimate out just a bit — even by just another percentage point.  

Develop Your Business Development Process 

Like training for a marathon, B2B growth requires planning and a good process. Here is a framework for planning and executing your business development effort: 

1. Establish your ideal customer profile — Consider the type of business, locations, and size (number of building users). 

2. Prospect research — Aim to develop a list of prospective customers who seem to meet your ideal customer profile, and one or two contacts at each. 

3. Make the initial connection — Access the prospect's "purchase readiness." We ask three questions: (1) "Are you the person responsible for the cleaning services at your company?"; (2) "Do you currently outsource the cleaning of your facility?"; and (3) "Would you tell me a little about your current situation/are you pleased with your current situation?" Answers to these questions provide valuable insight into readiness to consider a change. 

4. Nurturing — It is helpful to stay connected and stay front-of-mind. We like to provide value with monthly content and a call every four to six months.   

Ready to Hire? 

Before hiring, consider what skills are needed (and missing) in your organization to execute your business growth effort. Here are some skills/traits needed to execute the tactics above: 

1. Prospect research — Skills/traits include attention to detail, being process-oriented, comfortable working at a computer for prolonged periods, being a bit of a "detective," and proficiency in internet searches and prospecting tools. 

2. Initial Connection — Must possess the above, as well as be comfortable making telephone calls. Consider people who have worked in customer service, or telephone sales in a B2B setting. 

3. Nurturing — Previously mentioned skills, as well as the ability to write content (helpful, but not required). This person will be responsible for using some software (e.g., MailChimp) to submit nurture emails, so the ability to use/learn to use software is helpful. 

People who can perform these tasks will push prospects through the sales/business development pipeline and be ready to engage with a company (i.e., facility walk-through, proposal, presentation). Again, in most cases, we have found that the company's owner is generally pretty good at this part. 

With a proper foundation established, businesses can be ready for growth and nimble enough to handle unexpected circumstances. 

Jeff Carmon, CBSE, is the Business Development Director at Frantz Building Services.  He is also a consultant, content creator, and speaker for Elite BSC, which provides resources and education for like-minded BSCs.