Selling, particularly in today’s information-rich, customer-centric environment, is hard for even the most seasoned sales reps. For sales professionals new to the industry, the bar can seem high, and the landscape constantly changing. Here’s five of the most common reasons why new sales reps fail, and advice for sales managers to ensure new recruits survive those first few months.
While our goal as sales managers should be to arm our reps with the information and insights they need to be successful in the field, we don’t need to master every element of the sale before we have them report for active duty. The sales process is a series of steps – discovery, qualification, solutioning, negotiation, and so on – and it’s the first couple that are most important in those early days.
New sales reps can sometimes spend time over-thinking what happens if they get through the qualification stage, and they can’t answer a customer’s questions about the product. If only they should be so lucky! Yes, understanding the most intimate details of the solution they’re selling is crucial (and you should look to layer them in as quickly as possible). However, this knowledge is useless if the sales rep never gets far enough into a customer interaction to use it.
The immediate priority has to be teaching a new rep how to add that crucial initial value to a customer. This comes down to delivering a killer 30-second pitch, asking the right discovery questions, really listening to the customer’s needs and helping the them to decide if the solution is right for them.
Quite often you see new sales reps struggling to build a customer pipeline. The challenge isn’t always hustle – they’re making enough calls. Nor is it bats – they have plenty of leads. Often, it’s much deeper – an internal conflict of not wanting to bother people, struggling with the sense of treating people in a manner inconsistent with how they’d want to be treated. This directly compromises a sales rep’s ability to generate the interest they need, failing to deliver a value proposition with enthusiasm, and conviction.
If you’re looking for a simple way to help sales reps muster the conviction they need, have them imagine they are calling someone to tell them they’d just won the lottery. Encourage them to think about their tone, expression, and confidence in this conversation. Then have them think about your solution, and the value it could provide the customer. What value proposition would they have to channel to generate the same level of enthusiasm and conviction in your customer? Then provide them with the opportunity to practice that value proposition over and over until their pitch exudes the conviction they need.
If you ask a seasoned sales rep what wisdom they’d impart to their younger self starting a new sales job, a common answer is they wish they’d gone out in-field to meet their customers in person sooner.
Regardless of how charismatic a sales rep’s phone personality is, something magical happens when you meet a customer in person. With the virtual layer of abstraction and distance removed, the customer ceases to be fields in your CRM. They become an individual you can more deeply understand, and build a relationship with. They’re also more likely to share insights about their personal motivations, the inner-workings of their organisation, and return calls.
When it comes to sales performance, the metric many organisations use to measure their reps is revenue generation. If reps aren’t hitting their revenue targets, they’re not meeting expectations. The problem is revenue has a lag effect – it’s the end result of a series of processes.
If you want to set your new reps on the road to predictable success, you need to be prescriptive about the quantitative and qualitative expectations for those leading indicators. For example, how many calls or emails does a new sales rep need to make each week in order to generate enough customer pipeline to make target? What strategies should they use to generate the most accurate sales forecasts? Or what does the best, high-impact sales pitch sound like?
Coaching is the number one way sales leaders can improve the performance of their teams, especially when it comes to new team members. In fact, a study from the Sales Leadership Council found that great coaching can increase a sales rep’s performance by up to 19%. For new sales recruits, the best coaching should involve listening and driving accountability through data-driven conversations.
While selling is never easy, especially for new reps, there are steps you can take to ensure your new recruits are set up for success. The key is providing them with the tactical, operational, and emotional support they need to get up to speed quickly.
From the novice salesperson looking for tested advice to the seasoned pro trying to shake things up, the ebook 100 Sales Tips for 2017 provides valuable pointers covering the whole sales cycle.