Sales hiring is hard, but you know what’s even harder?
Onboarding those new sales hires. According to a 2015 study by Bridge Group, it takes 5.3 months for the average sales hire to reach full productivity.
5.3 months. That’s nearly half a year of glorified training, where your business is actually losing money on your not-so-new hires.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could have your new hires on the phone and selling within a day?
Okay, so maybe they won’t be selling well … But they will be selling. And if they’re selling from day one, you can bet it isn’t going to take 5.3 months for them to reach full productivity and profitability.
Here’s a three-stage schedule to get your reps trained, confident, and selling in their first eight hours on the job.
Greet your new hires with a hot cup of coffee; they’re gonna need it, because the first part of their day is dedicated to study.
Sales training documentation
Provide your new reps with your training manual, which should include:
- A brief company overview,
- A cold calling sales script,
- A cold email template,
- An objection management document, and
- Frequently asked questions
This new hire’s guide should be short, valuable, and to-the-point. Make sure someone is present during the process for any questions or comments.
Once they’ve had a chance to review the manual, ask questions to help solidify the information. Try these:
- Was there anything that surprised you?
- What did you disagree with?
- What changes would you make?
They won’t have enough time to memorize the manual, but that’s okay. They can do that on their own time. The goal is to get them comfortable with the information, not 100% fluent in it.
Once they feel relatively confident in your sales documentation, turn that knowledge into action through role playing exercises.
First, they should play themselves: An inexperienced salesperson. You will play a qualified prospect with a handful of common objections. Get them used to managing, “No,” “But,” and, “Maybe.”
Then switch roles. Have them play the role of a stubborn prospect to develop a deeper understanding of the product and empathy for the person on the other end of the line.
Spend the last part of the morning with your new hires shadowing you. Let them watch you make cold calls, send cold emails, and hold product demos.
Then ask them questions about each activity to measure their critical thinking and analytical skills.
This will expose them to your sales culture and prospects in advance so they’re not totally blindsided when you let them loose. Speaking of which …
It’s time to get your new hires on the phone.
Don’t think they’re ready? You’re right. That’s why you’re going to assign them low-quality leads; the kind of accounts you can afford to lose.
Give them their sales documentation and silently oversee their calls.
Handling questions (when they don’t know the answer)
Inevitably, prospects are going to ask questions your new salespeople don’t have the answer to. When that happens, they’ve got two options: Own their inexperience, or BS an answer.
You don’t want your salespeople misinforming their prospects, so teach them this five-step response:
- Validate the prospect’s question
- Share your inexperience
- Promise them an answer
- Gather context
- Set a follow-up date
Here’s how that might look in practice.
Prospect: “What type of API do you provide?”
New hire: “That’s a great question. I’m going to be honest with you: I just started with the company and I don’t have an answer to that off the top of my head. But let me check in with someone who does know, and I’ll get back to you later today with an answer. Sound good?”
Prospect: “Sure. Thanks for being honest with me.”
New hire: “No problem, thanks for being patient. Can you tell me why you want to know this? That way I can make sure to get you the most relevant, valuable information.”
By responding like this, your rep creates trust through authenticity and learns more about their prospects priorities. They can use this information to find a high-quality answer and customize their pitch to their prospect’s needs.
Don’t let them move on to another call until they’ve critically analyzed their past performance. You can move the process along with questions like:
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- What are you proud of?
- What are you going to do differently next time?
- Do you think they’re going to buy?
- Why or why not?
Once they’ve evaluated their own performance, offer your feedback. But remember that you aren’t there to criticize them.
When they fail—and they will fail—show them that rejection is a natural part of the sales process. This will keep them eager to take chances, make mistakes, and expedite their learning process.
Close the day with a sales team-wide meeting to get honest feedback from your new reps. Ask them questions like:
- How do you feel your first day went?
- What excited you?
- What frustrated you?
- What are you looking forward to?
- What’s the most valuable lesson you learned?
- What questions do you have?
Make it clear that it’s okay to admit failure and ask “stupid” questions, and that everyone is there to support each other.
Once your new hires have said everything they have the say, open the floor to your more experienced reps. Let them offer encouragement, advice, and critiques.
Close the meeting by offering your feedback, then highlighting some of the victories you saw throughout the day. Everyone should leave feeling inspired and excited, if a little drained.
Stop babying your sales hires
It doesn’t matter whether your new hire has never made a cold call in their life or if they’ve been in sales for the last decade; selling for a new company is always intimidating.
Most sales managers try to alleviate that feeling by making the onboarding process slow, smooth, and painless. And yeah, that might make onboarding more comfortable for your trainees, but ask yourself:
Do you want sales reps who are comfortable, or profitable?
Yeah, I thought so. Now get out there and help your new sales reps crush it.
About the author
Steli Efti is the co-founder & CEO of Close.io, an inside sales CRM that allows users to make & receive calls with one click, automatically tracks all your emails, and minimizes manual data-entry.
Want more by Steli? Sign up for his free startup sales success course.