For small business owners, hiring new salespeople can be a daunting task full of second-guessing, worries about how your company will be represented when you are not around, and, until they make that first big sale, buyer’s remorse. To mitigate your concerns, consider putting a judgment-free time frame in place, for instance, 100 days.
Good salespeople need approximately 100 days to get to know your company, build a pipeline, and create a presence in the market. If they are coming to your company from a competitor, you are going to have to give them time to establish a new identity and give clients time to become comfortable.
It won’t be easy signing their checks until they make a sale, but here are some tips to get by on the 100-day plan:
- Provide time to learn: You don’t want your salespeople appearing as if they do not know the market. If they are new to the field, give them time to get to know the business before making the first call. Like a graduate student working on a paper, they need several weeks to do their own research on the market, including the history, universe, competition, and potential client base. Send them to the business library if you have to. In the end, let them give you a report on their findings, including the weaknesses your company may have and their strategies for selling around them. By this point it will be apparent if they have a grip on the business, and you might learn something new and have some data for your marketing material.
- Make your new salespeople your shadow: When you have lunch with a client, bring your salesperson along. Going to an industry event? Buy your salesperson a pass. If you are invited to a business cocktail party, bring your salesperson as your plus-one. No need to put pressure on them to sell. Just let them listen and learn about how you present your company and your product and service and how you speak to your clients. You could spend hours training in the office but they are really going to learn about your business when they hear you describe it to others.
- Give them the tools and time to build a pipeline: If you use Salesforce.com or a similar product, make sure they are comfortable with the software. Don’t despair if they sit for hours entering data on their targets. Every once in a while go through the targets with them and talk about how they plan to approach each one.
- Have them pick up the phone: Between days 30 and 40 have them start making calls, but not to your most coveted customers. Have them start with baby steps, reaching out to smaller even less likely candidates. This will give them time to hone their pitch. If you are selling locally, encourage them to set up meetings, lunches, and coffees instead of trying to make a sale by phone. From their pipeline, help them determine which customers they should call first and, like a good coach, help them ramp up on a weekly basis.
- Don’t hover: You have heard the story of how a watched pot never boils? Heed it. Your company was probably not built in a day. Instead it was probably built over a period of time, one brick, nail, and shingle at a time. One day you looked up and you had a wall. Six months later a roof. And at some point you had running water, electricity, and wireless. You can’t even identify when it happened. Give your salespeople the same room for growth. If you hound them every day, nagging them about when they are going to close a sale, your pot of water may not boil but it will burn you.