From the September 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

If your sales are greatly in need of an elixir, some sort of pick-me-up to boost production, one way to ramp up sales is to hire a rainmaker-a seasoned sales pro who has multiple connections and years of experience in your industry. Scottie Oliver, co-founder of sales consulting firm EA Group in Alpharetta, Georgia, believes that at least 20 percent of a sales manager's time should be dedicated to hiring and integrating sales superstars into an organization.

Bringing in a superstar creates unique management concerns, though, and you'll do well to take a few pointers from the experts:

  • Engage the team in the selection process. Pick one or two reps to be part of the selection and interview process. According to Gerry Murak, a turnaround performance specialist and founder of Murak & Associates in Williamsville, New York, assembling a cross-functional team has many benefits. Murak says that involving team members in hiring raises the performance bar for the entire team and removes the confrontational aspect of the assimilation phase. Murak adds that, during team interviews, "positive chemistry becomes readily apparent, as does an 'oil and water' scenario." Having worked with such clients as Ford, General Mills, and GM, Murak warns that hiring a stellar seller using a top-down management strategy is "tantamount to throwing a live grenade in the middle of the team."
  • Prepare for the care and feeding of a ringer. When someone has a fabulous sales track record, a certain amount of bragging is to be expected. But large egos can unleash havoc in a team, and sales superstars may be hard to manage. As Harry Mills, author of The Rainmaker's Toolkit: Power Strategies for Finding, Keeping and Growing Profitable Clients, explains, genuine superstars have a right to be treated differently. Says Mills, "A true expert should be given free rein whenever possible."

Oliver warns that "some superstars feel they can make their own rules," and he encourages entrepreneurs to establish expectations for the rep-such as pipeline/forecast reporting and conference call participation-prior to hiring.

  • Work on that team fit. Ray Silverstein cautions that, no matter how impressive he or she is, the new salesperson will "destroy the culture" if he or she doesn't fit into the team. Silverstein, whose Chicago-based President's Resource Organization creates and facilitates advisory boards for small businesses, adds, "The overall rule is to hire people who fit into the company's belief system."
  • Avoid the superstar label. Your staff may already be a bit jaded about the new guy, so avoid any fawning. Murak points out that if the new rep is truly a superstar, his results will be obvious-no extra gushing from the sales manager is required. Mills says to keep the introduction low-key and welcome the new rep in exactly the same way as other new staff members. "Be matter-of-fact when talking about the sales star's previous accomplishments, and don't use the word 'star,'" adds Mills.
  • Use the rainmaker to build a stronger team. Since sales reps thrive on competition, having an ├â┬╝bercloser in the next cubicle can be a great motivator. Make it a condition of the new rep's employment that he or she will counsel other team members. Oliver, who encourages sales managers to align the new hire with a "diamond in the making" rep, explains that the benefits are twofold: "The superstar learns the company ropes quickly, and the up-and-comer gleans expertise from a proven performer."

Kimberly L. McCall ("Marketing Angel") is president of McCall Media & Marketing Inc. and author of Sell It, Baby! Marketing Angel's 37 Down-to-Earth & Practical How-To's on Marketing, Branding & Sales.