As part of our work with clients, we sometimes help them improve their hiring effectiveness and efficiency by introducing an assessment into their hiring process. I have found that hiring managers occasionally get lulled to sleep believing that because the candidate was recommended by the assessment, and HR screened them that they will just step into the position and be a superstar. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. As I discussed in a recent article there are six steps to successful sales talent hiring, and on-boarding is one of those steps.
Even the best, most precise process to select the right candidates will not prove to be the absolute most effective if there isn’t a strong on-boarding program. Those of you with small companies that don’t hire salespeople frequently may be thinking that it isn’t necessary to have a specific on-boarding plan, but it is just as important for you as it is for those companies that hire dozens or hundreds of salespeople. The cost to your organization of hiring a salesperson that doesn’t ultimately work out is an astronomical 3x – 15x their annual compensation, according to industry resources.
Here is a quick overview of what needs to be considered when creating an effective on-boarding program:
Every moment is detailed, appropriate introductions are made, and HR items are handled.
Provide an overview of what will be accomplished in the first week including expectations you have for them. Will they be meeting with others to get some training on certain items? If so then those people need to be put on alert to accept an appointment request from the new hire and then ask the new hire to schedule them, but make sure the new hire understands it is his or her responsibility to get out of the training what is needed. Make the new hire an active participant in the process. By providing expectations for outcomes (For example: You should be able to name the five key problems our products solve) you engage the new hire in the process of owning the information. You may even consider creating a quiz for the end of the first week of the items they should have learned, including questions about your website or marketing material if appropriate.
The complexity of the sale for your products and services will dictate when it is appropriate to get the new hire out their having sales conversations. Keep in mind that if you have used our sales candidate screening process, and followed a consistent interviewing process, you probably have hired stronger salespeople than in the past. Therefore, remember that better salespeople want to be selling. They do not want to be stuck in the office. Set expectations around how many ride-along calls they are going to do observing you. Just sending them to ride along with your best salesperson is not a good strategy but you may need to use other salespeople to demonstrate some sales activity, but do it sparingly. Do you really want the new hire to pick up the bad habits of the long-time salesperson who cuts corners, procrastinates, doesn’t prepare for his calls etc? I don’t think so. If they must go with others, it is their job to get those scheduled. And the sooner you can get them in sales conversations the better. But before you do, be sure to provide them the following:
- A large list of the best, most thought-provoking questions that will help them uncover the true needs or problems of the prospect.
- Stories of solutions you have provided for clients that they can use when describing what your company does.
- The advantages to your clients of your services compared to other options the prospects have.
- An understanding of how to calculate the ROI of your products or services.
- The math of success necessary for this position, meaning how many first appointments are necessary each week to generate enough opportunities based on typical closing ratios, and the likely level and type of activity that will be necessary by the salesperson to generate those appointments.
Months 2 and 3:
Unless your product or service is highly complex, most salespeople should be fairly independent sometime during this time frame. Think in terms of their ability to have an independent intelligent conversation about your products and services. When they can, it is time to set them free to sell on their own. Unless your salespeople transact a very high number of sales calls, be prepared to pre-brief and debrief every single sales call in the first 90 days, which enables you to provide coaching, feedback and guidance. Be certain to set specific expectations on a weekly basis as to how many sales calls they must have, or appointments they must set. This should be based off of the math of success that you would have calculated with them in the first month. Require them to be very specific about their activities for the first 90 days of employment. That will carry over into maintaining a disciplined approach to sales execution.
In closing, remember that every new salesperson has some ramp-up time. When you calculate quotas or expectations of salespeople you should be taking into consideration their ramp-up time, then add in the sales cycle. If it takes 90 days for a new salesperson to ramp up and an average sales cycle is 60 days then you cannot realistically expect a new salesperson to generate any new business for five months.
If you have a systematic approach to on-boarding with very specific expectation every week you will have far greater success more quickly, and will enable salespeople to perform as quickly as feasible, which will reduce turnover.