New sales reps are usually excited about their new job and enthusiastic about learning what they need to do in order to succeed. However, they are also prone to think they know more than they really do! Your coaching challenge is to help develop their expertise to a point where it justifies their confidence.
- Ensure they form good work habits. Make your expectations around daily work habits very clear from the start. Cover topics such as expected response times for calls or emails (from you vs. prospects/customers vs. coworkers, for example), how often to update your CRM, how to track time/expenses, how to set priorities and manage their time, and so on.
- Do a lot of role-playing to help them practice key skills. Develop a number of scenarios covering the most common situations that your sales reps encounter, and run through them with the new rep. Most often you (or perhaps one of your more-experienced reps) will play the customer role, but switch it around occasionally so the rep plays the customer. This will help them become better at seeing a situation through the customer’s eyes, which is a key skill that will help connect better with prospects.
- Monitor their progress throughout the sales process not just at the end. Be sure to monitor the outputs of their work throughout the entire selling process, not just when they think a deal is nearing the close. You don’t want to learn they have missed key points on the day before they submit a proposal to the customer!
- Specifically, review memos and emails to prospects before they go out. Novice reps are prone to making certain types of mistakes—such as focusing more on your offerings than on customer needs and requirements, ignoring the needs of multiple decision makers, etc. By reviewing their emails and memos, you can make sure they are not jumping to their “close” before fully understanding and connecting to the customer’s needs.
- Help them reach higher-level decision makers. New reps in particular are notoriously bad at extending their reach beyond their initial contact at a prospect. That means they are often stuck selling to people whose only concern is price—who treat your solution as a commodity. The way out of that trap is to help reps learn how to reach multiple (and higher-level) decision makers. What I have them do is sketch out all the people they think may be involved with the purchase decision (with some guidance from me in the beginning), and then figure out what topics and issues are unique to each decision maker. Generally what they have to do then is ask questions linked to these issues of their initial contact—and when that person can’t answer, ask to be referred to someone who can.
If you can do these five things for a new rep, you’ll be setting a foundation for them to have a very successful sales career.