We see it all the time. An organization needs to grow revenue and the VP of Sales jumps into action by hiring sales people and business development reps. But as they quickly discover, competition for these people is stiff. And when the ‘right’ folks are hired, everyone breathes a sigh of relief and waits for the sales to come rolling in. When that doesn’t happen, the blame is placed squarely on the employee—they are simply not performing to expectations. But I’m here to tell you that in most cases, it’s not the employee who’s failing. It’s you.
The challenge of successful hiring
The goal is simple: hire a great sales rep and get them hitting quota as quickly as possible. When new reps start achieving results quickly, revenue increases in both the short- and long-term. Successful reps are more likely to remain in their position, reducing future hiring costs and eliminating the inevitable loss of productivity during ramp up times. This isn’t news to anyone reading this blog, right? Every company strives for this, but so few are going about it the right way.
No room for error
According to Research firm Topo, the average tenure of a Sales Development Rep is only 14.2 months—and those are the successful ones. And the ramp-up time for new sales professionals is typically six months or more so if they are going to leave after 14.2 months and it takes 6+ months to onboard, you could incur a negative return on your investment. Furthermore, after a rep departs, it takes an average 90 days to rehire and another 6 months to re-onboard (9 months total!), which means you better get it right the first time. You simply can’t afford to fail.
The wrong way
Many companies hire a new rep, train them for a week (if that), place them in front of a phone and a computer and wait for them to produce. That is simply throwing them to the wolves. With this approach, reps are going to fail more often than they’ll succeed.
New reps who don’t hit quota quickly are typically dismissed and written off as a bad hire (or they leave the company for a better opportunity). Does this sound familiar? Your new reps are smart, technologically savvy and excited to sell for you. But so many companies squander that talent and enthusiasm with a poor (or non-existent) on-boarding/training plan. Yes, you hired them because they are sales rock stars or have huge potential, but you can’t expect them to figure everything out for themselves. They need selling skills and your guidance, insight nurturing and understanding. That doesn’t mean setting unreasonable goals from the outset based on their previous success. It doesn’t mean providing them with a great ‘voicemail trick’ that really doesn’t work and expect them to make magic out of it. It means understanding that it’s your job to provide the tools for success and that begins with the proper training.
Let’s look at a typical hiring situation. Meet Joe.
Company A hires Joe as a business development rep. Joe spends 3 days in product training and one day in sales training where the focus is on how to close a deal. On day 5, Joe is ready to roll. They provide him with a local phone number tool to reach contacts more easily, a CRM to track prospecting activities and a phone.
Four weeks later, Joe is only at 40% of quota. He is getting a lot of people on the phone but converting only 1% of his calls into appointments—and he’s frustrated. His manager reviews his activity and provides him with a B2B cold calling script to make more calls. Joe works longer hours, makes more calls and sends more emails. When he falls short of quota again at the 60-day mark, Joe is fired for under-performance. Poor Joe never had a chance.
Instead of spending one day training Joe on how to close the deal, Company A should have trained Joe on how to prospect.
My company, FRONTLINE Selling, has spent nearly 20 years studying nearly 2 million prospecting outreach efforts and created a methodology based on the results. It’s a consistent repeatable, teachable approach (called StaccatoTM) that helps reps ramp up and produce quickly. It’s not rocket science and it’s not a ‘tool’. Its success is rooted in its simplicity—which means every rep, regardless of experience, can learn it. Quickly. When you provide reps with a blueprint on how to succeed, you stop gambling on outcomes and start predicting results. I hate to use this cliché, but it’s truly a win-win situation.
It’s time to stop blaming the reps and take responsibility for how we help them. I know there will always be situations where the rep is indeed under-performing and no amount of training will save them. But for the majority of the go-get-‘em new hires, it’s what you do at the outset that determines their success.
Do you have a successful training/onboarding plan? I would love to hear about it! Email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for innovative, successful sales professionals for guest blogging opportunities so let’s talk!