3 Building Blocks of Sales Success
In my previous post, I wrote about the crucial first pillar to sales success: hiring right. Next, I want to explain the importance of onboarding, training, and coaching.
Too many companies bucket all of these building blocks into training, but this is wrong. These three elements are independent and have different objectives and strategies for success. Let me break down each of these for you.
Onboarding actually starts before the candidate’s first day of work. Your goal is to make sure this is an extremely smooth process for any new hire. This orientation has to be planned and managed with a high level of detail.
Communication from the get-go with your new hire is critical. Do the following:
– Have clear communication via email and phone with new hire explaining what to expect on the first day, what to wear, and the lunch/break policies.
– Be concise with the start date and time in your offer letter.
– Send welcome messages to both the new hire and the team. Encourage a culture of embracing new hires.
– Make sure senior team members keep an eye for new kids wandering around.Give them a tour on arrival and make sure they know where critical spaces are like the bathroom! But, don’t forget things like local eateries, coffee shops, etc.
– Other nice touches include a welcome package at their desk, a welcome sign when they enter on their first day, and a breakfast/coffee reception with their direct team.
Basics done right is a requirement. Follow this checklist:
– Any HR paperwork should be prepared, in a nice neat folder, with instructions and provided to the new hire immediately.
– Their work station should be set up and ready to go: computer, phone, software, and any other equipment. The worst thing for a new hire is to walk in and have some IT guy saying, “We’ll have you ready by the time you’re ready to make calls.”
– Make sure their email and CRM accounts and their phone are set up! Review and outline their first days and provide a written schedule. Make it even easier by setting up training sessions on their calendar.
– You should make sure they know who to talk to if certain issues come up. Who should they call if they run into traffic and will be late? Who should they ask about payroll, benefits, direct deposit, etc?
Nail down the compensation plan. In sales presenting a clear, concise (and believable) compensation plan is crucial for success. Sales people come to work for a reason, and that reason is to make money.
I’ve witnessed sales reps quit in the first week because they couldn’t understand how they were going to be compensated. This problem can be easily solved by being upfront from the start.
Have everything in writing. Have them sign it acknowledging they understand and accept it.
Training should be ongoing because training never stops. I’ll start with some tips on new hire training, but also address ongoing training.
In sales, we like to use a lot of sports analogies. But in reality, the similarities between the two run thin. See, in sales we practice 1% of the time and play the game 99% of the time. Whereas in sports, we do the opposite: we spend 99% of time in practice and 1% in game play.
1% practice is not enough for any level of sales professional. We have to continuously hone our craft. Training never ends in the training session and it definitely never ends at new hire training.
New hire training should always cover the following: your company, product(s), industry, systems, sales process, and your pitch. For entry level positions it should also cover basics like prospecting, getting past gatekeepers, how to handle objections, and how to close.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to include other activities because training can become boring. Bored people stop listening and absorbing. I love incorporating things like DISC assessments into my onboarding process. They’re fun and people can relate on both a personal and professional level.
There are two other key elements to new hire sales training: role play and shadowing.
I like to break sales reps into teams and have them take on different personas. In addition, have your new hire shadow, shadow, shadow. Place your new reps next to current reps. One tactic I like is asking the new hire to evaluate your current rep– what the current rep did well and what they could do better.
Finally, submersion is so important. Get your new hire talking to customers as soon as possible. There is no better learning than doing.
Hey managers, I realize you’re busy! But, you must force yourself to do coaching with your reps, and not just during new hire training. We all do our weekly or monthly 1:1 meetings with our sales reps. You ask about their pipeline. Or, you ask about specific deals and try to get a best guess on how they are doing in a short catch up. That is not coaching, my friends.
Coaching is observing first and foremost. You must ride along, sit next to a sales rep, or use the technology that exists today to listen in to call sessions and provide real time feedback. Simple coaching, in passing or in team meetings is fleeting at best.
Reps always regress to their bad or mediocre habits after a few calls. Training helps to combat this. It’s all about instant feedback. The technique I like best is listening to a rep’s call, and then pausing the rep before the next call and asking: “What went well? What can you improve?”
I suggest using a concept a friend shared with me last year called the Model Week. The Model Week means you schedule the minutia on your calendar and you do your best to follow the model. Check out this example.
8-9am: Emails, executive team briefing
9-11am: Call coaching
11am-noon: One on ones
Noon-1pm: Lunch with two top performers
1-3pm: Email, meetings, catch up
3-4pm: Call script revision
These items can be changed or even ignored if they’re not on your calendar when you have other pressing issues. However, if these items are on the calendar pestering you, you are more likely to follow through on them.
Coaching never ends. I once read you should spend more time coaching your A and B players rather than your C players. We do have a tendency to spend more time with the least likely to succeed.
Imagine in your football team spent all week practicing the back-ups versus the starters? How would your starters perform? You get it.