On-boarding new sales reps is one of the most vital tasks sales leaders perform. Putting the best sales team together involves getting people to work as a team, with that team becoming more than just the sum of its members. Patrick Sweeney, president of Caliper, a human capital management company, offers some advice on how to integrate new hires into the sales team.
The first step is to make sure you understand the qualities that lead to success in your markets and that your top sales performers possess. “What do [your top performers] have that the others lack?” Sweeney asks. “Is it the ability to handle rejection better, are they more able to persuade prospects, or are they simply better prepared? What is it about them that makes them succeed?” Understanding these crucial qualities is necessary in order to be able to select the best candidates, of course, but this understanding also serves as a blueprint for developing new hires when they come on board.
Also, establish a culture within your sales organization. “You want a certain consistency and coherence in sales so that new hires can know what they are doing,” Sweeney advises. “Many recruits join because of the company and then leave because of the manager.”
Caliper conducts coaching sessions specifically to help new sales recruits understand how to work best with their new managers and fit into the sales organization. The sessions often involve both rep and manager to determine compatibility. “Will they be able to work with each other,” Sweeney explains, “or will they drive each other crazy?”
These sessions can also alleviate two problems: managers often ask, “Where is that fired-up new recruit I hired?” The once enthusiastic interviewee has suddenly become very cautious when he or she enters a new and unfamiliar organization.
“They don’t understand the unwritten rules, the secret handshake,” Sweeney explains. “The manager wants them to hit the ground running.”
On the other hand, some new hires crash ahead and do what worked in their old sales organization. “That can be a major mistake,” says Sweeney.
Sweeney advocates coaching new hires on how to work in their new sales culture and most effectively with their new manager. For example, suppose the new rep loves telling stories, but the manager wants summaries instead of long-winded explanations. “The rep might take a long time unwinding the story and drive the manager crazy,” Sweeney explains.
Another critical step to on-boarding new hires is setting clear expectations of what success looks like in the new organization. What is expected in the first 30 days and 90 days, and how will success be measured? What are the components of success?
Clarity is the key, Sweeney says. The culture, reps and managers, and the blueprint for successful performance must all be clear for the integration to work.