Recently, a small business owner approached me with a challenge he was facing in his business. His business was growing and he was in the process of transitioning out of the role of primary sales person and had hired an experienced sales person to replace himself.
He was excited about this milestone for his company, but never having led a sales person before, he was anxious about how to help his new sales person become successful in his company. Like most entrepreneurs, certain elements of running the company come naturally to him, but building and leading sales team was not one of them. He credits his sales success to his hunger (literally) and passion (obviously).
So when he called me with the question, “How do I make sure my new sales guy is prepared and stays motivated while he builds a pipeline of his own?” I thought I would use this opportunity to briefly review the 10 steps needed to bring a sales person up to speed quickly.
- Determine the sales persons financial goals – Think in terms of annual goals and break it down quarterly and monthly from there. If the sales cycle is shorter than 30 days or is transactional in nature, weekly or daily goals may be appropriate.
- Focus on the core - Establish a plan to quickly educate the sales person on your core offerings. This is more than handing them a stack of sales collateral. Even if no formal product or service marketing materials exist, invest the time required to make sure the new person is comfortable with your businesses value proposition and differentiators. Review this often and don’t be afraid to role play to check for understanding.
- Train them on the internal business processes and culture – getting this out of the way quickly lessens the wasted cycles and accelerates integration. Remember to ask the new employee to share their experience with a focus on identifying opportunities to improve. New employees bring with them tons of experience from other companies. Don’t waist an opportunity to learn how to improve your business with this information.
- 90 day marketing plan - Have the employee create a 90 day marketing plan that aligns to the goals you have already given them. Work-shopping this with the employee will help them get a better feel for what your expectations are and how you make decisions. This is invaluable to the employee.
- Be realistic with the goals – For a new sales person, missing early sales targets is discouraging and can serve to demotivate. Balance setting practical goals with giving the employee the opportunity to “feel” successful early.
- Check-in often, but don’t micro-manage - Schedule morning check-in calls/meetings for the first few weeks to make sure bad habits don’t take root and that little questions can be answered quickly. Make these conversations priority. Missing these calls will send the message that you do not think they are important. Spread these calls out to weekly after a few weeks, but keep them on the schedule even if they don’t seem necessary. Great sales people want to give you the impression that they have everything under control, but you can break through this façade with just a couple challenging questions. Use real issues from your inbox to spark conversations and talk them through.
- Don’t answer every question - Resist the temptation to answer every question and take the time to ask the sales person what he/she thinks would be the best way to handle difficult situations or problems. By investing a few more minutes to help coach them through the decision process you use, they will make better decisions. This means less time in your office looking for help and more time taking care of clients and growing the business.
- Inspect what you expect - If you give the sales person a task or a deadline, make sure that you follow-up and that it is completed. Any time you hand out tasks make sure there is a specific time when you expect that task to be completed by. When you give out tasks and don’t follow-up on them, you tell them it is not important. In time these task no longer become priority and are not completed. This is a slippery slope that is hard to reverse.
- 10 meetings – Help them get their first 10 meetings as soon as they are at about 60% - 80% ready. There is no better learning experience than these first 10 meetings. Help them prepare for each and take the time to debrief after each one. Enlist non-sales team member to join these meetings to add support. Send the head of finance or HR. This will improve the connections between sales and other functional parts of the team while providing the rep with some high level support for his/her first few meetings.
- Fire quickly – If it is not a good fit and you know it on day 2. Admit it and correct it quickly. It is best for the employee and for the business.
Follow these steps when adding new sales people to your business and you will have less employee turnover and will dramatically shorten the time required for a new sales person to be productive.
This list could have had 50 actions on it… What are some of the others ways to ensure a new sales person’s success.