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Don’t Train the Newly Hired…Put Them To Work!

Let’s face it.  Staffing a Sales team is a very time-consuming and expensive proposition.  There has to be a need as determined by the Sales Manager.  Once the need has been determined, the hiring process begins.  The SM meets with then need to meet with the appropriate personnel; possibly the Sales Director, HR, his Sales Team Leader and any other person that is required to write off on the requisition.  Of course, hiring to fill a new role is even more time-intensive than hiring to replace an existing position.

Once the initial assessment has been completed, comes the grueling and time devouring process of actually hiring the new sales rep.  Ideally, the perfect rep will walk through the door within a few days and begin to work for you two weeks later.  Reality and experience, however, will remind you that it is never that simple.  In the best of circumstances, hundreds of resumes will be reviewed, cataloged and followed-up on resulting in perhaps a dozen interviews.  Finally, after 3 months and a hundred hours of company time, the offer letter will be issued, (and hopefully), accepted.  Joe Hadzima sums up the costs quite well in his blog.


That sure was a large investment in the new rep.  OH, Wait!  Now you have to train this golden egg.  In my old company, it would be between 6-18 months before the new rep started to generate enough income to justify the hire.  That is an extremely long time and until the expense begins to pay off, until the salesperson begins to sell, you won’t truly know if you made the right choice in hiring this person.

First of all, make the process faster by having the HR department simply vet the candidates the sales manager finds interesting.  The HR dept shouldn’t be the initial gate but rather the final gate.  The sales manager is the only one that knows exactly what is required and should be the one to review the resumes and invite qualified applicants in for an interview.  There are firms that believe otherwise but my argument is the human resources department will not pick candidates the sales manager will.  The packaging department doesn’t choose applicants for the shipping department and the marketing department doesn’t choose candidates for the IT department.  Why is anyone other than a sales department choosing candidates for the sales staff?

Once the sales rep is in the seat, put them to work immediately.  Don’t bog them down with company videos, or any other company literature for the first week.  I look at the picture above and I cringe recalling the gray, lifeless taste in my mouth I got every time I sat through a lecture.  Rather than dulling the newly hired shiny penny of your staff, assign the new rep to help one of the senior members of the sales floor as administrative assistance.  This will allow for a variety of results…all positive.

This will free up additional time for the senior sales rep to sell.  Initially, it may not seem to because the newly hired has to be taught where departments are and who is who within the firm but in short order, files will be delivered, faxed will be sent and orders will be entered on behalf of the senior rep.

The new rep will learn better because the training is coming from one of the best salespeople in the company.  All the knowledge learned is practical and appropriate.  The reps will learn what they need to learn.  Additionally, now there is an added weight of responsibility on the shoulders of the new rep because to make a mistake is to hurt the sales of someone they are sitting with every day.  I would call some of my clients ahead of time and ask them if they didn’t mind if I were to have the new rep take over some of the more administrative tasks of their accounts.  Those that agreed helped to add an additional level of responsibility to the student and made learning that much faster.

By simply taking the students out of the class and putting them to work, the hiring company made the learning cycle shorter and the new salesperson will be productive much faster.  The sales rep now has real world experience and will need much less hand-holding when finally assigned a new territory.  David Kolb helped popularize Experiential Learning and he describes learning as a four-step process of watching, thinking, feeling and doing.  In a company I worked at previously, the use of experiential learning also helped increase employee retention.  The investment in the new rep will pay dividends faster and in the future, when additional salespeople are hired, the company now has a new instructor.



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