Like it or not, subcontractors represent your company every time they come in contact with your clients or prospects. They'll do a good or bad job based upon their relationship with you. At the jobsite, clients grill subs on everything, so a well-informed sub is a powerful ally. You can get your subs to sell your business the right way in four simple, though not easy, steps.

Hire well. If you've checked references, you should be convinced you're interviewing a reputable sub. Tell the sub you expect him to represent your business professionally at all times. Provide an "expectations checklist," covering punctuality, appearance, conduct, and more. This conversation must take place before their commitment. Ask if he would attend sales training with you and your staff.

Put it in writing. Sign an agreement. Spell out your terms, the scope of work to be provided, insurance requirements, expected conduct, and compensation.

Train them to sell. Review sales and training materials, marketing materials, and company information. Include subs in company sales training. This doesn't require a substantial commitment if you invite them to a regular monthly meeting with your staff designed for sales training.

Explain the payoff. What's in it for them? If the sub promotes your business and provides exemplary service, you should be prepared to commit to giving him more business. You don't have to promise exclusivity, but as mutual comfort increases, you'll naturally do more business with him.

A subcontractor who knows nothing about your commitment to clients or your service expectations can hurt your business. Inform and train that sub, and he could become a valuable sales asset. --C.F. Moore, of Olive Branch, Miss., is a business consultant who contracts as a sales coach.