Developing industry-leading sales organizations isn’t just about the carrot-and-stick, often outsize rewards for meeting sales goals. That may work well for a handful of natural-born sales champions. However, if you want a team of superstars, you need to do something more. A back-to-basics approach is what smart company leaders know is required to make sure they build the strongest foundation upon which to build an equally strong sales force. They take a thoughtful, systematic approach in each step of the process, from recruiting, onboarding, training, setting goals, development and providing feedback.
Sales professionals at all levels need to feel inspired and involved—that’s how their passion for your product or service comes through not only when they connect with prospective clients (vital) but also in how they interact with coworkers.
Here are the top 6 things you can do to create and drive sales leaders for your organization.
1. Always hire multiple salespeople at one time
Anytime you're hiring salespeople, hire more than one at the same time. In your company's early days, you will need to conduct training programs, have trainee's role play with each other, forge relationships, and share success stories to both encourage and inform once they are in the field. You can also create some competition between your new hires, which, if done properly, can be rewarding for all.
2. Schedule their first day on a Sunday
By starting the new group of sales hires on a Sunday, they can use that as a travel day to get together and conduct a welcome reception so everyone gets to know each other and share backgrounds and business experiences. I also like to invite members of the senior management team so they can begin to forge relationships with the new hires from day one. It enables them to quickly understand why they joined the organization and what their individual goals might be.
3. Set expectations high for training
Put in the time to establish a thoughtful curriculum that provides an overview of the company, strategic direction, housekeeping while in training, sales skills training, product knowledge, competition and role play with senior management. By setting high expectations for their performance on quizzes, tests and role playing the new employees will see that you take their professional success very seriously. I view training as one of the most important elements of the success of new hires. Why hire great talent if you’re not going to train them and provide them with the tools to succeed?
4. Design an impactful agenda, including guest speakers
I always like to invite speakers to training programs to cover various elements within the organization. I have the CEO in to speak with the new hires and discuss the culture and vision he/she might have for the company and to stress the importance of each new team member is to the organization’s overall success. By getting face time with the CEO, new hires are afforded access to the senior leader of their new company.
I also invite each department head to discuss what their expectations are from sales professionals and how they can best support them in growing the company. Human resources come in to discuss HR-related items, of course, like rules and regulations as well as benefits.
Finance comes in to speak about top- and bottom-line goals and expense reports. Information technology comes in to discuss laptop policy and other tech support items.
The more people you can get involved the better. New hires love to get access and introductions to senior leadership. Salespeople, by their very nature, aren’t shrinking violets, so having an opportunity to be so visible to the powers that be so quickly contributes to their enthusiasm.
5. The training itself should drill into sales skills - regardless of level of seniority
Those who are new to sales will definitely need skills training to give them the basics of opening, open-and-closed probes, overcoming objections, positions of features and benefits, as well as closing.
Don't take for granted that seasoned sales representatives you bring in have stellar sales skills. A refresher can't hurt a mature representative and, in fact, may help them immensely.
6. Document everything you do in training and provide constructive feedback
Starting as a salesperson at a new company is like drinking through a fire hose. Retaining so much information all at once can be difficult, so whatever you can do to ease this process would be beneficial.
Provide documentation for their post-training reference, including your sales process, probing strategies, features and benefits, competitive information, strategies to compete definitions, and even trivial things like proper email signature structure.
I host all training materials in our own online library, as well as all marketing material and expenses reports, to make everything quickly and easily accessible anytime, anywhere.
Bottom line: Providing rigorous sales training sets the tone for everything you do as an organization. If you start it on Day 1 you create a powerful first impression among your new sales reps by demonstrating your commitment to their success. Invest in making it well organized, professional and filled with the equipment they will need to knock the cover off the ball.