All sales managers know that it’s important to have a full staff of salespeople in order to hit your goals. But you know how risky and ineffective it is simply to hire anyone who can fog a mirror. It’s essential to hire only the right people.
When searching for the right talents, skills, and experience, strong sales managers recognize that talent is primary. If a salesperson doesn’t have the talent, he or she can’t be highly successful. Once onboard, the right coaching will turn those talents into skills. That leaves experience. Research tells us, and it’s kind of counterintuitive, that experience is the least accurate indicator of future success—which is why many good sales managers hire some pretty green salespeople.
But just because prior experience (even lots of it) doesn’t guarantee success doesn’t mean that lack of experience isn’t going to be a problem. Of course, it will be. Talented newbies are still newbies. They’ll be great one day and your decision will be very smart in retrospect, but you can’t wait 12 months to see if they’re going to make it. You need to play a proactive role in their development so they gain the needed experience as quickly as possible.
Many companies we work with have a pretty good onboarding plan, yet nearly every manager wants to know if there is something more they can do to get these rookies productive sooner. The answer is yes. Here is what I recommend to help those new to sales ramp up quickly.
Set expectations for activity.
This is different than giving them a revenue budget to hit. It’s about making sure they are focused on the right activities in the first 90 days. Set specific expectations for the number of prospects they should identify, number of appointments they should go on, number of needs analyses they should complete, etc. Get them used to doing the right activities now, which will lead them to sales success down the road. Repeating these important selling activities again and again will also help them build experience at warp speed.
Get to know them as individuals.
Schedule some time in the first 30 days to learn more specifically what makes them tick. Don’t assume you know how they want to be managed. Ask them. Each new hire comes with a unique set of talents and traits, and each will need a different kind of coaching. Ask them questions like: “When you do great work, how do you want me to recognize that?” “When you seem to be struggling, how do you want me to approach you?” “What is the best way for me to teach you something new?” “When you’re having trouble, will you come to me or wait for me to come to you?
Schedule daily meetings.
A new salesperson can easily get lost in the hustle of the busy day. Schedule fifteen minutes at the beginning of each day with new hires to answer questions, celebrate successes, and make sure they are meeting or exceeding their activity goals. Not only will this daily check-in allow them to ramp up more quickly, but they will also gain confidence as they build momentum.
Pair them with a mentor.
This mentor should not be their manager or their trainer. It should be an individual who takes delight in showing them the ropes and letting them in on the things that all veterans know. Where to park in the garage for an easy exit, where to go for great coffee near the office, what day to turn in paperwork. That stuff gets confusing when you’re brand new. Often, those conversations and that mentoring will turn to more substantive topics.
Spend time in the field.
Get out in the field with them right away, but start by having them shadow you. Demonstrate how you handle various types of calls—initial visits, capabilities discussions, needs analysis interviews, idea collaborations, etc. Make sure you dedicate time before the appointment to discuss what you expect to accomplish during the call, and then after the appointment to review how it went. Ask the new salesperson to take detailed notes during the meeting so you can see what he or she is picking up. Ask how he or she might move this process forward and monitor progress. When the salesperson is ready, switch roles so he or she runs the meeting and you provide the feedback. But not until the salesperson is ready.
Invest in sales training that supports your culture.
If you want your new salespeople to make it, you need to invest in their development. Enroll them in a sales training program that supports the culture of your sales organization. I advocate a strong customer-needs-focused approach to selling, which is all about changing the conversation from why the client should buy your product or service to how the client can use your product or service to achieve stated business goals. Stay engaged with the new salesperson as he or she goes through that training, providing guidance when necessary, and demonstrating how important you think the training is.
Before you know it, your newbie will have moved from green (totally inexperienced) to green (a profitable investment!).