As I’ve mentioned before in previous blog posts, I’m a long-suffering fan of the Cleveland Browns. My team loses more games than they win. The Browns are also infamous for something else: the team has started 28 different quarterbacks since 1999! Many of these poor souls were drafted by the Browns and then thrown into the fire before they were adequately prepared, only to fail.
This happens because the Browns are desperate. Desperate leaders do desperate things that usually put the organization further behind. Even if the Browns draft a talented player, they screw things up because of a lack of onboarding, development, and training.
Their most recent failure in this area was a first-round pick out of Notre Dame, DeShone Kizer. A young, talented, but very “raw” quarterback, who should have been developed via a methodical plan. Instead, he was inserted as a starter early in the season and forced to learn on the job. This, coupled with a bad relationship with his coach, Hue Jackson, resulted in one brutal season with the Browns and a trade to the Packers (a team that knows how to develop quarterbacks).
In Sales As In Football
Unfortunately, I see this same phenomenon in advertising sales departments. It looks like this:
- A manager has an open position and is in desperate need of a salesperson because the position has been open for a while.
- The manager recruits and hires a seller.
- Because the seller is filling an open position that has been open for a while, the manager does not follow any type of onboarding program. After spending very little time with the seller, the order is given. “Go sell.”
This process is a fast track to nowhere, and sellers usually depart prior to their one-year anniversary or as soon as their compensation guarantee ends. This is called turnover, and turnover is not a good thing (in sales or in football).
Talent Develops When a Relationship Exists Between the Seller and the Manager
A proper onboarding plan communicates many things to a seller, and the most important is, “I care.” When a manager tells the seller, “I care,” great things happen!
World-class managers understand that caring starts before a new seller's first day on the job—this is called pre-boarding. Here are some important things to do before a new hire starts:
- Pre-boarding will make your new hire feel welcome from day one and pave the way for a positive first-day experience.
- In the time after you hire the new employee and before their first day, you should let your team know a few interesting facts about their new team member, why they were hired, and the role they will play.
- You might also consider sending your new hire a friendly note or welcome messages from their teammates.
- Also, let them know where to go on the first day and provide them with any paperwork that can be completed ahead of time.
- Let the team know a new seller will be starting. An email sent to your current team introducing the new seller is a nice touch!
- It also helps to have IT set up their computer, logins, and passwords before they arrive.
The following things should be ready to go for day one on the job:
1. Be prepared for their arrival:
- Clean desk and workstation.
- Computer (set up and ready to go).
- Business cards sitting on their desk.
- A schedule for the first several weeks.
- A training plan that includes sales process training as well as product training. (This plan should map out the first several months on the job.)
2. Talent Assessment
If you have access to a talent assessment, meet with the seller to review their strengths and chat about how they can use these strengths to be successful.
3. Discuss Talents + Goals
Every individual has a unique set of talents, interests, goals, motivations, and work styles. It is essential that a manager understands the individual they are coaching in order to build a stronger relationship and further their development. During the seller's first week on the job, a manager should meet with them and discuss:
- Their talents and interests.
- Their expectations and goals (sellers have expectations and goals too).
- Things that are important to them.
- How they learn (not every person has the same learning style).
- What kind of relationship they want with you.
Give them a mentor (another seller who can provide advice and support).
5. Schedule Time for Them
Block time on your schedule to spend time with the seller in the office and in the field.
Insight from a Talent Professional
Mindy Murphy, a certified talent analyst for The Center for Sales Strategy, has this to say about onboarding a new seller:
“Onboarding should not end after initial training. It is important that you think about how you can ensure your new hire’s continued growth and development. Have ongoing conversations about what they have learned and how they are doing against the expectations you put in place. Implement specific coaching strategies to maximize their strengths and work around their weaknesses.
Effective onboarding is key to the success of a new hire. When done right, it will increase employee retention, morale, and productivity.”
The Choice is Yours
This list of onboarding elements is not be-all and end-all. However, it is a great starting point. I recommend managers meet with their HR manager to build out the plan and add in elements customized to the seller. A plan for a veteran seller might look different than a plan for a first-time, entry-level seller.
The choice is yours to manage and coach like the Cleveland Browns or manage and coach like a champion!