Too many companies still insist on pumping their new hires full of product knowledge and then dumping them on unsuspecting prospects, fully expecting the new salesperson to sell up a storm.
These “talking catalogues” start running around “telling” instead of “selling” and the expected storm decays to a light drizzle. The salespeople get depressed at their lack of success, become unmotivated, and finally quit only to be replaced by a second line of newly hired replacements and the cycle repeats itself.
Product knowledge is good but it’s not enough by itself. People need to be shown or trained on how to properly communicate the knowledge to qualified prospects.
While formal sales training is good, it doesn’t need to be formal. Using the old blind-leading-the-blind technique, where you send the new person out with a successful oldtimer, is certainly better than simply dropping the new salesperson into the deep end of the pool and hoping the weight of all the product knowledge doesn’t prevent him from resurfacing.
In addition to product knowledge training, time should also be spent covering company policies and procedures as well as providing some basic sales training that is specific to your particular marketplace.
This is a key area that is often overlooked when bringing a new salesperson up to speed. Keep in mind that most salespeople you hire will have had no formal sales training and probably don’t know what they don’t know. You can help them by either providing formal sales training, or as a minimum, enough information to get up to speed from a selling point of view. Sales training can be broken down into three broad sections:
- Who are current customers?
- Are there any house or protected accounts?
- Are there any split or shared accounts?
- What does a typical customer profile look like?
- Who has bought these products or services in the past?
- Who is a typical prospect for the product or service?
- How do I identify a suspect?
2. Sales Territory
- What defines my sales territory?
- What assistance will be provided in helping me organize my sales area?
- Will I have assigned accounts/clients/customers?
- Is there any historical sales information available?
- Who was handling the accounts previously?
- What problem accounts are there? Why?
3. Selling Techniques
- What are some proven sales techniques for these products?
- What are some of the things to avoid?
- What prospecting techniques have worked in the past?
- What questions do I need to ask to properly qualify a prospect?
- What common objections am I likely to come up against and how do I handle them?
- What are some time-tested closes that work in this business?
- What do your best salespeople do well?
- How could your best salespeople be even better?
- What selling habits should I avoid?
Joint Sales Calls
Should you send the new salesperson out on joint sales calls with more seasoned people? Yes, but only after he or she has had a chance to get acclimatized to the company and the other salespeople. This will probably take a few days to a few weeks. I know you want to get the person into the field as soon as you can but don’t send him into battle prematurely.
If you do decide to send the new salesperson out on joint calls, I suggest you debrief him after the joint sales calls. Ask him what questions he might have as a result of the joint call. Also debrief the salesperson who travelled with the new body. What were his impressions of the new person? Were there any potential problems that arose? Determine if you have a keeper.
Don’t depend on joint calls to provide any real sales training. The best that can happen is the new salesperson gets to see how the old salesperson does it, and there’s no guarantee the old salesperson is doing it right.
Don’t Do It All Yourself
There’s no reason why the sales manager has to carry the whole burden of the new salesperson’s training. If one of your existing salespeople has aspirations towards sales management, give him an opportunity to prepare himself for a future promotion by taking on some of the responsibility to get the new person started on the right foot.
Not only does this remove some of the responsibility from your shoulders, it provides the new person an opportunity to meet and get to know others within the firm.
Take the Time To Do It Right
A common response to this list is, “It’s going to take a lot of time to go through all this with the new salesperson and I don’t have the spare time.” You’re right. It is going to take a lot of time, and nobody has any spare time anymore.
This is not a spare-time project; it’s a prime-time project. That’s why you have to plan it out in advance. That’s why you have to clear your slate so you will have the time during the first few days (or weeks) to get the new salesperson up to speed as quickly as possible.
Your investment will increase the chances that your new salespeople will succeed and definitely reduce the odds of failure.