A sales manager once told me he only hired salespeople who could sell; he provided no sales training. You could say that “sink or swim” was his motto—and I’ll bet most salespeople he hired sunk.
Let’s banish this myth that anyone can sell without guidance. Here’s what sales managers should do if they want their new hires to be successful.
Provide a sales manual
I have created many sales manuals for clients. My first thought, in almost all cases, was “I can just imagine what they were doing before they had this manual.” And I know the answer: They were wasting a lot of time. Their salespeople were experiencing unnecessary stress and failure; they certainly were losing sales.
Why does a successful sales organization need a sales manual? Because this is management’s preferred guide to how it wants it products, services, and the company represented in the marketplace. It’s a best practices guide for selling.
Do you want to make it easier or harder for your sales team to be successful? If the answer is you want it to be easier for your salespeople to succeed, then you provide a sales manual.
A manual should define the sales process
Your sales process is a series of steps you want your salespeople to work through in order to make a sale, and you need to provide the steps. Steps should include how to identify prospects, how to contact prospects, how to get the appointment, tips for asking questions during the sales call, how to close the sale, and services to provide after the sale.
Your sales manual should detail how to execute each one of those steps. For example, it should define the criteria for an ideal prospect, and it should define the lower limits of a prospect—you do not want your salespeople thinking an unacceptable prospect is in fact a viable one. As a salesperson uncovers the problems, needs, or wants of a prospect during questioning, your manual should identify the issues that your products or service address and for which types of prospects.
It’s unfair to tell a newly hired salesperson to figure out what prospects are best suited for the products or services he or she is selling. It’s not their job to identify the features and benefits of your products and services. That should be part of management’s job to develop the sales process, and to include it in the manual.
Selling is a team sport
Some sales teams provide mentors for new hires, while for other teams, mentoring is the sales manager’s job. Either way, the role of a mentor is a critical role in the sales process. You don’t want new hires wasting time having to figure out the sales process on their own, or experiencing unnecessary failure before they learn how to be successful. Mentors guide new salespeople to avoid failure.
It’s also the role of the sales manager—whether or not they are mentors—to be making sales calls with their new hires. However, there are some sales managers who go on calls in unproductive ways. These managers will make unscheduled calls with their salespeople, and simply say, “Today I’m riding with you.” They don’t give the salesperson a chance to set up a special day of appointments.
Unexpected joint sales calls are an example of management checking up on people and trying to see if the salesperson is working hard or not. But I think there’s a better way. Why not instead give salespeople a chance to impress you? Let them know in advance you will be working with them to make sales calls. That way they can schedule appointments in ahead of time and there is less likelihood of a customer canceling. What you’re doing with advance notice is setting up your salesperson for success instead of failure.
Certainly discuss beforehand what your role will be during the appointment. Ask them what their objective is for the sales call, and then afterwards debrief to discuss whether they accomplished the objective, what they should have done differently, or how they could have improved the sales call.
It’s the sales manager’s job
When you hire new salespeople, your goal should be to find people who have the necessary talent to become top sales performers. But your it’s your job to give them the tools they need to be successful—and then you can tell them to “go sell.”