I saw an interesting article today on when should you release a sales representative who is not performing. I decided to add my thoughts on the discussion.
I believe too often, the sales manager “fires” a sales representative for poor performance, when the source of the poor performance is actually the process or environment. Sales representatives need certain knowledge, support and tools to succeed. Unfortunately, the orientation process at many companies leaves much to be desired. Sales representatives fill out their employment paperwork, are shown to an office or cubicle, and told to get started. They may even need to ask someone where the office supplies are, how to mail something, and how to make a phone call. I have even heard complaints from new employees who had to work for several weeks without a computer, which in today’s world I think is unforgiveable.
So how should a sales manager “on-board” a new sales person?
- Once a start date is set, send their employment paperwork to them early, so it can be filled out and ready for human resources when they arrive for their first day.
- Have a document prepared that explains pay dates, vacation, daily procedures, and all the routine employment “stuff.” Either go through the document with the sales representative yourself, or have someone from human resources do the job. Once a sales representative has this information, they can focus on the requirements of their position.
- Make sure to introduce the sales representative to their office mates. Focus on contacts that support them with supplies, credit approvals, proposal generation, etc. Give them a company roster and allow them to make notes.
- Have everything prepared at their work station. Make sure that their computer is ready for business. Show them how to log on to your system, get their e-mail and make appointments on your calendar system if necessary. Have their e-mail account setup and ready for them the first day. Make sure they understand who to call for support if they have IT issues.
- Discuss their responsibilities in detail. Give them their list of accounts if they are account managers. If they are business development sales representatives, outline who their targets are, what geographies they need to work, and industries.
- Go over their compensation plan and let them know how commissions or bonuses are earned. Show them how to open and view sales reports. If the sales reports are dynamic, explain how to create custom reports or drill down for details.
- My suggestion for a first assignment is to have the sales representative prepare their “business plan.” Give clear instructions on what you want in this document. I would have a template prepared that shows the information you want and how it is to be presented. Show them how to find the information needed to prepare this plan.
- Give them the rest of the day to get settled.
On the second day, start with a discussion about the “business plan.” Give them some pointers and additional direction if needed. This document will become the contract between you and your sales representative, so I would make sure they give it some thought and support their conclusions with facts. The business plan needs to contain milestones so both you and the sales representative can determine if they are on track. I would let them work on this document for a couple of days and leave your door open so they can ask questions and get additional direction.
By day four, your sales representative should be ready to present their business plan to you. I would have them do it orally, just like they would have to give a presentation to a client. This allows you to become familiar with their presentation style and provides a coaching opportunity regarding what the company wants in a presentation, what is required, and what is optional or left to personal style. Like I stated before, this “business plan” will be the basis for evaluation, and ensures that the sales representative knows exactly what you expect from them their first year.
As the weeks progress, time needs to be given to discussing progress against the plan, changes that need to be made, training or coaching needed and other discussions. Prepare a sales training and coaching plan for each sales representative based on their skill and experience level. During sales meetings, make sure there is time to practice sales skills, discuss company strategies and objectives. Most important, you must schedule some time with each sales representative so they can practice in front of you, discuss their plans, allow you to observe how they interact with prospects and or clients, and provides time for coaching.
And finally, let the sales representative do their job. Do not step in and do the job for them. Do not take over the sales call, so the sale can be “saved.” If necessary, provide needed facts or product knowledge, but leave the selling to your sales representative.
I believe you can avoid many performance issues and disgruntled employees with a good start as outlined. Plus, your sales representatives will appreciate your efforts and will give you their best. Finally, the company gets results and reduced turnover. It is a win for everyone.