#9 - Drinking from the Fire Hose is Not Training

Hiring and training a new sales person is very expensive.  From the day they start, they are instantly a negative cash flow to you until they start producing.  So, the instinct for most companies is to get that person selling as fast as they can.  This is logical.  However, the shortcuts that companies take to get those new salespeople producing quickly are not.

Consider this – you are a fairly new golfer and want to get better, so you decide to take golf lessons.  You go to a golf pro who spends a few hours over a couple days teaching you how to drive, use your fairway woods, chip, hit sand shots and flop shots, read greens, putt, etc.…  You should be able to go shoot par now, right?  Of course not.  You need to practice, then you can shoot par, right?   Again, not so fast.  There is very little chance that you are going to remember everything your golf pro told you over a relatively short period of time.  When you do go practice, there is nobody there to tell you whether you are doing things correctly or not.  The chances of you becoming a good golfer without any further help is extremely low.

This is pretty close to how many small businesses train new salespeople that are brought on board.  They have the new person spend an hour or two in each department, shadow a successful rep or two, get force fed tons of information on the products, competition and industry and then are set free to go produce.  The total “onboarding or training” might last two days or two weeks.  The new salesperson stands the same chance of success as the golf prodigy described above.   Even if you’ve hired an experienced sales person who has decent sales skills, they most likely still have not learned your company’s approach, sales process, differentiators, internal processes, etc.   Businesses do this all the time and when the rep fails and is terminated or leaves because they weren’t making money, we repeat the process all over again.

So what do you change this to avoid this trap?   There are a few things:

  • Make a plan – make a check list of where your new sales person should be in their training at various points in time.   We like the Learn/Do/Deliver model.   Make a grid with three rows down the left hand side labeled Learn, Do and Deliver, under each section add the specific tasks or activities.  Now make three columns labeled 30 days, 60 days and 90 days across the top.   Now fill in the grid with your expectations.
    • Learn – these are areas that they need to know to be successful.  Maybe it is the company elevator pitch, ideal clients, and our company values.  As they move across 30, 60 and 90 days, they continue to add knowledge.
    • Do – these are activities they should perform as part of training.  This could include spending time in each department, shadowing reps, creating target lists, going on calls, etc.
    • Deliver – this is the one that gets missed most often and is probably the most important.  It is your validation that they can actually apply what they’ve learned.  This could include items such as giving you the elevator pitch or a presentation as if you are the prospect.  Maybe you go along on some calls with them to see if they are asking questions of the customer the right way.   Maybe they need to produce x number of new opportunities.  The goal is that the new rep needs to show you something that demonstrates that they understand the concepts and can apply them.

Use this grid as your training plan and check points.  Sit down with the rep at the end of each period and evaluate whether they are on track.

  • Reinforce – After that first few weeks/months are out of the way, training is not over.  Continue to go on calls with them.  When they do it right, reinforce the behavior.  If they don’t get it right, provide feedback and observations to correct it in a positive way.
  • Train – companies are always coming out with new products, new services, entering new markets and getting new competitors.  Whenever these changes happen, we need to follow a similar process.  Teach them and make them demonstrate that they’ve got it.  Set expectations about what they should do.  Don’t just expect that they will go off and start selling.

We see companies that use this more formal approach get sales people productive much faster and retain good sellers for a longer period of time.  Companies that utilize the fire hose method either get stuck in their growth and/or they have a revolving door of reps that “didn’t work out.”

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