By Andrew Urteaga, Sales Benchmark Index (SBI)

A critical issue you face as CEO is how to increase sales productivity. As you head into 2014, you have identified or hired your key sales players. This team is going to help you make the number. You know your tenured reps can get the job done. The unknown factor is the crop of new sales reps. Two-thirds of organizations say ramp takes 15 to 18 months at the very least. This means the new hires will not make an impact until in year 1. Now you have a big issue on your hands. You are going to miss your number.

sales trainingdownload The Fast Start Guide. The guide will help increase the likelihood your new hires hit target goals faster.

Think of on boarding as a 12-month plan. On boarding is not an event it is an enabling success. Event based on boarding risks an increase in failure rates. A plan with a road map is needed. If you lack one you are asking your people to drive blindfolded. Second, you are incurring in year cost without a return. A new hire can run a salary between 85-100K. This does not even include hiring cost, HR admin cost, travel cost, benefits, etc.

A Bad First Impression
When a new hire joins the organization they are full of enthusiasm and confidence. Their first few days consist of paperwork and learning where the bathroom is located. Then off to training back at corporate. The agenda looks something like this:

Day 1

Travel & Dinner

Day 2

Welcome and Introductions History of the Organization Org Charts by department Introduction to Products/Services

Day 3

This day consist of leaders from each department coming in a given an overview of what they do.

Day 4

Review Available Resources CRM Usage Process Overview (Contract processing, Expense reporting, etc.) Sales Methodology Overview Competitive Overview Wrap up

Day 5

Travel Home

There are key ingredients missing on this plan. What customers should I focus on first? Who are my key buyers? How do I reach them? When I do, how do I message to them? How do we differ from our competition? How do we sell against them? What challenges will I face in year 1 and what does success look like? Where do the roles and responsibilities fall? What metrics will be tracked for incremental improvement? The issue here is that you have not equipped the new hire to succeed. You gave him company and product knowledge but no skill development. The enthusiastic beginner has become a disillusioned rep. A disillusioned rep thrashes and usually turns over.

Eliminate the Risk

You need a better plan. The first 12 months are the most critical time for a new hire. How you equip your team out of the gates sets the tone. Download The Fast Start Guide to understand how to lay the proper foundation.

1. Comprehensive Organizational Training- You still need to have a baseline of learning around policies, process, and procedures. Keep it minimal, as these things are easier to digest over time.

2. Comprehensive Sales Training- The training should be intense, motivating and include skill development exercises. Less talking and more role-playing. This sets the tone for what is expected of a new hire. Also allows you to assess skills they will use in the field and redirect/coach.

3. Coaching and Mentoring- You can shorten ramp with ongoing coaching and mentoring.

a.Sales Coaching- Sales Leaders need to be spending 30-40% of their time in the field with their reps. Reinforcing what has been learned and helping the new hire sharpen skill sets.

b.Mentoring- Pairing a new hire with a proven performer helps shorten ramp time. In this case the new hire acts as an observer. A rep can watch in a real environment skill sets being implemented successfully.

4. Leading Indicators- Tracking and reviewing key behaviors and sales activities. Expecting a new hire to close deals immediately in unrealistic. Using a pre-call plan or other sales job aid consistently is a leading indicator of success.

A new hire should be expected to master everything in the first few weeks. The key is to have a plan and develop a timeline for proficiency expectations. In the end new hires can be high maintenance. However, they require the necessary investment to make the number.