If you’re building an outside sales team, hopefully you’re not starting over from scratch. It’s so important to be able to rely on your sales leaders, especially during a season of transition. Throughout my lengthy sales career, I’ve been through a number of such transitional periods, and I’d like to share these six tips that I’ve personally used to develop successful outside sales teams.
#1: Introduce New Hires to Your Sales Leaders
If I asked you who your sales leaders are, you could probably name them off the top of your head. These are the people who have been successful over the long haul for your company. They are your role models. When new individuals join your sales team, they should get to know the sales leaders and aspire to be like them.
#2: Provide Step-by-step In-house Sales Training
I recommend a week of in-house sales training for all new outside sales representatives. Before new hires go out on any sales calls, several different staff members should guide them step by step through the inner workings of your products and services, as well as building a call database, conducting a demo, assessing the customer’s needs, closing a deal and more. Online training may be valuable, too. Make sure that after a week of training, they are fully prepared to get on the phone and schedule their own appointments and demos.
#3: Coach Them During Initial Appointments
Once in-house training is complete, you should accompany your new hires on the first few appointments they have made. Coach them but don’t criticize.
One thing I like to do before we get out of the car is to decide what our goals are for a particular appointment. If it’s an introductory meeting, then it’s to get a demo. If we’ve already done a demo, then we want to close the sale. Explain how they can get to the goal. Show them how to walk the customer from point A to point B.
During the appointment, lead by example. Perhaps you do the first demo and then let them know they are responsible the next time. Review processes with them and let them know your expectations. Then, let them take the lead. Let them gain the experience and confidence they need to be successful.
#4. Set Standards and Expectations
You must let your outside sales new hires know what your minimum acceptable standards and behaviors are. Otherwise, they won’t know and they won’t succeed. If you expect 140 phone calls in a week, then let them know that. Then, if they only make 25 calls, you can manage that at a more granular level (perhaps a daily goal) and take steps for correction.
#5. Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Change
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past is hanging on too long when new hires aren’t working out. Usually it’s because I think that if I could just help them more or encourage them more, they’d improve. But, when you’re honest with yourself, you know within the first week or so if people are right for the job or not. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, allowing them to remain even though they aren’t going to be successful can create a certain negativity in your department.
Some early signs that place new sales hires on the bubble include:
- Coming in late on a regular basis.
- Not taking the initiative to ask questions about their training and your products and services.
- Making excuses about why they can’t do a demo or make sales calls, especially if you offer them scripts. (Read my earlier post about overcoming call reluctance.)
Anyone can have an off month, but consistent mediocrity won’t work in the long run. Even if you feel like you’ve invested a great deal of time and energy in your new hires, it’s better for them and your company to call it quits sooner rather than later. Then, you can go back to your pool of possible candidates and try again.
#6. Create a Team that has Fun
Bottom line, you want to have an outside sales team that has fun and develops camaraderie. And, when there’s success, people are having fun and building positive relationships. Therefore, do everything you can to surround yourself with salespeople who are capable of being successful.