Wednesday Feb 27, 2013 by Nick Worswick - VP & General Manager, Seamless
In Part 1 of my blog on building a 3-Step Plan to Get the Most from New Sales Hires, I discussed the tendency of high growth companies to act under pressure and hire sales people strictly based on performance. Sales ability is important, but you also need a salesperson who has the right qualities to execute your growth plan and believes in what you’re doing. The first two steps of the plan are:
Step 1: Before you look at candidates, it’s critical to have a solid, data-backed sales plan so you know what you need.
Step 2: Develop a successful recruiting and hiring plan to get the best talent in the door.
Now that your sales people have been hired the hard work begins.
Step 3: Onboarding for Maximum Results
When it comes to onboarding new sales hires, it’s been my experience that companies typically underinvest in the process. Without a well-defined training process and timeframe, new sales hires stay in what I call “perpetual ramp.” Rather than getting all the knowledge and training they need in a set period of time, salespeople are sent into the field with some training, and forced to fill in the gaps while on the job.
Depending on the complexity of your industry, solutions or sales strategy, a 4-12 week onboarding program is appropriate for new sales hires. It should be formal and structured with weekly homework assignments and tests to monitor comprehension. I highly recommend putting them into a live sales situation where they can spend a day at a customer’s location. Speaking from experience, there is no better learning opportunity than being able to see first-hand how your solution is used and how it benefits the customer.
Finally, before sending them into the field, have them present their plan for tackling their territory. This not only forces your new salespeople to devise their personal sales strategies, but gives you a chance to understand how they’ll meet their targets.
Invest in Your Process
While you might have a great HR staff, to build this type of onboarding program requires a full-time training resource. You can also work with a 3rd party—there are plenty of highly qualified trainers that specialize in sales onboarding. However, if you’re doing $30M in sales with a 30-40% growth rate, you should really invest in a full-time person. This type of well-structured process guarantees that new hires ramp up sooner, hit the ground running faster and meet their targets earlier than planned.
While at IntraLinks, there was a year I hired over 30 sales people. We had two full-time training resources who were able to onboard the majority of the new sales staff in 90 days. If we hadn’t invested in dedicated resources I know the onboarding process would have taken twice as long.
The bottom line is that if just one sales person can meet his or her target in three months versus nine, you’ve paid for the training resource. It’s worth the investment.
Being a part of a successful, fast growing company is always exciting—and fast paced. The key to building a successful sales team is to fight the tendency to move too fast and fill a sales position for the sake of filling it. Instead, devise a plan for attracting top talent who have the qualities and qualifications to meet the company’s goals. Be extensive with your interview process and ensure candidates are a good fit with your corporate culture. And finally, invest in a rigorous onboarding process that will equip your new sales hires with the knowledge and tools to be successful.