I participated in a great event recently hosted by The Graphic Artists Guild here in Los Angeles.  I work with Three Steps Ahead here and assist them with sales and account management.  Three Steps Ahead took the lead in setting up the “Guild” event which was attended by fifty artists and designers in the greater LA area.  I was engaged in a conversation with one attendee that seems to be a common concern for artists, designers and graphic arts professionals – What should I be looking for in a salesperson to help me grow my business?

First, look for a professional.  Sorry to tell you but you cannot hire just anyone who has sold cellphones for Cingular or newspapers for the LA times.  Selling one thing does not mean one can sell everything.  Specifically, we’re talking here about the sale of “intangibles.”  Artists create vision, brand, identity and vibe.  These are not concrete things that a client can touch, feel and compare.  Intangibles require salespeople who have sold products or services in the past where they are used to a more complex sales cycle that requires a lot of listening, consultation and multiple sales calls.

Second, you are going to have to set ground rules.  Sorry to say, but you are going to have to manage your salesperson.  Start by getting your own house in order by opening the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook and get your sales agreements/contracts set up.  No more doing deals on the back of a napkin or via a series of e-mails.  Next, set time aside with your salesperson to establish “rules of engagement.”  I’d suggest that all artists and designers begin by allowing their sales representatives to do only qualification calls to start.  This means that all they are to do is make/receive calls or web inquiries and qualify the client for their general project scope, budget, project time-frame and their “fit” as a client.  We’re talking the basic Who? What? When? and Why?

Third, sit down with your sales representative and go through each lead and discuss what transpired.  If it fits your basic criteria, get ready to participate on a conference call or initial meeting with the sales rep and the client.  By doing this you are educating your sales person in real-time and letting them know what works for you and what doesn’t.  You’d be amazed how much better the opportunities offered by your rep will be once they have seen and heard your process half a dozen times.

Does this sound like a bit much for you?  Think again.  This is a partnership.  The time you invest up front in educating your sales representative will pay off in better and more qualified leads.  Just like design, sales is a collaborative effort and the more time you spend discussing each deal with your rep, the better their work will be in return.

Happy Selling!