Three Ways To Develop Rookie Salespeople
I love sales management. Yes, it can be aggravating, but if your mindset is right, there are certain moments that make it all worthwhile.
One of those moments is what I call the “launch”—that point when everything is coming together for your new salesperson. Activity patterns are forming, the sales pipeline is filling and those first few sales are coming in. That’s when you know your new salesperson is going to make it. Any sales manager who doesn’t smile and feel a surge of pride—both for themselves and the salesperson—isn’t cut out for the job.
Here’s the rub. While this is one of the most gratifying moments in sales management, it’s also one of the most delicate. If you want to get the most out of your new salesperson, it’s critical that you work to reinforce and build his or her confidence— while avoiding behaviors that can be confidence killers.
A friend of mine recently decided to launch a sales career. She struggled for awhile, as most new salespeople do, but she’s now moving in the right direction. In fact, she’s having a month that would be a breakout month for a seasoned veteran, not just a rookie. Which is why her sales manager’s actions are so concerning to me.
Her sales manager still accompanies her on customer calls. Earlier this week, she told me about a miscommunication: she didn’t realize she was supposed to bring a document to the client on an appointment. I saw the texts; the sales manager’s communication was not specific and it appeared to be an easy mistake to make. Her sales manager, however, reacted badly.
While sitting at the customer’s location, within earshot of the decision maker’s office, the sales manager said to my friend, in a loud voice, “Good grief, if you can’t get the right forms for a meeting, how can I ever trust you to work deals on your own?” The manager’s tirade went on for a few minutes and other people in the company could obviously hear. The salesperson, of course, was mortified, and her confidence plummeted.
Had this happened a year down the road, after she had established herself as a proven performer, she could have let this behavior roll off her back (although it still shouldn’t happen). But because of the timing, her confidence took a hit.
The sales manager committed several errors. As we all know, a manager should praise in public and reprimand in private. Second, a manager should never air dirty laundry at the customer’s location. Third, right before a sales call, any issues should be put on hold so they don’t affect the customer visit that’s about to take place. These hold true for any salesperson, but when the salesperson is new, each of these errors is magnified.
So, what does your new salesperson need you to do in the launch stage?
1 Instill confidence. You’ve been there before, and in many cases, your salesperson hasn’t. Your job, as much as possible, is to help them become more familiar with the unknown. Show the salesperson what to expect, based on their sales activity and proposal level. Help them forecast which sales will close and which ones will not. Impart as many good selling techniques as you can, and let the salesperson work independently as much as possible.
2 Praise liberally. In the earliest stages of a salesperson’s development, such as the onboarding and prelaunch phase (typically the first 90 days), watch your salesperson’s activity very carefully and offer gentle correction whenever things are taking a wrong turn. Bad habits can settle in quickly, so correct early on rather than waiting. However, once you’re past the onboarding phase, try to hold off on calling out problems and, instead, praise what the new salesperson is doing right. This is particularly important with Millennials.
In the launch phase, your new salesperson should be seeing some successes. Those wins might be small or they might be big—but in the salesperson’s mind, they’re all big, so you need to reinforce and praise them. There’s plenty of time in the long term to polish up techniques or point the salesperson to other accounts that need to be targeted. But for now, every win should come with high-fives and bell-ringing.
3 Hold your tongue. This is tough, but it’s one of the steps that separates the great sales managers from the mediocre. Remember that the launch phase is temporary. Typically, it lasts from 30 to 60 days. At the end of that period, salespeople are usually able to convince themselves that things are going to be good going forward, they toughen up mentally, and they are better able to handle criticism and adversity.
The question that you, the sales manager, must ask yourself during the launch phase is this: If the salesperson makes a mistake, is it indicative of a pattern that could endanger success on more sales calls, or is it a one-time issue? If it’s a one-time issue, make a note of it, store it away and come back to it after the launch phase is over. If the misstep is indicative of a pattern, correct it now, of course, but in as non-threatening a manner as possible. For an example of how not to do it, refer to my story above.
Here’s the best news of all. If you handle the launch phase well, your salesperson is more likely to become one of those whom you don’t have to worry about—and you can devote your attention to the next one to launch.
Troy Harrison is a speaker, consultant, sales navigator, and author of Sell Like You Mean It! and The Pocket Sales Manager. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies.
For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly e-zine, call 913-645 3603, email Troy@TroyHarrison.com or visit www.TroyHarrison.com.
12 Spiral Ring Notebooks That Led To A Million-Dollar Account
by Greg Muzzillo
Years ago, when I was growing my small distributorship, I secured an initial sales appointment with the operations manager of a jewelry retailer with about 100 stores. I have little recollection of what we discussed during that first sales call. All I remember was that after a seemingly good conversation, he asked me if we sold spiral ring notebooks. It turned out that he needed 12 spiral ring notebooks for a project. Twelve plain stock, one-inch spiral ring notebooks.
I wasn’t sure how to respond. At no point in our conversation did I say we sold office supplies or anything of the sort, but I decided to bite and told him we could do that. I asked when he needed them, and he said, “tomorrow.” So, I went to the office supply store, bought the notebooks and personally delivered them the next day.
That day was the beginning of an amazing, profitable relationship that lasted about 20 years until the jewelry chain was sold. He ended up buying about $1 million per year from me at 50-percent average gross profit.
We never discussed that notebook order. He never ordered any more. From what I can tell, that request was a test. I think he wanted to know if I would be of service no matter how small the order.
Let me ask you. Would you have passed the test? Or would you have told him you didn’t sell spiral ring notebooks? Or that you had a minimum order size?
The reality is that when end users are considering a new supplier, they rarely start with a big order. Typically, they start with smaller, pain-in-the-neck-type orders. What I learned through this experience was that it’s not the size of the first order that counts — it’s the size of the opportunity.
Greg Muzzillo founded industry distributor Proforma in 1978. Within five years he grew the company to several million in sales and by the mid-1980s Proforma was recognized by Inc. magazine as an Inc. 500 fastest‑growing company three years in a row. Today, Proforma has more than 750 members and $500 million in sales.