The Fine Art of Onboarding New Salespeople

Becoming a truly good salesperson is not an easy task. I have heard the term natural salesman thrown around before. And I agree that, to be a successful salesperson, it takes a dash of natural ability to communicate and interact effectively with people. But for the most part, becoming a really great sales person is like any other profession. It takes good training, good mentors, good coaches and dedication.

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All salespeople have their stories of when they started out. The curiosity of the unknown, handling their very first cold call, having to travel by car and airplane more than they’ve ever done previously - there’s always a starting block. But the really great salespeople will also speak about the best salespeople they meet along the way and how much they learned from them, the books that changed how they approached a client and the sales managers that guided them through the learning process of becoming an effective salesperson.

Through the years, I have been able to be a part of many new sales careers. Talking them through the first-time jitters of cold calling prospects, giving that first big in-person presentation, or writing their first proposal is always a part of the job. Like any new adventure, I know that sometimes it seems to them that all of the information in the world is being thrown at them all at once and, on top of it all, the pressure to get that first sale is always looming over their head. With so many things to consider, it's important that onboarding a new salesperson goes as smooth as possible.

Some of the key things you can do during onboarding are:

Avoid Overtraining

I know this sounds strange coming from a guy who sells training, but remember, ej4 is a performance improvement company. People can only remember so much. If you overload them with product information, value propositions, insurance signup, expense policy regulations, and everything else, then they won’t remember anything. The important thing for the new salesperson to know is, "Where can I find the information when I need it?"

Sales organizations should have a library of information referencing all the processes, expectations and basic knowledge that can be reviewed on a “just-in-time” basis. This will give the salesperson the most updated information and deliver it in a learn-apply methodology, which will increase the retention of the information by the salesperson.

Don't Overload Their Activities

One of the biggest hurdles for a new salesperson is actually knowing what to do to be successful. Where do they devote their resources to the most? Are they neglecting too much by focusing solely on one cold call that might not pan out? And those are just some of the basic questions to ponder. Sometimes the best way for them to find out the answers is by limiting the burden at first.

Set minimum expectations around activities such as the number of sales calls per day, cold calls per week, and/or face-to-face meetings per month. Let them learn the motions and get comfortable with a routine before the requirements are dialed up a notch. Overcoming the fear of the unknown is a huge leap for any sales person, especially when they first start out.  Success starts with doing the right things, and in sales, doing the right thing starts with communicating with people who could use your product. They can't do that if their focus is on powering through unrealistic cold call quotas.

Always Be Coaching

Finally, you have to coach them. Make sure they absolutely know and understand why you have minimum expectations, where they should go to get the information they might need, and how staying positive through the most difficult situation of any sales process is paramount.

Once you have your new salespeople saying the right things to the right people, at the right times, you will both reap the rewards of their success. And, if you do it right, you will probably be in some of those stories they tell about the great mentors and coaches they had through the years.

That said, what's the most memorable part of your onboarding experience? How would you take the best parts of your training and communicate that same message to new hires that come after you?

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