Many firms are very focused and skilled at hiring the right sales professionals. From establishing the knowledge, skills, and attributes (KSA) that are required for success to leveraging pre-hire assessment tools companies have become quite good at the process of recruiting and hiring top sales candidates.
But then the break down occurs! In some firms all the emphasis on finding the best available candidate versus the best candidate available goes out the window with a weak and/or inconsistent onboarding process. The process required for taking newly minted sellers and developing them into top producers is often times MUCH less clearly established and structured.
This is the sales team equivalent of carefully selecting and purchasing the perfect home for your family only to neglect the care and maintenance of the home once you are living in it. What happens AFTER the hire is actually at least as impactful upon eventual success as selecting the right candidate.
Here are some DO’S and DON’TS for the onboarding process.
DO: Provide a detailed and structured plan for the first 90 days of employment (or whatever the length of your probationary period for new hires). The plan should contain weekly requirements and benchmarks after the first month or so but detailed daily or even hourly detail for the first one to four weeks. There should be no ambiguity in the plan and it should be tied to the key elements of how success in the role will be measured. Set the tone for the professionalism of your firm with new hires by representing that professionalism in the onboarding plan.
DON’T: Assume that if you hired someone with the right KSA’s for the job that they will “just figure it out on their own.” Even the most skilled and experienced sales professionals need to be taught the expectations, nuances, and systems of the new firm. Make sure that the first few days on the job include time with upper management to explain what they value in a great seller and also to reinforce upper management’s support of the importance of the onboarding program.
DO: Provide sales training aligned with your sales process regardless of the experience level of the new hire. Not only does this establish the company’s commitment to how the firm goes to market in a uniform fashion but also it clearly establishes the expected sales behaviors for the roles.
DON’T: Provide a sales training process that consists solely of ride-a-longs with top sales performers. Many times even the best performers are not good teachers and might not emulate the desired behaviors that will lead to success for new hires. Traveling with carefully selected sales people can be a small part of an effective training plan but far too often becomes nothing more than a lazy way to bring on new sellers.
DO: Establish daily, scheduled communication between the sales manager and the new hire during the first two weeks on the job at the MINIMUM. These daily calls should be focused on accountability to the onboarding plan and also provide an opportunity to answer questions as they arise. Setting the tone of behavioral accountability early and often will lay the groundwork for accountability to the process as the seller progresses in their career with the firm.
DON’T: Allow ambiguity or too much open time in the onboarding schedule early on. The tight structure of the scheduled time should reflect the expectations of how the firm expects time to be structured once the individual is on their own as a seller for the company.
These are just a few ideas for establishing a well thought out and formalized approach to onboarding new sales professionals. Establishing a structured and consistent approach to onboarding new sellers will result in a predictable system for converting your “Greenhorns” into productive sales professionals that produce “Greenbacks” for years to come.