I hosted two Webinars last week. The topic: onboarding new sales reps. The #1 challenge, according to a poll of attendees: Time, time, time.
The time issue really came down to two related concerns:
- How can sales managers get new reps producing faster? and
- How can sales managers find the time to coach and train new hires, given everything else that’s on their plate?
In this week’s post, we’ll discuss the first issue — learning acceleration. Next week, we’ll tackle the problem of finding time to coach.
First, a tip of the hat to our featured speaker, Steve Von Hoene. Steve has over 20 years of sales, management, and training experience with three industry leaders. He’s the former VP of National Accounts for Carew International, and his company, Journey Learning, is an employee development firm that works with companies ranging from SMBs to Fortune 500’s in the United States and abroad.
Here are some ideas that Steve discussed — all of them actionable steps that you can take to get new hires up to speed more quickly:
- Hire for attributes, train on knowledge and skills. Sales managers often do the opposite, because they’re eager to fill an open sales slot quickly. They look for a candidate with pre-existing knowledge and skills — someone who knows the business or the industry, or whose sales skills are already proven. And they don’t look as closely at the candidate’s attributes — for example, their competitiveness, or their work ethic, or whether they’re a team player. The problem, Steve explains, is that you can teach knowledge and skills, but it’s nearly impossible to change attributes. So you could end up spending a lot of time and money on a new hire who will never become the rep you need him or her to be.
- Start onboarding during recruitment. There’s a major opportunity for acceleration here. Recruitment should always include a detailed assessment. Once you have that assessment, you can start mapping out a development plan for candidates before they arrive — in fact, you can start thinking about their development plan when you make the offer. Also, of course, many candidates can’t start right away, but that doesn’t mean the onboarding has to wait. That’s an ideal time to get a lot of the housekeeping stuff out of the way.
- Map out the process. Research suggests that one of the most common reasons why processes get delayed (and onboarding is a process) is because people are waiting for information. So take the time up front to create a detailed onboarding timeline (see #2, above). You don’t want the new hire sitting around waiting while you figure out what he or she should be doing next. And pay special attention to what information new hires need and when they need it. For example, they don’t need to know everything about every product you sell before you put them in front of a customer.
- Develop a personalized learning path for each hire. With one-size-fits-all onboarding, too much time gets wasted teaching people stuff they already know, or don’t need to know. This goes back to the first point. Identify the candidate’s specific knowledge and skill gaps and build the onboarding process around them.
- Build a bench. Identify people in your organization who have the talent and drive to step up if the opportunity arises and start developing them. For example, if you can promote a customer service rep or sales assistant to an open sales-rep position, everybody wins.
- Pair new hires with high producers. Top salespeople often insist that they could sell even more if only they could get an assistant who could relieve them of mundane, time-consuming tasks. A new sales rep is an opportunity for them to prove it. It’s a low-risk way for the new rep to learn the ropes, and if it helps experienced reps bring in more business, you’re getting a higher ROI almost immediately.
You can view a recording of the full Webinar here:
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