Year One Sales Training

10 Oct


Great sales training inside companies is hard to come by. Usually a salesperson joins a company, learns the basics and is then given a sales territory and told to “go get ’em”. If they succeed in the first 6 months, they are basically ignored ongoing. If they fail, they are usually replaced. But what if a sales manager did it differently? 

Generally, I don’t believe in micromanagement – but in year one, management should be a little more overbearing and involved in their daily lives (especially in the first half of year 1 and really, until the start of year 2). Tell them to expect this up front – and reassure them this isn’t what they should expect long term if they really commit to the 6-12 month training program.

Sales Assessments:

  • Even prior to hiring someone, you should be utilizing a sales assessment tool like the one we use at Blue Octopus. After they are hired, review the results and talk openly about their strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for the role.
  • Also give them an easy tool like the DiSC assessment or the one included in the book Strength’s Finder 2.0 (by Tom Rath). As the manager, you should, in turn, be sharing your results. Personality profiles are not only cheaper than ever, but they provide an easy segue into a conversation about what the new salesperson brings to the table and what they need to overcome.
  • Lastly on the assessment list, figure out their learning style. Are they an auditory, visual or tactile learner? If they haven’t identified this in the past, there are many free online tests you can use. This will help you cater a training program specific to them.

Initial Training:

If the training process usually takes 4 weeks, then double it. Make sure the training they receive is hands-on. See it, hear it, do it. See it, hear it, do it. A salesperson’s personality is one of a go-getter – and typically they shouldn’t be sitting on one subject for more than an hour. Variety is key as they prepare to master their role. After 30 days, have them repeat everything they were taught in the first month: people forget 40% of what they learned in 20 minutes and 77% of what they’ve learned in 6 days (Work-Learning Research).

They should be over-trained by others in their role. How do your existing salespeople prospect? How do they manage their pipeline? How do they get referrals, appointments and commitments from their customers? Have them team up with other salespeople to see the appointment in action. On their first 10 appointments, they should be buddied up with a teammate.

On the first day making phone calls, sit beside them for 6-7 hours. As their manager, “pound the phone” together. Show them what a good sales call sounds like – and listen in on their calls, critiquing them throughout the day. Make it positive and promise them you will repeat this exercise again at the mid-year point – and never again! 

Record their sales presentation. Then have them listen and watch themselves as you give an encouraging critique. They will be as nervous in front of you as any tough prospect… which is why it’s a great exercise. Wouldn’t you rather have them first practice in the office rather than in front of the prospect? After they have been on 10 solo appointments, record their sales presentation again and this time, have them self-critique.

The next step is to throw them to the wolves. Send them out on 10 solo appointments. They are going to make mistakes -you just want to get them past any fears they might have about selling your product or service. After they’ve been out on 10 appointments without you, join them on the next 5. Tag team appointments work well, and this is your chance to show them how to run an ideal meeting.

Upon closing their very first deal, make sure to celebrate! Spoil them, share the success with the office and their co-workers, take them out for dinner and/or buy them a bottle of champagne. Overdo it because this is why they work for you!

After 2-3 Months of Training: 

Let them run. Of course, they aren’t perfect yet, but you’ve already done a lot more than most managers to get them trained up. At the end of every week, have them share their best and worst appointments in detail.

Hold one-on-one weekly lunches. Now that they aren’t under your constant scrutiny, give them a forum outside of the office to keep in touch with you and get to know you better. Getting away from the office is a nice way to break the pattern.

Mid-year Training:

Bring them back into the office for a week of retraining. You are going to make phone calls together… record their presentation… go out on a few appointments together… and once again, review their successes and failures.

Have them sit in the shoes of marketing, customer service or sales support. For a day, have them be a part of another team that works with and influences the sales team.

Send them out on 5-10 appointments with your best salesperson. Make sure to have them share with you why they think that salesperson has been successful.

6-12 Months Training:

It might be time to get them outside help. As their coach, you’ve repeated yourself many times and now they probably need outside motivation and a new angle of advice on their position.  Hire a sales consultant to help you coach them. Also, send them to a sales training event or to see a motivational speaker before they hit 12 months.

Continue to celebrate! Unexpectedly, give them a day off. Wait until they have a big success – and then tell them to take that Friday off.

Make sure they are a part of your off-site sales team retreat. Obviously, they are going to be involved in your sales meetings (please only hold them once a month) … but also bring your salespeople offsite annually to share success stories and to discuss best sales tactics and practices. Simply getting the team away helps them get to know one another, builds camaraderie and is well worth the investment.

Give them a sales book every month. Then discuss them at every sales meeting.

Call ten of their customers. Ask them for feedback about the service they received and the experience they’ve had with your company. In turn, share their responses with your salesperson.

Training at 12 Months:

It’s time to rinse and repeat. At the end of the year, they are going to – guess what? – record their sales presentation and hang out in the office with you for a day. What worked over the past year? What failed? How can they be better? How can you support them in year two? What do they need?

The time has come to let them know that the shackles are finally coming off – but that you will always be there for them.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew Schmitz




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