Training new sales reps is a critical part of success. Too much training can diminish performance. These 5 steps will get them producing quickly.
What do you remember from your freshman college American literature syllabus? Probably some titles, and a few authors, like Edgar Allen Poe, T.S. Eliot, and Herman Melville. Unfortunately, we lose more information during those four (or five or six) years of college than we retain.
Yet many company new-hire training programs look very similar to the college years. Employees receive and exhaustive amount of training all within the first few weeks of their employment: orientation, sales training, CRM training, product training, etc.
It’s too much.
Your training may be excellent, but keep in mind that your new hires are only human. They can only retain so much new information. When it comes to initial training schedules, less is more.
Here are five principles to help construct new employee training:
1. Focus on the essentials. Identify the absolute essential knowledge and skills the new sales rep must have to be successful in their first few months, and train them only on that. Overloading a new employee with too much information reduces the ability to retain and apply what they learned.
Example: Train on just the popular products. Train them on the other products later.
2. Use the entire ramp period to train. If your organization expects new reps to get up to speed in three months, then use all three months. Break training into smaller chunks, delivered at regular intervals. Give new reps time to digest new information.
Example: Don’t concentrate all training in the first 4-6 weeks. Less training over the entire 90-day period will result in higher retention levels and more confidence.
3. Focus less on what and more on who. With so much content, newbies need a reliable resource after the training is over to ask questions and develop confidence with the material when selling. Introduce them to technical or product experts. Example: Provide access to online resources or make experts available for video calls for new field reps.
4. Focus on team selling. Have new sales reps focus more on building relationships than selling the entire catalog or complex solutions right away. Pair them with technical experts to ride along on sales calls to interact with customers, answer questions and provide information about your products and service. Many of your new sales reps will sell better when they have someone to assist at the beginning.
Example: Connect a new rep with a seasoned product expert who can provide a wide array of knowledge.
5. Focus CRM training to just one day. Some companies have CRM training for up to a week. Sales reps should acquire data, not waste hours spending time entering CRM training should be short and simple. Anything more turns your sales reps into data entry clerks. That’s not their job.
Example: Except for call center sales reps, hire data entry people to maintain the CRM.
Most organizations fall into the trap of throwing too much training at new salespeople, too quickly. Memorizing excessive product data is not as likely to help your reps sell in the short run, as learning the best contacts for technical expertise. Don’t force them back into college, memorizing data only to forget it ten minutes after the test.