As a sales leader you may be proud of your investment in sales training. Who wouldn’t want to empower their people with the latest thinking and best practices that can drive conversions and performance?
But your investment could be in jeopardy. Despite your best efforts at providing training, your overall approach to learning and development may actually turn staff off and prompt them to leave –costing you more in the long run to recruit, hire and train anew.
Here are three common mistakes I’ve seen sales managers make – ones that can be avoided and in some cases easily corrected:
Mistake No. 1: Out-of-date induction
It all starts at the beginning. Rather than see induction as many do – an administrative task—leaders should think more strategically. Who hasn’t arrived at their new place of work to find that their new employer doesn’t seem quite ‘ready’ for them? Not so long ago, I can vividly remember being given a chair (no desk, phone or computer) and a hefty stack of papers to read through and sign which took most of the first day. I didn’t know the access code to get in or out of the building let alone where the toilets were.
As a result, my first impression was that there were multiple organisation charts of people I would never meet and strange health and safety policies. I was frustrated, as I would rather have me my team and understood the company’s objectives. Not a good feeling when trying to establish a new professional home.
How to fix it:
When working with sales leaders I will often give them this challenge: Think back to your own induction to your current company, what worked well and what didn’t? Also ask those who joined your firm more recently about their experiences. As a leader, you can use this opportunity to change and influence how new starters are welcomed into the company.
If you are thinking more strategically and want your new employee to be productive faster some good ideas include:
- Keeping in touch from when the contract is signed until the person walks through the door on their first day,
- Setting an initial meeting and welcoming with key individuals with whom the new starter will be working,
- Emphasising the company’s mission and values,
- Assigning a buddy (the person who knows where everything is),
- Presenting an initial plan/calendar of what the first few weeks will look like (see on-boarding below),
- Explaining the essential parts health and safety.
This one is essential: ensuring that all equipment is ready, even down to business cards! Work with HR, IT, site management etc. to create an induction checklist. As we all know in sales, first impressions are lasting impressions.
Mistake No. 2: “Here’s your client list – off you go!”
Another organisation I worked for were keen for me to hit the ground running, which seemed great, but I actually had no real idea of what exactly I was selling or how to record anything I’d done. My new boss disappeared on holiday the day after I started. I made mistakes and was severely reprimanded weeks later which made me think, ‘Have I taken the wrong job?’
The process of onboarding should go beyond the induction process and focus on how to fully integrate new starters into the business so that they feel effective and able to produce results. Even the most apparent ‘self starter’ needs to be set up to succeed – or they’ll quickly start thinking about updating their CV.
How to fix it:
As mentioned above, presenting a new salesperson with a calendar of what’s going to happen in the first few weeks or months is very important. The aim is to have a new starter being effective as soon as possible. Additionally, keep these key onboarding principles in mind:
- Setting initial objectives – discuss initial expectations and have regular meetings. It’s good to walk through what will happen and why,
- Explaining your sales process – making sure that it’s clear and scheduling specific trainings for product or sales methodologies as soon as possible,
- Assigning clients and CRM duties – have you allocated any clients to the new person? If so, how will they interact with them? Have you arranged briefings/handovers and introductory meetings? Ensure that there is specific training on your CRM so that information can be accessed, understood and updated,
- Meeting the team – sales is all about relationships, both internal and external. Make time for new people so that they can get to know their peers
Mistake No. 3: The new CEO wants a new sales methodology introduced immediately!
We all have our favourite way of selling and being asked to change your methods is a real challenge – especially whilst faced with meeting targets. I have witnessed this many times and watched results plummet as a result as team members becoming despondent and frustrated. In extreme circumstances I’ve seen people leave organisations as they struggle to adapt. Despite what may have appeared to be a shiny, promising new way of doing things, remember that people don’t like change – and change handled poorly can be costly.
How to fix it:
Sadly, there is no quick win here. However, there are two key things you can do to alleviate the transition.
- Understand the new sales methodology – It’s time to do your homework. If you are unfamiliar with the methodology, attend a course prior to a full rollout, and if you can take a team member with you and monitor their reaction. Get to grips with how things will work on a day-to-day basis and ask yourself is this a fit for our business? If the answer is yes, then become its ambassador. Create a development plan on how to reinforce the skills and behaviours after the training, thinking about where challenges may arise and how to combat them. If the answer is no, you may have to help your team make the most of it, and be prepared to advocate for improvements on their behalf.
- Manage the change – As adults we all have our own ways of dealing with change, and this is a good time to map out how you and your team will adopt the new methodology. (In my InPD Advanced Sales Leadership course, we discuss the Kubler Ross model, which covers all the emotional stages of change.) Whilst there may not be such dramatic reactions as denial and anger your aim as a sales manager is to think how can we make the transition better? Communication is key and coaching everyone toward success will help enormously.
It’s never too late to get things right. Keep in mind the cost of not doing anything will be felt more painfully as your targets aren’t met or resignations come in. (One study by Oxford Economics, a leader in global forecasting, found it costs an average of £30,000 to recruit and hire each replacement). Being more strategic and thoughtful in your learning and development efforts, along with setting people up for success and helping them manage change will go a long way toward strengthening your team and your organisation in the long run.
Martin is the lead tutor on our CMI Level 7 Advanced Sales Leadership programme. If you would like to find out more about our sales leadership programme, visit our sales leadership page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Associate tutor of In Professional Development