I have just one big tip. As a sales manager, you need to put an orientation plan together and commit to it. So many sales managers make the mistake of investing a lot of time in recruiting and hiring their next star, but then failing to prepare and execute a comprehensive orientation plan, that establishes expectations and sets up the new recruit for success.
Many years ago, I was lucky enough to work for Michelin, which had this process down pat. They invested a great deal of time in finding what they felt were the right people for their business. But they spent even more time making certain that their sales reps were ready to succeed.
How did Michelin do this? Before I ever made a sales call, I went to tire school for 15 weeks. And this was treated as a non-negotiable right of passage. Whether you were a novice like me or a seasoned sales professional in the tire industry, Michelin, without prejudice, made everyone go through the school.
The curriculum was made up of equal measures of classroom training and field work with assigned sales mentors, where your role was to absorb and not be heard. You were exposed to a wide range of information, including corporate history, product information, technical skills, company values and ethics, a corporate standard of behaviour, and were completely immersed in Michelin's sales systems for retailers and end-users. Only after graduating from the tire school—yes, there were tests, with a 40% failure rate—were you dispatched to your territory along with an assessment of your strengths and the things you needed to work on, which became a baseline for future coaching by your boss.
Everything else about this orientation was conducted with military precision. When you got to your assigned territory, your boss and all of your tools were waiting for you: business plan, client files, price lists, order forms, technical data, a company car and even three pairs of blue-and-yellow Michelin coveralls. Your boss or predecessor then spent the better part of the next two weeks introducing you to your clients, subtly coaching along the way.
Then, for the next six months your boss travelled with you at least two days a month, depending on the support you required. Not every business has the financial or human resources to match Michelin's orientation program, but you can adopt parts of it. I recommend focusing on following elements:
• Be sure never to treat your new hires' orientation as an afterthought. It needs to be a planned, regimented experience, executed with precision and taken seriously by all parties, no matter what level of resources you can put toward it. This approach sets the expectations for your hires, treats them with the respect they deserve and confirms their good decision to join your company.
• Articulate clearly how you want your brand to be represented. What does it stand for? What values do your new hires need to reflect?
• Train your new hires in what your product can do, especially what separates it from its rivals and how it should be sold.
• Finally, they need to know how to use the tools, systems and support networks you have provided.
If you deliver these four key elements, your new sales recruits will be productive, successful and happy in record time.
More columns by Harvey Copeman