Alexander Handa of S-Trip! with presenting sponsor Jennifer Osborne of SearchEnginePeople Alexander Handa of S-Trip! with presenting sponsor Jennifer Osborne of SearchEnginePeople

An impressive share of this year’s PROFIT 200 were founded by CEOs at a young age. Indeed, 35% of this year’s Fastest-Growing Companies CEOs launched their winning businesses before the age of 30.

One of these young entrepreneurs was presented with a special citation at Monday (June 11, 2012) night’s CEO Summit event, invitation-only event produced for pre-eminent entrepreneurs. The Young Entrepreneur Award presented by SearchEnginePeople went to Alexander Handa,  president and CEO of S-Trip!, a Toronto-based tour operator. Handa co-founded S-Trip! when he was 26 — the perfect age to understand the company’s target market of youth and students.

S-Trip! has developed a sales process with an astonishing 140 documented steps. Alexander Handa says having such a thorough sales process means he can hire salespeople who don’t have sales experience. Instead, he’s free to hire people with the right look and personality to appeal to the firm’s target market, and with a knack for telling a story.

S-Trip!’s smart sales strategy has been one of the keys to its dramatic growth. The company ranks at No. 11 on the PROFIT 200, with five-year sales growth of 3,578% and 2011 revenue of $22.5 million. For this achievement by the age of 32, Alexander Handa earns this year’s PROFIT 200 Young Entrepreneur Award.

We talked with Handa to find out more about his sales strategy:

PROFIT: How do you identify the right salespeople to hire?

HANDA: We look for people who are able to tell stories and build excitement. Because we’re selling experiences, we need people who can sit at a table with eight people and tell an exciting story and captivate an audience. And the second part is being able to learn and adapt to the sales process. We’re not looking for independent renegades to figure it out and get it done by themselves, we’re looking for people who are ready to work in a team environment, learn and adapt and be coached by their managers.

PROFIT: What does your company do to support its salespeople with training, market intelligence or other resources?

HANDA: Our sales staff have  a weekly training session with their sales managers and their director of sales. They will  travel along with passengers on five to eight trips per year so that they have those stories to tell and enriched with those experiences to use when they’re selling.

We see salespeople’s results increase tenfold after they’ve had the travel experiences because they have stories to tell and they can speak about it in the first person. So that is the most important thing. And then there is the coaching component. They work daily with their managers, who are really coaches, that work with them several hours a day. [

PROFIT: How old are your sales staff?

HANDA: They’re very young, mostly all recent college or university grads. It’s very often their first job–the average age is about 24 or 25. They’re quite young. It’s a role that you can do right out of university for two or three years. And we want turnover as well. We want new, excited people coming up all the time. The successful ones become senior sales reps or manage the team. We have a very small ratio of sales people to sales managers–5:1 ratio–so there’s a lot of coaching and they’re very close to their sales managers supporting them.

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