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No Second Chance for a First Impression: Manager’s Guide to Onboarding

23 Feb, 2012 By: Gary Schwartz, Strategy Development, Inc.


Few things in life spawn as much excitement - and trepidation - as starting a new job. Each new hire enters their new job with as much enthusiasm as a five year old playing his first tee ball game. Unfortunately, too many times this enthusiasm gives way to uncertainty and fear. I will tell you unequivocally that the sales manager position is the most critical position in any sales organization.  It is also one of the most challenging from a time management perspective. 

Today’s sales managers are asked to do a great many things. It is this push/pull demand that causes many managers to make a critical error. Quite simply, too many of us make the mistake of not proactively managing the on-boarding process for our reps. How many times has one of your new hires been dropped on a trainer or sent on a random ride-along?  Worse yet, how many of your new team members have spent their first day on the job languishing in a cube with a computer that is not yet on ‘the network’ while the manager runs to close a deal?

We spend hours of productive time – selling time – recruiting, interviewing, and hiring sales reps. Typically, we look for the three qualities every successful rep must possess: Can Do, Will Do, and Team Fit. We select the best talent we can find and invest the company’s resources in them. We make the investment and then devalue it by ignoring it. The investment is devalued because as the new rep sits in the cube, she/he starts to wonder if they made the right decision. That seed of doubt may just grow into a noxious weed.

Develop a Plan
Show each new hire that they are important to the future of your sales team and the company.  You have told them as much with the offer of employment. However, words must be backed up by deeds. Show your new rep that their contribution is critical by investing your time in them.  You should meet your new rep at the door with your development plan for them – a plan that includes specifics about them and their territory. 

The development plan should detail training events, field time, homework, and team meetings.  Your plan should include a target listing of accounts you will work WITH your new rep. It is important that your plan include a great deal of field time. The last thing you want to do is to condition your new rep to sit in her cube all day. Set the expectation up front that field selling activity is expected each day.

The development plan is important and it should start on Day 2. Why not Day 1 you ask?  Day 1 is reserved for the one-on-one with the manager. This one-on-one is the basis for the entire relationship between the rep and manager. The time should be used to create rep buy-in as well as to provide guidance for their future activities. Specifically, the following should be accomplished on day one: Expectation Setting, Income Planning, Business Plan Overview, and Contract for Success.
It is critical to set the appropriate expectations out of the gate. Few things are more counter-productive than not knowing what is expected or “what good looks like.” Believe me, if you do not set the level of acceptable activity, the lowest performer on your team will. Begin the discussion with the mundane – attendance times etc.  Move on to meatier topics of activity expectations etc. You should also spend the time to find out what your new hire expects out of her employment and out of you as her manager.

As part of the discussion, you should spend the time to learn about your new team member(s). What are his or her professional goals? Income goals? Find out what makes them tick so that you can use it as motivation down the road. Review the compensation plan with her in detail. This information in conjunction with her personal income goals forms the basis for the Income Plan. You should have a worksheet that enables you and the rep to determine what specific products need to be sold to meet defined goals. 

What & How
The Income Plan tells the rep WHAT he needs to sell to achieve his goals but his Business Plan should detail HOW he is going to sell it. You should have a standardized template for the annual business plan. The template should include information about the assigned territory. Work through an overview of the plan with the rep on the first day and assign it to be completed as homework over the course of the first week. Take time each day that first week to review her progress. Let your new rep take a swing at the marketing portion and new business portion of the plan – you may be surprised with what you get.

Save the best for last. You should plan on closing the first day with the discussion around the Contract for Success.  The contract ties the manager and the rep together for a mutual investment in each other’s success. The rep should list out 5-7 things that he expects from his manager. In turn, the manager lists 5-7 of his or her “non-negotiables.” Both parties sign the contract and hold each other to their commitments. It is a powerful tool and lets the rep know that you are in it to win it – together.

Here is my challenge: Don’t plant your next new hire in an empty cube to surf the web and leave at the end of the day with doubts about their future. Do the work and send them home exhausted. Exhausted and excited about their future and the clear direction you have set.

BIO:  Gary Schwartz is a consultant at Strategy Development, Inc., a management consulting firm for the office technology & outsourcing space & a leading MPS consultancy specializing in business planning, sales effectiveness, advanced sales training, and operational and service improvement.  Schwartz was an executive with IKON Office Solutions later RICOH Americas Corp. Contact: Schwartz@strategydevelopment.com, 817.600.2216 or strategydevelopment.com.




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