It’s estimated that the cost of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding a new salesperson costs a company between $75,000 and $300,000 per rep. Unfortunately for most companies, their onboarding program contributes directly to those new reps leaving.
Let’s pretend we’re watching a newly hired rep; we’ll call him Greg. Greg was highly successful with his last company where he sold to the same type of prospect as his new employer but to different contacts. Greg’s manager believes that his contacts from his previous company will generate warm leads to his new prospects.
On Greg’s first day he spends part of the morning with HR signing documents and reviewing company policies. The rest of the morning is spent reading product brochures and reviewing presentations before his manager takes Greg and his entire team out for a welcome lunch.
The rest of Greg’s first week is spent learning the features and benefits of the products he will sell, shadowing a couple of colleagues on sales calls (not the top performers, of course, they’re “too busy”) and role playing with his manager. The role plays are mostly objection handling sessions that leave Greg feeling very uncomfortable about selling to his new prospects and his manager feeling frustrated that Greg doesn’t “get it” even though he has experience in a similar industry.
At the end of his first month Greg has had some success but not as much as he or his manager thinks he should. So far no warm leads materialized from Greg’s old contacts, which bothers his manager, but Greg hasn’t talked to his old contacts yet because he feels he needs to get his feet under him.
At the end of his second month Greg is in a groove. He is making more dials and going on more sales calls than most of his team, although he was embarrassed in a weekly sales meeting when the vice president of sales put him on the spot to do his elevator pitch and criticized him when he stumbled.
That one incident aside, month two has been pretty good so he’s surprised when his manager tells him he needs to step it up in their Friday one-on-one meeting.
Greg’s manager says they are concerned that his closed business for month two is the same as month one and his pipeline report shows few opportunities advancing through the funnel. After a painful discussion, which leaves Greg feeling demotivated, he and his manager agree that his manager will accompany him on sales calls for at least one week.
At the end of his third month Greg’s closed sales are up but he is very frustrated. His manager kept jumping in on their joint sales calls and became angry in front of a prospect when the prospect revealed at the end of their meeting that a key decision maker wasn’t present so they couldn’t move forward as previously agreed.
Two weeks into month four, one of Greg’s contacts from his old world calls him to offer a senior sales role in their company. The base salary isn’t much higher than what Greg’s making with his current company and the benefits are the same, but Greg leaps at the chance to start over. When Greg gives his manager notice that he’s leaving, his manager is shocked and asks why. Greg’s response is “more money.”
Greg’s story is, unfortunately, too common. But by following these steps, you can significantly improve onboarding, which means your new reps sell more, faster.
- Make sure everyone is on the same page – One of David Sandler’s rules is “no mutual mystification.” When an employee is brought on board, both parties should understand each other’s expectations not only for company policies, but also when both of you expect to be performing role duties like making prospecting calls and going on meetings without managerial support.
- Have an onboarding timeline documented – The onboarding timeline relates directly to their role and role performance. For example, when is the rep expected to deliver a good elevator pitch, when are they expected to be going on meetings by themselves, when is the rep expected to deliver solo presentations and what’s the expectation around closed new business versus closed business from an existing account? Without documentation reps are left in the dark and managers are frustrated that reps are performing.
- Set clear expectations for performance – Separate from the onboarding timeline, what behavior is expected of the rep in week one, week two, week six, week 12 (e.g. number of calls, number of meetings, number of networking events, etc.)? These behavior expectations will be captured in the rep’s prospecting plan (aka “cookbook”) and the initial behavior expectations will come from data the manager has on the rest of their sales team (e.g. percent of calls that become meetings that become closed sales).
- Role play safely – Gutsy managers will take on the role of salesperson with their new hires because role plays are one of the best opportunities for a manager to model the behavior they expect. This also takes pressure off a new hire to get it right away.
Employees quitting to pursue other opportunities can’t be prevented, but by setting clear expectations up front, you will significantly reduce your turnover.
Hamish Knox is a Sandler trainer based in Calgary, Alberta.