Sales Management: Start Them Off Right

04/03/2023by dang tin0

Start Them Off Right

You have heard the saying, “Well begun is half done.”
This idea applies very much to new salespeople. Once you have selected them and taken them on board, take care to start them on a solid foundation, from the very first day.

In studying the performance of thousands of salespeople over the years, one of the important discoveries I have made is that the way the person starts the job is going to determine that person’s performance not only in the first weeks and months, but even five and ten years later. In fact, long-term performance for salespeople is largely determined by what happens to them in the first ninety days.
Salespeople can join you with either high, medium, or low sales skills and experience. But even if they have been in sales for several years, when they start with you, you must treat them as if they are brand-new. Just because they have considerable experience at selling other products for other companies does not mean that they know anything about your business, your products, your unique selling features, or your customers. They have what is called “low task-relevant maturity.”

Product Knowledge

Fully 70 percent of sales organizations in America do no sales training at all. Instead, they only do “product training.” They give the salesperson piles of sales materials, brochures, and product information to read and ingest. They then send them out to make calls, assuming that if they understand the product, they can sell it to critical and demanding customers.
Product knowledge is important. Each salesperson must know the product cold and be able to pass an examination on it. Good product knowledge has two advantages: First, it raises the sales team’s confidence and makes it much more likely your salespeople will continue in this job. Second, it raises their credibility when they talk with their prospects.

Sales Skills

Another essential factor for success is excellent sales skills. Some companies spend two to six months training new salespeople before allowing them out on the street to represent the company. IBM invests eighteen months in solid training, half in the classroom and half out in the field with other salespeople, before allowing a salesperson to be alone with a customer for the first time.
Go slowly when you train new salespeople, and never assume that the new salesperson has mastered all the essential skills. There is a rule that says, “Your weakest important skill sets the height of your sales.” A new salesperson can be excellent at six out of seven key selling skills, but weakness in the seventh skill will hold that salesperson back from achieving full potential.

A Sales Story

A new salesperson hired by one of my client companies wasn’t working out. The company thought it had found the right person. But even after extensive training, he was not selling. Instead of firing him, the company decided to have sales managers accompany him on his sales calls to observe his performance.
It soon became abundantly clear that he was lacking in one key skill area. He was unable to answer specific objections and turn them into reasons for buying.
They took him back into the office and worked with him intensively for eight hours, grilling him on the most common objections a person was likely to hear, and then helping him to answer and overcome those objections smoothly and confidently.

Then they sent him back into the field. Within a month, he was a star, and within three months he was a superstar—the highest-performing salesperson for this company in the country. They had been on the verge of letting him go when they realized that he might be lacking in one single skill. I share this story because it can happen to you with your salespeople and your sales organization as well.

Inspect What You Expect

After you have made all the investment in hiring and training new salespeople, you should commit to supervising them continually until they reach the levels and standards of performance that you have set for them. Monitor their performance regularly, even on a daily basis. Give and get feedback regularly from them. Give them guidance and encouragement in the early days to be sure that you have started them out right.
Some years ago, I took over a sales organization that had twenty-eight salespeople and was completely demoralized. The sales from this group were very low. They all worked on straight commission, so if they did not make sales, they did not eat. When I took over, I gave each of them a small stack of three-by-five-inch index cards each morning. Their job was to return at the end of the day with five cards filled out with the name of a prospect they had called on and the results of that call.

Within a week, a miracle took place. Of the twenty-eight salespeople, ten had quit. These were the same people who, as it turned out, were not really making any calls during the day.
The remaining eighteen, however, began to call on five or more new customers each day. Because of the Law of Probability, they began to make sales and collect commissions. Within a week, the sales force was motivated and full of energy again.

Pay Them Quickly

Here is another technique you can use to motivate your salespeople. Pay your new salespeople their commissions on a daily basis. It is amazing how motivating it is to come back with a sales order and receive your sales commission immediately.

Follow this policy for the first two to four weeks. After that, pay them their sales commissions every Wednesday and Friday. After that, pay them every Friday. You can often turn a person or an entire sales team around with immediate payment of commissions as soon as they have made the sale. After a time, put them onto a regular twice per month commission schedule, as is typical.

Start Them Well

The more time, effort, and thought you put into starting each salesperson off with excellent product and sales training, the more successful that salesperson will be, and the longer the person will stay with your organization.


1. Select one technique to manage and motivate your salespeople, such as holding a short sales meeting at the beginning of each day, and practice it immediately.
2. Make a list of the steps that you are going to follow to ensure that each new salesperson starts fully prepared to be successful.

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