Last week, I had a very interesting sales lady in my office. The nice lady, who was dressed to impress, paid us an afternoon visit with intention of selling health insurance products.

I was a bit busy, but I decided to give her audience because of three things. First, she was professionally dressed, decent and she appeared like someone with something to offer.

Secondly, she came from a reputable company and thirdly, being a salesman, I respect and give audience to every salesperson because I understand the feeling of being turned down without being heard.

Now this woman, who I will call Joy, failed at the presentation stage. I felt some of her claims and arguments about the products were too good to be true. I decided to visit the company website to verify information as we spoke.

Sitting on the opposite side, I had every detail of what we were discussing from the website. Every question I asked portrayed her ignorance about her products and company. When I confronted her with facts, she told me she was new in the company, was working on commission and had not completed training.

I told her if she wanted to succeed in a sales career, she should take her own initiative to study her company, its products and selling techniques. All this information is readily available online, which she could access on her nice Android phone.

She giggled and told me that she is not really focused on selling as a career and that she is working as she looks for her dream job in public relations. I was shocked and wished her well.

As she left, I wondered why a reputable firm should put such an important function as sales in the hands of incompetent people who are just passing time.

Yet when we look at most firms, what they have is not a sales team. It is actually a sales manager or an administrator and a batch of frustrated people who are in sales because they could not, or have not yet found their desired job.

In the current competitive market where consumers are well informed, a firm needs professional sales people who understand the product and the market well.

You need enthusiastic people who take sales as a career of choice, not just a place to pass time and earn some money until they get a real job.

Sales department is the Achilles’ heel of many businesses. Most firms employ highly qualified people in the production department, competent accountants and back office staff and then take anyone who comes into the most important area, sales.

Unfortunately, most business owners and senior managers do not take part or keen interest on who is recruited to sell, unless they are being hired on permanent basis.

It may look attractive and cost effective to engage students on attachment and commission-based salespeople, but more often than not, they cause more harm than good to the company if they are not trained and passionate about the work.

If you really want to grow your team by hiring commission sales people, conduct thorough interview and only get those who are self-driven, willing to learn on their own and ready to work with little or no supervision.

Ensure they fully understand your company culture and products as well as business environment before venturing out to net customers.

Once you have the right people who are passionate about sales, support them with training, communication, motivation, mentoring and rewards to keep them enthusiastic and focused on selling.

Ensure every commission sales person earns enough money to devote themselves fully to selling your products so that they don’t spend much time and energy looking for other jobs, trying to sell other companies products or join multilevel marketing companies to supplement their income.

Mr Kiunga is the author of ‘The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market’. Email:

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