This is a guest post by George Langan. George has had a diverse career as the CEO of a number of software startups, a sales trainer at the AT&T National Sales School and the VP of sales at two major software companies. He’s hired, trained, and managed hundreds of sales people and sales managers. He is currently the CEO of SalesMentor™ LLC a sales technology company and a Customer Centric Selling® Partner. George can be reached at email@example.com.
Getting From Zero to Quota
Programs for ramping up sales representatives range from very structured training to more of a sink-or-swim approach. At AT&T, when I was a new sales person, I got three months of intense training and testing before I was released to a field manager. On the other hand, a small software company where I worked had a “Ramp Program” that consisted of one simple bit of advice, “Call on big companies.” A comprehensive ramp program doesn’t need to be overly complex, but it needs to give sales people the knowledge that they need to sell into a marketplace and a methodology to certify that they are ready to achieve quota. Cutting ramp time by a month or two can have a large impact on revenue, so it is worth the investment. Here are the key components of a ramp program:
Successful business-to-business sales reps understand the industry into which they sell. They are knowledgeable about the trends in the industry, common problems faced by prospects and goals of senior executives in the market. The most successful sales people have the ability to have situation-based conversations that are relevant to senior executives. With all of the resources available today there is no excuse for failing to become educated on on the industry, current trends and thought leaders. Certification, can be as causal as a conversation that gives the sales manager confidence that the sales person is industry fluent, or it could be a formal testing & role playing method that require a passing grade.
Most sales training focuses on product knowledge. While it’s certainly important that sales people know the product offering, companies run the risk of developing a sales focus that is overly dependent on “ feeds and speeds” and demos. That stuff may be important to the sale, but it shouldn’t come before the sales representative truly understands the goals & problems of the prospect and gets access to decision makers. Product training needs to frame problems that the product and features address with an emphasis on converting features to usage scenarios. Certification should focus on the sales person’s ability to frame the products capabilities to help prospects achieve the common industry goals or solve common industry problems. While mastering the product details is necessary, it is the sales persons ability to know how to relate use cases relevant to the buyer that will make them successful.
Companies that religiously apply a sales methodology close 52% more deals and have more control over the pipeline than companies that don’t have a formalized sales methodology. A good sales methodology is a detailed process that provides a framework for every prospect interaction. There should be documentation that confirms the interactions between the salesperson and the prospect and validates the prospect’s agreement on what has happened and what are next steps in the process. Tactical marketing should supply sales with tools to implement the methodology. Part of the “Tool Kit” should include, conversation lists, 30 second success stories, telephone scripts, sample emails, templates, and other material to be used to measure an account’s progress through the pipeline. Certification should include role playing to test the rep’s ability to apply the principals of the methodology and use the tool kit in simulated calls and meetings.
New sales people are often faced with the “How do I get started?” dilemma and wonder what to do first. A good territory plan lists a series of activities and the appropriate sales tools to help define the sales person’s activities. In terms of certification, sales managers should be setting territory goals and should monitor progress in a bi-weekly check in.
I hope you’ve noticed that each segment of the ramp plan has an associated certification. Certification is important to any learning program as it validates the participant’s success as well as provides feedback about the trainers and the materials. It’s also important to keep in mind that seasoned sales people have a wealth of knowledge and provide inspiration and add intelligence to your ramp program. Why not ask them, “What do you wish you knew on day one?” The answer might be surprising. Good luck and good selling.