You’ve put your new hire through the sales training process. They know the product they need to sell. They’re familiar with the process your team uses. They know the importance of managing customer relationships. Does that mean they’re ready to hit the field and make your organization money?
More than likely, no. No matter how sharp or enthusiastic your trainee, you owe it to them to equip them for the dos and don’ts of direct sales success. And no matter how in depth your training, there’s no way a classroom environment can entirely prepare a new sales rep for the field.
And that’s why Field Training with an experienced rep is an important part of the new hire sales training schedule.
What does field sales training look like?
In-House training, as we’ve discussed in our previous post, is a great way to teach product knowledge and the structure of your sales process. But as most experienced salespeople know, there’s only so much you can learn from a book.
Where In-House training imparts good sales knowledge, Field training coaches good sales practices.
Have an experienced member of your team follow the new rep in the sales field.
It may be tempting to have the new hire shadow that experienced agent for a day or two to “learn the ropes.” But, for the most part, this is a waste of time. Shadowing is not effective field training.
Most salespeople don’t learn by watching. They learn by doing, and you want the trainee to get comfortable in front of prospective customers as soon as possible.
Why train in the field at all?
So if most of the knowledge a trainee requires is learned in-house, they already exhibit the traits of success, and it’s beneficial to get them in front of customers sooner than later… why is it necessary to train in the field at all? What is left for a new hire to learn?
It’s one thing to learn about riding a bike, it’s another to get up there and start pedaling. Learning how to overcome objections in a classroom is different from overcoming a real, live objection from a real human person.
Learning to ride a bike takes a few falls. That’s true for direct sales, too. It’s helpful to have somebody who’s been through this process alongside a new recruit to dust them off, help coach them on ways to improve, and help keep their enthusiasm intact while they get through the growing pains of their first few demos.
How can you effectively train new sales reps in the field?
So if having a new hire shadow an experienced rep is a bad idea, how can you engage in effective field training?
Push Them Out Of The Nest (Gently)
To start, have the new hire watch the experienced rep go through the process with a prospective customer. Not all day, just 1-3 times max. Shadowing all day will be wasted time, but it can be helpful for a new hire to see the process they learned in the classroom put to action once or twice.
This also takes off some of the pressure that comes with first-pitch performance anxiety. Have the trainer prove that customers don’t bite before handing over the reigns.
Then, hand over the reigns.
Guide Them Through The Elements Of The Sale
Every team will have a slightly different direct sales process. But they should all have 4 basic elements:
- Getting Your Foot In The Door: Can the trainee get the ice broken enough to introduce themselves and their product?
- The Product Presentation: This will be industry and company specific, but this is where that product knowledge they learned in-house comes into play. Can they present the features and benefits? Are they making a compelling pitch?
- Asking For The Sale: To close a sale, you’ve got to ask for it. Does the trainee know how, and when, to effectively ask for business?
- Overcoming Objections: There will always be objections. Do they stop the trainee in their tracks, or are they able to keep moving?
Plan to spend at least a whole day, (or more!) worth of training for each element of the process. But, as always, be sure to go at the trainee’s own pace.
Every salesperson is different, and they will have different strengths and challenges.
Maybe they are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the product, but they are naturally introverted and have a hard time breaking the ice. Maybe they’re gung-ho about asking for the sale, but it takes them more time to learn how to overcome objections on the fly.
Regardless, move at their pace and make sure they are comfortable with each of these elements… because they’re all crucial.
Don’t criticize. Encourage self-awareness.
Most people are their own worst critics.
Let’s say an experienced salesperson spends their efforts pointing out every little thing that the new hire does wrong. Chances are, the trainee already knows that they screwed up, and now it’s being pointed out to them. Consistently.
Is there anything better guaranteed to kill enthusiasm?
Instead of nitpicking every little misstep, the goal for the trainer is to encourage the trainee to have confidence in their own ability.
The best way to do this? Ask questions.
Since most trainees understand when they did something wrong, you don’t need to point it out. Ask them questions about it. “Do you know what happened there? Why do you think they responded that way?” Many times, the trainee already knows the answer and is able to learn and adapt.
These types of questions move the focus away from the fact that something did go wrong to the question of what went wrong. And, from there, how to improve.
By leading trainees to be aware and self-correct on their own, it builds confidence… and an expectation to be constantly learning and growing in their position.
When are they ready to sell on their own?
So if every new hire moves at their own pace, and the field trainer is being sensitive to that, how do they know specifically when they are ready to move on without backup?
It’s important not to cut a new rep loose too early. If they are not prepared to sell, they will see an exponentially high amount of rejections and failed presentations at an impressionable time in their career.
If you don’t see the trainee performing at a level where they can regularly succeed, don’t let them continuously fail. It will torpedo their confidence and set an expectation of failure, rather than success.
So have trainers keep an eye on how the new hire moves through the sales process. Can they move from step to step without faltering or relying on help? If they get stuck at a particular step, make sure you spend enough time with them to get them through their sticky points.
Now, put yourself in the customer’s position. If you were in a position to buy your product, could the trainee sell you?
If the answer is yes, they are ready to hit the field running and contribute to the success of your sales team!
Of course, when it comes to learning and improving, a sales agent’s work is never done. Which is why follow-up training is important. We’ll talk about that in our next post.
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