9 Steps to Get First-time Sales Reps Up to Speed ASAP
It can take 10 months (or even longer) for a new sales rep to be fully productive—especially if that rep has no prior sales experience.
Every day a new salesperson isn’t selling is a day that’s costing your company time and money. So, I’ve put together a list of tips to get your new reps selling as soon as possible.
From daily coaching and weekly check-ins, to monitoring their performance and pairing them with your marketing and customer service teams—here’s nine ways to get your new hires selling like old pros.
1. Hire multiple salespeople at once.
When it comes to training first-time sales reps, there’s strength in numbers. Instead of hiring one new candidate at a time, consider hiring two or three.
- Friendly competition can be a huge motivator for new sales reps.
- Rejection is a big part of the sales process, and it’s easier for new reps to handle rejection when they’re part of a supportive team.
- Hiring multiple sales reps allows you to test new sales strategies with multiple employees, as well as gather increased data to gauge the effectiveness of your training methods.
- If all of your new hires work out, you’ll significantly boost the strength of your sales force. And on the flip side, hiring multiple reps can serve as an insurance policy in case one (or more) don’t work out or decide to quit.
2. Streamline your onboarding process.
New hires want two things when they join your organization:
- A chance to succeed.
- And the feeling that they’re part of a team that will help them do that.
If your new sales reps have a negative or difficult onboarding experience, they’ll be much more likely to leave your company within the first few months.
Far too many companies drag out their onboarding process, either delaying the actual training process or interrupting it once it’s started.
Onboarding should technically be considered different than training, and it should be completed by each new hire within their first week on the job.
Follow these steps:
1. Have new hires complete payroll, insurance, and other HR paperwork on their first day, making sure to answer any questions they may have.
2. Give each new hire a copy of your company’s policies and procedures manual. Spend time reviewing the rules of your workplace, as well as the tenets of your company culture.
3. Set clear expectations. Make sure your new hires know you company’s overall mission, as well as their individual responsibilities. Let them know what they can expect from you—both during the training process and beyond—and let them know that someone will be there to help them and answer any questions they may have.
3. Pair your new hires with veteran reps.
While manuals and tutorials are important, no training of a new hire is complete without guidance from an experienced peer. After you’ve introduced your first-time reps to your team, have each of them shadow a veteran salesperson.
Not only can new hires gain invaluable knowledge by watching and listening to their more seasoned peers make sales calls and give demos, they can shorten their learning curve by asking their temporary teachers (tons of) questions.
This interaction shouldn’t be limited to their assigned partners, either.
New reps should be encouraged to interact with your entire sales team in order to learn as many helpful techniques as possible, as well as to find long-term mentors who can not only guide their day-to-day progress, but who might also be able to provide long-term career guidance.
4. Don’t overwhelm your new hires with information.
Your first-time sales reps aren’t just new to your company, they’re new to sales, period. While you may have a ton of great information to share with your new hires, they simply won’t retain it if you dump it on their desks—and brains—all at once.
Instead, train them on one specific task at a time.
Training new sales reps is similar to teaching students math. They can’t move on to the next concept until they’ve mastered the previous one. So, there’s no need to teach them about invoicing before you’re sure they can actually close a sale.
Here's a solid training pattern for new sales reps:
1. Start by introducing them to simpler products and services.
2. Once they can effectively describe the products’ selling points, have them begin learning typical cold call and email routines.
3. Let them accompany senior salespeople on their demos and presentations.
4. Have them practice demo and presentation scripts.
5. Once they’ve mastered the scripts, they can begin giving demos and presentations themselves.
6. Continue this pattern until your new hires have mastered your entire sales process.
You should also consider utilizing sales training software. There are numerous quality options available for virtually every size budget and team, and salespeople who successfully utilize top-rated sales training platforms close 10% more deals than those who don’t.
Sidebar: Your new hires’ first priority should be to learn your entire sales process. Wait until they’ve completed their training before you ask them to become equally as well-versed in your complete product line or service offerings.
Have them focus on selling simpler products or services at first. These smaller transactions will help them build confidence and a professional network that they can leverage in future sales.
5. Check in with your new hires on a weekly basis.
Once your new hires have begun training with their peer coaches, have sales managers check in with them once a week to gauge their progress.
During each weekly meeting, managers should keep questions like these in mind:
- Is the new rep’s coach a good fit? Could he or she benefit by being paired with someone else?
- If the new hire is struggling, is he or she struggling in a specific area or across the board?
- Is the new hire exhibiting any particular strengths or ideas that could be helpful in selling any particular products or services?
- Will the new hire ultimately be a good fit for the company?
These weekly check-ins can be a secret weapon for your sales team. Responding promptly to any issues and making any necessary tweaks can speed up the training process. And if it looks like a new hire isn’t going to work out, it’s better to know sooner than later.
6. Monitor their performance.
In addition to conducting weekly check-ins with your new hires, it is vital that you establish a list of key indicators to track their progress.
While the specific items on the checklist will vary from company to company, your company should pay close attention to the following:
- Do your new hires understand your company’s sales goals, as well as the ins and outs of your particular sales funnel?
- Are they showing increasing proficiency on your company’s sales software systems?
- Will your new hires be able to reach your ideal customers?
- Do your new reps understand your potential customers’ pain points? Will they be able to successfully present your products or services as a solution?
- Are they actively listening to their coaches and peers? Are they earning the trust of your entire team?
The answers to these questions can be gleaned via meetings with new your hires, their managers, and the peers they’re shadowing. You can also gauge their progress by listening to their sales calls and sitting in on their sales meetings.
7. Conduct follow-up training.
No matter how talented your new hires are, they will undoubtedly struggle to master some aspects of your sales process. They will also likely forget a good deal of what they learned during training—often within days or weeks of learning it.
You can address you new reps’ struggles and counteract the “forgetting curve” by reinforcing their training with follow-up instruction.
Once their initial training is complete, conduct six to eight weeks of follow-up training during which your new reps review what they’ve learned and ask questions. They should also have opportunities to practice their newfound skills both in house and, more importantly, with actual prospects so that they can see firsthand the results of their hard work.
Not only will this active learning help new reps become successful reps, it can also help to refine your training processes.
8. Integrate your new hires with your marketing team.
While sales is one thing and marketing is another, your company can reap big rewards when your sales and marketing teams work together.
All new sales reps should spend time learning about your marketing team, which marketing channels it uses (and why), and where your sales team fits into the mix.
Encouraging positive interaction between your sales and marketing teams can boost the effectiveness of both departments.
Salespeople can share valuable information (like potential customers’ pain points, questions, likes, dislikes, preferred media channels and communication methods, etc.) that the marketing team can use to create better messaging, strategies, and campaigns. These improved marketing efforts can lead to better leads for your salespeople.
9. Let your first-time sales reps spend time in customer service.
The reason? Old-school sales tactics are becoming less and less effective.
As a result, more and more companies are placing an increased emphasis on the customer experience. And a key driver of that experience is customer service.
It can be easy for sales reps to think of customers as just deals or transactions. But any quality customer service rep knows customers are real people with real preferences, problems, and needs.
By spending time with your customer service team, your new sales reps can learn how to listen to customers and learn exactly what they want and need. This level of customer service can lead to increased sales, higher customer retention, and customers who recommend your products and services to others.