• Katja Kapustina

Why is your new seller not performing?

So you have just hired a new team member and the expectations are high. You are eager to see them become part of the team, start taking those meetings and of course... close the deals!

But not long after, you see they have a thin pipeline, are not joining the team lunches, and, most importantly, not closing enough (or any) deals.

What happened? The candidate passed the interviews with elegance - the right words were mentioned such as “I am a relentless deal hunter but still value teamwork”, “I have many years of experience”, and, of course, the classic, “I can do many things at once and I'm always up for a challenge!”

So... what changed?

The performance isn’t there and the lust seems to have vanished.

When you ask them “what’s going on” - an avalanche of excuses seems to be pouring out; timing, bad luck, not the right product/offering, not enough support... (and the list goes on).

There is always 2 sides of the coin.

First, you need to look at yourself - what have we as an organisation and I, as a manager and leader, provided for this new team member? Was it enough?

Second, why is the new team member not motivated?

In this article, we will take a closer look at the first side; you and the organisation.

When it comes to the organisation there are 3 key factors to build a successful team/individual.

1. Hire the right people

2. Onboarding

3. Ongoing support, training, and coaching

So how are you making sure you are doing all of this?

1. Hire the right people

Identify what you are exactly looking for. Don't be too generic in your job ad as it will take you ages to go through the job candidates and make you lose time. What specific experience is needed? From which territories? What size of customers?

Experience is not everything though. Sometimes you hire people with excellent experience but still, they don't fit in... how come?

You need to hire for culture fit! Assess also the personality of the candidate. Would you and other current team members like to have lunch with the new person? If so, probably your clients would like too. Remember - people buy from people.

By identifying the traits of your best salespeople and what makes them successful, you can now pass on the information to HR on what to look for in a candidate. Now your search for the right candidate should be much easier.

Here are some examples of traits to look for in a salesperson:

- Culture fit (we weight this trait as 50% in our interviews)

- IntelligencePassion - what are they passionate about?

- Resilience/Grit/Decisiveness - have they gone through tough times?

- Coachability – can they listen, learn and adapt?

- Curiosity - are they curious and ask questions?

- Business acumen - how do they behave?

- Ability to listen 

- Willingness to collaborate

- Attitude - is the glass half full or half-empty?

Once you have found a good candidate in the first rounds, make sure that other team members from other departments also interview the person to give you a second opinion (perhaps they ask more skeptical and challenging questions than you). A good idea is also to put the candidate in an uncomfortable zone. How will the candidate handle themselves in a stressful environment?

Jack Welch (the famous CEO of GE that rose the company's value by 4000% during his tenure) always took his candidates for a round of golf to see how they would react in an unusual and stressful situation.

Almost there now! Now it's time to check the references. Make sure you ask for three; one from a former boss, one from a former client, and one from a former colleague. This will give you a better picture of how it would be working together with this person.

Once the contract is signed it's now time to welcome them to the new team and give them the right onboarding, sales training and, coaching.

2. Onboarding

Don't confuse onboarding with orientation (where you perhaps review policies and employment terms, complete paperwork, and give them a tour around the office and cafeteria). Onboarding is more in-depth training that is more helpful in their job and will increase their performance.

For sales, you probably want to cover:

- Your company ethos, vision, mission, and purpose

- Product knowledge - what you sell

- Customer knowledge - whom you sell to

- Sales knowledge - how you sell it

- Competitor knowledge - who are they and how do we beat them? (objection handling)

- Your tech stack - all your tools and how to best use them (CRM, marketing systems, etc.)

- Introduction to other departments and best practices for collaboration

Remember to not fire-hose the new employee with all this information in a short period. Spread out the training and focus on one key area at the time. Meaning, teach one subject and let them practice it under supervision (coaching) so the information gets retained.

Research says to retain new information we must practice it 4x the training time. Example: if you have a 1-hour training, then they should practice it for 4 hours to retain the information - preferably out of their comfort zone ex. jump on the phone, present in front of the group, etc. That's how you retain information the best.

3. Ongoing support, training, and coaching

Great, now your new employee is hired and on-boarded - what now? Now you need to help them continue to grow, meaning both develop their sales skills to meet their goals but also as a person so they grow into taking more responsibility.

Start by assessing their skills and knowledge. Once you know their gaps you can create a growth plan. A good idea is to divide the skills into; knowledge, skill, and will. From there start building their plan and schedule action points. Don't forget to identify needed support, discuss how the skills are measured and how follow-up will be made.

For example, you could create a skill barometer where you have identified and listed key skills that the employee rate 1-5 and add comments. The form then goes back to the manager who rates the employee on the same skills to identify if any discrepancies exist. Have a conversation around the results and make an action plan (that you actually follow up - this is key!).

In your daily job as a leader and manager, start coaching by simply joining on calls or meetings where you try three-minute feedback session before and after. Ask the employee first what went good and what can be improved before you give them feedback (always start with positive). The best coaching is short and frequent rather than long 1on1 booked meetings.

In the start of this article, we mentioned there are two sides of the coin... and the second side is the employees own motivation. Why has it gone? And how can you help them get back on track and be motivated again?

This I will leave for the second part of the article - stay tuned!

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