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3 Critical Factors to Include in Your New Hire Onboarding Program

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Apr 15, 2021

In the final installment of our No Assembly Required Hiring series, we discuss the importance of having a strict and detailed onboarding process when bringing new sales talent into your organization.

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For this segment, I thought it would be best to interview Anthony Cole Training Groups expert on hiring, Alex Cole-Murphy. We tricked Alex into leaving a great job at a recruiting firm to join ACTG and run our Hire Better Salespeople program. As part of that segment, Alex spends a great deal of time helping our clients onboard new salespeople into their organization.

Question 1: Alex, I’m sure there are many contributing factors to successfully onboard a new salesperson, regardless of experience. What would you say are the three most critical steps included in a successful onboarding program?

Answer: I would say that the three most critical steps in the onboarding process are:

    1. Using a sales-specific pre-hire assessment, like the one from Objective Management Group, as a training and development tool. The assessment helps to pinpoint some of the skill gaps that a new hire would need additional coaching and help with. It can save you a lot of time, energy and will help get the new producer up and running more quickly.
    2. Having strict, black-and-white goals and metrics to track. Specifically, a success formula that the new salesperson can live by and the manager overseeing that individual can hold them accountable.
    3. And lastly, weekly coaching and training focused on improving their sales skills and gaps in competencies (which you would identify using a pre-hire assessment). Most organizations know and understand that training around company policies, techniques, products, etc. is critical. But for the new hire to successfully sell for your business, problem areas within their sales process also need to be addressed.

Questions 2: Without the sales-specific pre-hire assessment information, how difficult would it be for anyone to effectively onboard a new hire? Additionally, without analytics like their personal Sales DNA or Will to Sell, what does the typical coaching look like or sound like between the manager and new hire?

Answer: The short answer is very difficult. Here’s why- all salespeople, regardless of experience, come with some gaps in skills or personal beliefs that impact their sales process. If you don’t know what those specific problem areas are, it becomes a matter of guessing, which is never effective. You could have hired a highly competent salesperson, but if you don’t know how to address and coach their weak spots, they will struggle to succeed in your business. The coaching that does take place when things like Sales DNA or Will to Sell aren’t available tends to be more general management. The manager or coach of this new hire will often listen to a problem, assume they know the exact cause based on their personal experience and correct the new salesperson in a “this is how it should be done” fashion. Eventually, the new hire and the sales manager become frustrated because very little progress is made. The job becomes much easier when you start with this information in front of you.

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Question 3: You mentioned as one of your three factors the idea of having a goal that the salesperson owns and building a success formula to match. Tell me more about those two things and why it’s critical to successful onboarding.

Answer: The goals set for a new salesperson are often too general. Typically, success standards for a new hire can leave a lot up to interpretation. The common thought from a management perspective is “we’ll put these goals in place, but if they don’t hit them… Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” And that’s a dangerous, perpetuating cycle. That’s how you end up keeping unsuccessful salespeople on your team long after they should be let go. Having specific metrics in place lets everyone know right from the start that if certain things are incomplete after the first 90 days, the new hire has not been successful, and they will be penalized. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy; simple metrics like attending every sales meeting, completing all internal and product training within 90 days, making 50 calls a week, etc., should be considered non-negotiable. If they're unable to hit these standards, that gives you a pretty clear idea of what working with them for the long run is going to be like. Using a success formula helps you identify what those standards and metrics need to be.

Question 4: Every week, for a minimum of 13 weeks, you talk to and coach new hires. What I find interesting is that you schedule just 15 minutes each week. Our readership might be wondering, why 15 minutes and what can you possibly accomplish?

Answer: To start, 15 minutes is about 5 minutes beyond the attention span of the average salesperson. Anything much longer than that, and they start to lose focus and interest. My goal is to make our short time together as impactful as possible. We specifically focus on current opportunities in the pipeline and game planning for the next step with those prospects. I help them develop their process and pre-call plan, and we spend time roleplaying. I also listen for and refute excuse-making so we get to the real issues as quickly as possible. A coaching session that lasts more than 15-20 minutes is not going to be hugely effective as there is a lot of information for this person to digest and then try to implement. Biting off a piece at a time is going to be your best bet.

