You’re Setting Up Your New Hire Salespeople for Failure

May 2, 2011

You’ve hired your rainmaker! The hard work is over and now it’s time for the dollars to roll in. After all, you’ve just hired a great salesperson. Take her to the office, hand her a prospecting list, and success is imminent!

Oh, if only this formula worked.

Actually, it is this line of thinking that is the leading cause of new-hire-salesperson failure and sales team underperformance. You hire potential, but you have a shared responsibility with your new seller to ensure the potential becomes reality. What many business leaders don’t recognize is that the salesperson arrives with a portfolio of skills, but a program is needed to help her quickly and effectively use those skills in the sales role for the company. The bridge from success potential to reality is your salesperson onboarding program.

Taking a step back, profit-driven companies never hire salespeople. They make an investment in revenue. If you asked your CEO for $30,000 for a trade show, how many hurdles would you have to jump to get the approval? How many return on investment studies would you need to provide? How many blue ribbon panels would be commissioned? Yet, hiring a salesperson at a salary of $30,000 is oftentimes not seen the same way as the investment in a new initiative. Yet, it’s the same corporate dollars and should be prudently handled as any other investment.

With that in mind, you wouldn’t invest $30,000 in your trade show, keep your fingers crossed, and hope for the best. Steps would be taken to ensure the desired return is recognized. In this case, the missing step is your salesperson onboarding program — which protects your new seller investment. If you’ve never had one, you may be wondering where to start. The best place to start is at the end.

Imagine your new hire salesperson has successfully completed your onboarding program. What do you expect that your new seller knows, can do and can use? The three words know – do – use serve as your onboarding program development guide.

Know refers to information like product knowledge, competitive landscape, and company history.

Do refers to action like conducting a sales call, delivering the corporate presentation, and demonstrating a technology platform.

Use refers to tools like your CRM, web meeting, and ordering system.

After identifying your proficiency expectations, the next step is to identify how proficiency will be developed for each one. For example, if you expect your new seller to adeptly conduct a needs analysis sales call, what proficiency development areas are needed to ensure this happens?

After going through this exercise, you will have a laundry list of components for inclusion in your salesperson onboarding program. A common mistake is to squeeze everything into one week, immerse them in your world, and send them out to sell the value. This strategy isn’t effective as there is only so much your new seller will master in a boot camp environment. Plot the program components over several weeks in a logical sequence that is paced such that your new seller has every opportunity to succeed.

Finally, develop a proficiency exam so you can assess performance during the program. This can come in the form of a written exam, individual practical and/or group practical. In essence, you’ve made an investment in your seller by including them in the onboarding program. This is the opportunity for them to demonstrate that they are on track to generate a return on the investment that has been made in them.

You may think of onboarding as a corporate luxury. It’s not! A well-designed onboarding program leads to a quicker revenue contribution from new sellers and performance levels not presently experienced from the veteran sellers. Don’t ever hire another salesperson; make an investment in revenue!

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