Having just returned from training over 60 sales leaders this past week in Central America, one of the subjects covered was recruiting and specifically how important on-boarding is to the success of new hires. Working with leaders (CEOs, General Managers, VPs, and other heads) from all seven Central American countries, there was consensus that one of the most important missing components to their current recruiting process was on-boarding and that they were struggling as a result. In fact, none of the executives thought that they had an adequate process to get new hires up to speed to collaborate with their managers and with each other with competence and full commitment. What they wanted was a plan that avoided unnecessary failures due to on-boarding mistakes. I will share with you now the key elements of that plan.
Part of the problem these executives face, and perhaps this sounds familiar, is that their managers tend to hire people when they are down a person, meaning that there is a territory left wide open and they need someone fast. They don't have personnel to cover the area in a manner consistent with the expected level of service and they are anxious to get someone in there right away to do the job and cover the void. In an emergency hiring situation, the manager is too stretched and justifiably too busy managing to sell the territory on an interim basis. If they try to cover it, often there are negative consequences in all the territories, not just the one they are covering.
When they finally hire someone, it's trial by fire. "Get out there and sell something." The managers are too busy to bring the new person up to speed and the salesperson is too busy putting out fires and coping with urgent time requests to stop and learn what they need to know about the company much less work on their selling skills. So they do the best they can. Those with a solid ability to learn quickly, or who have what we call a high Figure It Out Factor (FIOF) hang on with a tight enough grip to get through the first 6 months and those that don't, don't make it. This approach has problems, of course, as follows:
Top 5 Consequences of Poor Salesperson On-Boarding
- New hires who need more time to learn the products and processes don't last.
- Customers are underserved
- New hires don't feel supported
- Puts pressure on veteran salespeople to cover for mistakes and weaknesses
- Devalues the sales organization
A well executed on-boarding program ensures that the market is covered with competent, trained salespeople. The primary strategy is to recruit ahead of your needs. Maintain a people pipeline. Always be recruiting. When you need someone fast, you already have candidates. Once the company embraces this strategy, recruiting becomes an expected competency of all sales managers. Yes, HR plays a significant role, but sales managers must interview and make the final call on sales candidates. This means the organization, in cooperation with HR, must be able to do the following:
Top 7 Recruiting Capabilities
- Write a killer ad that attracts the best candidates
- Assess candidates prior to meeting them (except when searching for candidates who aren't looking)
- Use a candidate assessment tool that draws conclusions only within the context of sales (such as OMG)
- Screen candidates in under five minutes
- Conduct first interviews in less than 45 minutes that tell you everything you need to know
- Offer candidates the position in such a way that they take it
- Provide a comprehensive and complete plan for the first 90 days of on-boarding
On-boarding is complete when the following statements are true about new hires.
Top 10 On-Boarding Must-Have Outcomes
- New hires are able to have an intelligent conversation with a prospect
- They understand the full spectrum of product and service offerings
- They know how products and services are delivered (and made, if applicable)
- They know why people buy from them
- They can differentiate themselves from the competition
- They understand their value proposition
- They can start a conversation properly with any prospect
- They can position the products and services on the basis of the value proposition
- They can lead a sales discussion toward finding a compelling reason to buy from them
- The follow a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process
The first 90 days of any on-boarding program are the most critical. The overall length of on-boarding depends on the complexity of the sale and how quickly (FIOF) the salesperson ramps up. If we master the 7 recruiting capabilities and the 10 on-boarding must haves described above, we never worry about scrambling to fill a void. We stay ahead of our hiring needs so we can bring people into the company the right way. As a result, whether you're from Central America, northern Europe or the mountains of Tennessee, your new hires value the job, appreciate the company, and are inspired to be their best.
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Photo Credit: Roman Samborskyi (123 RF)