Question 5: In closing, what would you offer our readership, perhaps to help them improve the probability of success for future new hires?

Answer: I said it once, but it’s worth repeating- start by using a pre-hire assessment, preferably a sales-specific assessment. It will give you many of the details and analytics you need and provides you with a good roadmap for training and development. If you are interested in a tool like the one from Objective Management Group, click here or the button below for a free trial. Lastly, develop a plan and the success metrics we discussed earlier and commit to them! It will immediately start to positively impact your onboarding process and the success of your new hire.

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

Topics: success formula, pre-hire evaluations, sales assessments, increase sales, hire better salespeople, sales onboarding

What to Trust When Evaluating Sales Performance and Talent

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Sep 06, 2016

When evaluating sales performance - past, present and future - it’s difficult to figure out what information or data to trust when making decisions.  Just like investments where past performance is not a guarantee of future results, past sales performance does not guarantee anything for the future.  It gives you some, not all, insight into sales results, but it doesn’t tell you how the result was created.

Pipeline analysis (a great performance management tool) is a lagging indicator that can be used to uncover previous sales activity and give you some indication of future sales, but there are problems with that data point:

  • The sales person might be putting in data just to keep you off their back
  • Unless your pipeline is mapped properly with check points,
    then the probability of opportunities is subjective, not certain.
  • If the CRM being used does not provide reporting on conversion ratios from one sales step to the next, you certainly don’t have information needed for intentional coaching.

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Linda and I went to a “box store” to find appliances for a townhouse we had purchased.  We needed to replace all four major kitchen pieces: dishwasher, refrigerator, range/oven and microwave. We were working with a salesman and we were getting close to making a selection between models.  As Linda and the salesman were talking, Linda asked me to search for the ratings on the appliances.  This is what I found:

  • Refrigerator/freezer – 4.3 – 1,200 ratings
  • Range/oven – 4.2 – 2,000 ratings
  • Dishwasher – 3.2 – 1,600 ratings

I hadn’t looked up the rating yet when Linda asked me what I found out.  I reported the 4.3 and the 4.2; however, as I reported the 3.2 on the dishwasher, the salesman stepped back into the conversation and asked what the 3.2 was.  I told him it was the rating on the dishwasher based on 1,600 customer ratings.  His response was “You cannot rely on those ratings.  Those ratings are based on this model two years ago when it first came out – this is a newer version of the model.”

It was so hard for me to not reply with, “So I should trust the 4.3 and the 4.2, but not the 3.2?”  I didn’t want to go there because I know how I get when I challenge someone trying to sell me something. I'm a pain in the *ss.  I cannot help it when a salesman screws up the opportunity to handle something the right way and fails.  But, that’s not my point here.  My point here in this story for this article is this:

Your salesperson, and any sales candidate you are interviewing, will also refute anything negative you ask about, but will never debate the positives.

And that is a problem if you are not aware of that and deal with it when it happens.  Case in point.  We use Objective Management Group for evaluating both sales teams that exists today and future talent to hire.  The tool has been “tested” hundreds of thousands of times and is the most consistent and reliable sales talent evaluation on the planet.  (check it out)

With this business tool, we find a mix of things that are supportive of successful selling:  Strong desire, commitment, responsibility, and sales DNA.  And there are findings that indicate hindrances to successful selling:  lack of skills in consultative selling, asking questions, hunting, closing, and qualifying skills.

Time and time again, when we review the results with the sales manager or the sales person and we ask, “What did you think?”, most of the time we can count on the following:

  • I thought it was interesting.
  • I’ve taken lots of these in the past and you just have to take the results with a grain of salt.
  • I thought it was dead on.
  • I thought the findings really depend on different situations; some of the questions didn’t fit the way I sell.
  • There were a lot of things I agree with and a couple of things I didn’t understand or agree with.

