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Why Sales Managers
Struggle with
New Salespeople

In our research into the travails of new salespeople, one of the blaring issues discovered was a lack of solid advice in getting started. Ironically, most of these “new guys” relate similar stories. After a short introduction to the company, a tutorial on how to submit expense reports and a conversation covering some miscellaneous HR details, these newbies are handed a list of customers, or a map showing their territorial geography and sent on their merry way with three objectives:

  • Introduce themselves to new customers.
  • Make sales calls to a few existing but mostly inactive customers.
  • Discover new opportunities for their company.

Along the way, there may be a few days of riding along with an experienced salesperson, a week in the inside sales department and the promise of a factory training school in the fall, but there is little training or guidance on how to meet their three objectives.

Typically, the job of providing that training/guidance falls on the sales manager. Herein lies the issue. Most sales managers do not have a clear process for onboarding new salespeople. While this might be overcome by applying many hours of tutelage, one-on-one conversations and coaching, very few sales managers have the luxury of devoting that much time. Worse yet, many sales managers don’t realize how new customer interactions work in an internet-driven, post-pandemic world.

Let’s investigate the topic of the “next generation” new customer interaction. Most experienced sales managers began their selling career 10, 15 or more years ago. Even a decade ago, the environment was different— much different. Consider the following:

  • More than 80% of customers research new products online before making buying decisions. A decade ago, the number was in the single digits. Customers depended on salespeople for product information. A new seller was viewed as a potential source of information on new products and technologies. Today, the opposite is the case.
  • Customers don’t want to “waste time” with a salesperson who doesn’t add value. Research indicates customers want to see a salesperson when they can answer detailed product questions and provide problem-solving application expertise, otherwise gaining an appointment is difficult. This presents major challenges for the new seller who is still learning the products.
  • Customers are nearly impossible to reach. All the COVID-driven, remote working and other changes in customer structure have created a situation where a personally answered phone call is a unique event. Further, potential customers rarely call back when they believe the person dialing them could be a salesperson. With hectic schedules and millions of spam calls generated daily, is this a wonder?
  • Our supply partners are less willing to invest in our new sellers. The field sales teams are less open to carrying out one-on-one tutoring sessions for new sellers. The situation is they are already stretched with time constraints, and many are burned out because other distributors are asking for the same special treatment. Further exacerbating the situation, factory schools, the gold standard for distributor training, are now offered fewer times per year.
  • Distributor strategy has shifted from product to solution-centric selling. For the past half-century, distributors led with their line cards. Today, if you “plunk” a line card down in front of a new prospective customer, their eyes glaze over, and your visit will be short. Customers can find a hundred suppliers of any brand in seconds with a quick flick of their wrist and a Google search. Sadly, when most sales managers were launching their career, the prevailing wisdom was to present the line card and toss out a few words about every company listed.
What Does a New Salesperson Need to Know?

For most sales managers, the mechanics of the job are second nature. I see this “unconscious sales behavior” demonstrated by nearly every experienced salesperson—including sales managers. Over the years they have developed a sense for interacting with customers, but if you asked them to layout or flow-chart their plan, lots of handwaving takes place. Simply put, they can’t explain the mechanics of important interactions.

Some of the skills required today were not needed back when the sales manager was launching their career. A good example of one of these new needs is the process required for setting appointments. There are hundreds of high-performing sellers who aren’t particularly good at setting appointments with new people. Using the force of their reputation and the backdrop of previous service provided, they can easily get an appointment with existing contacts. A few of the best have learned to ask existing customer contacts to help them set appointments with strangers. All good, but a new salesperson rarely has this luxury.

As I did the research for my latest book—The New Sales Guy Project—I found myself continuously thinking about my process. I asked myself, if I were a “new guy” specifically, what would I need to be a success in my profession?

Here are the main points:
  • How would I organize the massive amount of information required for the future?
  • How would I manage to quickly learn the thousands of new products and still have time to sleep?
  • What information should I gather about my current and potential accounts ahead of my first interactions with them?
  • I need appointments. Is it possible to get busy people to take the time to meet with me?
  • What should my first impression look like and how do I avoid looking like another drive-by salesman?
  • Is it possible to turn a first meeting into an ongoing relationship?
  • How do I manage the hundreds of commitments I will be making on behalf of myself and my company?
The New Sales Guy Project

After investing more than four years and working closely with more than 200 new sellers in Knowledge-Base Distribution, I have compiled the answers to these questions and a lot more into a manual for a seller’s first year in selling.

This book is personal. This book is an investment in the future. This book will make a difference in the life and career of a new sales professional. What’s even better, getting new salespeople up to speed faster will trim thousands of dollars from their company’s investment in a new salesperson. With experts telling us a distributor invests more than $150,000 to bring a new seller up to speed, how can you not invest in getting them off to a solid start?

The only remaining question is how many copies do you need for your team?