We ask the sales person to then discuss the finding they want to talk about first.  Almost 100% of the time, they will want to talk about the things they disagree with. Obviously, those are the things that are viewed as “negative”.  Never, not once ever in over 20 years, has someone gone to desire, commitment, responsibility, hunting or closing findings that are positive and said,  “I don’t agree with this.  I’m really not committed, I don't have desire for success in sales, I make excuses when I fail, I suck at prospecting and I can’t even close a door.”

NOT EVER!

What they all want to focus on is the 3.2 rating to try and convince me that the negative findings cannot be true, BUT all those positive things, “Yep, that’s me.”

So, there you go.  Your salespeople, as well as the candidates, will do their best to convince you that all the positive data and outputs are accurate and true, but anything negative can be explained away.

Buyer beware!

Additional Resources:

Topics: Sales Tracking, sales management, sales assessments

Hiring The Right People Improves Sales Success

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Nov 11, 2011

There is a saying in sports; “You can lose with great people but you cannot win without them.”  This theory applies to business, and winning in business starts with a winning sales team.  

Let’s return to the sports application first.  Theo Epstein was the general manager for the Boston Red Sox.  The Chicago Cubs hired him away from the Red Sox and his first item of business to address is the hiring of a new manager for the club.  

Below is an excerpt of a recent article about the process he is going through to get the right person for the job.  Earlier in the week, he had made it clear that one of most important criteria for the job was that the candidate MUST HAVE major league managerial or coaching experience.

One media person inquired what type of attributes Epstein is looking for in a manager.

"In the real world, it's hard to find a candidate that has everything you're looking for," Epstein said. "What you do is you weigh your variables and make your sacrifices where you have to. Often times, if you're going to take a candidate without previous managerial experience, even at the minor league level, he has to represent real upside in other areas. In that case, you have to do even more due diligence than you normally would because you're projecting him into that role."

One of the talked about candidates early in the selection process was Ryne Sandberg.  Below is his stellar baseball resume. 

Ryne Dee Sandberg (Ryno)

Positions: Second Baseman and Third Baseman 
Bats: Right, Throws: Right 
Height: 6' 1", Weight: 175 lb.
Born: September 181959 in Spokane, WA (Age 52) 
High School: North Central (Spokane, WA)
Drafted
 by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round of the 1978 amateur draft.
Signed June 15, 1978. (All Transactions)
Debut: September 2, 1981 
Teams (by GP): Cubs/Phillies 1981-1997
Final Game: September 28, 1997 
Inducted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA as Player in 2005 (393/516 ballots).

I won't list his stats - induction into the baseball players Hall of Fame speaks for itself.  The one thing that is missing is managerial or coaching experience at the major league level.  He was never interviewed for the position. 

The point here is that Epstein had a profile for the position and he stuck with it, regardless of the star qualities of Sandberg. 

The lessons in this story for senior sales executives include:

  • You must know exactly what qualities the candidate must have
  • You must communicate this to likely candidates
  • You must not be swayed by other experience "outside" your profile
  • You can consider other experience but consider the downside
  • You must be prepared for a "project" if you hire outside your profile

Finding the exact right candidate is a long shot no matter what the position.  As Epstein points out, you have to weigh all the information and consider what you are willing to sacrifice.  As you prepare to "upgrade your sales staff", follow these steps for Sales Talent Acquisition and improve your probability for success:

  1. Build a profile for the IDEAL Candidate
  2. Communicate that profile to "attract" the right candidate (in ads, etc)
  3. Screen (assess) the candidate before interviewing the candidate
  4. Create screening and interviewing processes that simulate the environment in which the candidate will have to perform
  5. Make the candidate sell you, DO NOT sell the candidate on the position
  6. Have a detailed communication process in place so that once hired, the candidate knows "exactly" what the objectives and expectations are.
  7. Have a very tight and detailed on - boarding process that ALL candidates go through regardless of their experience.
  8. Inspect what you expect for the first 180 days of their employment

Following these steps will improve your probability for recruiting and sales success.  To help you begin, try this Free 3 Day Express Screen Trial (select the "Sales Candidate" option).

                                   Sales Screen Trial

Topics: hiring sales people, sales talent acquisition, improving sales, sales people, sales candidates, sales assessments

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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