Onboarding a New Salesperson

Onboarding a New Sales Person

I heard a story from a colleague about her first day as an outside sales representative. “I was supposed to meet my new boss at a local coffee shop at 9:00 am. I waited for him to arrive for about 30 minutes and then called him, somewhat in a panic, thinking that I was at the wrong meeting place. No answer, no response. Around 3:00 that afternoon, he called me back to tell me that he was confused about the day, had other stuff going on, and that it would be better if we met a couple of days later.”

Hearing this story almost sent me into a state of shock. What kind of message did the “no-show” deliver? What did it do to her level of enthusiasm and motivation, right out of the gate?

While this story is undoubtedly out of the ordinary, many managers do rush through the onboarding process in hopes of getting the new person up and running—out selling, as quickly as possible. When designed with thought and intention, the onboarding process provides the foundation for future success. Pulled together haphazardly, or not done at all, it has the potential to be a costly mistake.   

Here are my Do’s and Don’t’s when onboarding a new salesperson:

  1. Provide an Overview of the Onboarding Period. You need to have a plan for the training/onboarding, ideally in writing for easy reference. Establish goals.  Articulate what you want the employee to have learned and mastered by the end of the period. Doing so demonstrates that you are serious about success and have given thought to what it will take.

  2. Plan, but be Flexible. As important as it is to have a plan in place, recognize that everyone learns differently, and at a different pace. Also, business needs may cause you to move things around. Communicate this on the first day.

  3. Share Your Mission and Vision. When employees feel connected to a purpose beyond their actual responsibilities, their motivation level increases. The best time to lay this foundation is on day one. Consider the Bricklayer parable:

    Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.

  4. Build Connections and Relationships. As much as you want your employees to feel connected to your company’s purpose, you want them to connect with the team and the other players. As part of the orientation, build in time for genuine relationships to blossom. Schedule team lunches, job shadowing, etc. Establishing a mentor can be a huge win. The new employee has a second resource. You can delegate some of the training responsibility. The mentor has an opportunity to develop and feels valued.

  5. Celebrate. A small welcome gift or a note expressing your excitement demonstrates that you are a class act and look forward to more celebrations to come.  

Starting on the right footing does not guarantee success, but it serves as a great foundation. Take advantage of this opportunity to take the next step in building a top-performing team and culture.

Client Referrals and Recommendations: Asking is a Good Thing!

I was recently involved in a sales discussion, where one of the folks posed a topic to discuss. “I hate asking customers for recommendations or referrals. It feels, well…pushy. It’s like I’m making it about me instead of about them.”

I get it. The most trusted salespeople focus on the needs of the client and not their personal agendas. It’s all about the client. As a result, asking for an endorsement can feel uncomfortable, as though it is in opposition to customer centricity.

Simply stated, the testimony of a happy customer is one of the best possible marketing tools. Seeking recommendations is not mutually exclusive from taking care of the customer.

A few tips:

  1. Start with your best clients—those with whom you have the best relationships and that you know are achieving their desired results.

  2. Shift your perspective. Remember, people like to help people. Typically, if you have a happy customer, they will want to help you.

  3. Begin the conversation by asking if they are pleased with your product, service, their results, etc. If they are happy, you are in an ideal position to ask “do you know of anyone else who would benefit?” or “Would you be willing to talk with a potential customer about your experience with me?”

Regularly asking questions about the customer’s experience is a smart practice overall. If you receive critical feedback, you’ve gained additional knowledge and an opportunity to make the client happier. When you hear positive comments, your efforts are affirmed. Asking for referrals/recommendations becomes increasingly natural, and everyone wins.

Holding Time and Space for Your Team


In the educational publishing world, where I spent the first 20+ years of my career, we would generate almost 70% of the business for the year during the spring. January through April was like running a marathon, necessitating 60 to 65-hour work weeks. It was the nature of our sales cycle.

The first week of March represented the halfway point in this race. It was also the time of our “spring meeting,” where we would convene to review what was/was not working and map out our strategies for the rest of the spring.

Some years, at the same time in my northern geography, the weather would break, and the smell of spring would permeate the air.

Unconsciously, I began rewarding myself in some way each March. The first year, I purchased a Coach station bag, classic black with the aroma of good leather. It was an extravagant purchase for 24-year old me, but carrying it put an extra skip into my step. A friend of mine planned a 3-day ski weekend each year to accomplish the same.

As I grew into a leader, I, even more, appreciated the spring “midpoint” and the accompanying spring meeting. We would spend a precious couple of days, not just strategizing, but slowing down the pace, recognizing our hard work, and celebrating our team. A nice dinner, lots of laughs, and “let’s make sure to wrap up by noon so that you guys are all home to start your weekend early” demonstrated that I valued their well-being and had their backs.

As a result, they, too, had a bit more skip in their step during the second half of the race.

The most talented and dedicated teams, when immersed in a long and arduous project, will be laser-focused on the prize, and will work, work, work, even to the point of exhaustion. Holding time and space for folks to come up for air and experience joy reinvigorates the team so that best results ensue, while morale and loyalty build.

Promoting Your Superstar to Manager


You are a business owner or leader, and you are looking to hire a sales leader. You might be thinking, “This is a no-brainer. I’ll promote my top performing sales rep. He’ll train everyone to do what he does, and sales will go through the roof!”

Not so fast. More often than not, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen, as the two positions require very different skill sets and motivators.

Over the years, I have known many highly successful salespeople who have jumped into a sales leadership role thinking it to be the “next logical step,” and quickly found it to be the wrong fit.

“All I do is deal with drama…I didn’t sign up to be HR.”

“Why don’t they just listen!”

“I’m tired of being a babysitter.”

“I just want to be responsible for myself.”

I’m not trying malign salespeople. I love the selling environment for many reasons and have surrounded myself with these folks my entire adult life. But let’s face it, many salespeople march to the beat of their own drum, like to create their own rules, and are a bit egocentric. Those qualities, while extremely helpful in sales, do not an effective sales leader make.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before making this jump and potentially putting the right talent into the wrong seat.

Does s/he find joy in helping others? A strong sales leader loves to teach and relishes in the success of his/her direct reports.

Is s/he a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person? I’m not looking for Pollyanna, but sales leaders must be optimistic and solution-oriented. No whining and no dwelling on problems.

Does s/he build genuine credibility with others? A foundation of trust is critical. This person tries to do what is best, and not just what is in his/her best interest. S/he is known for “having everyone’s backs.”

Is s/he self-aware and able to self-regulate? People are people and people have personal “stuff.” It’s essential for a leader to understand this notion and take things in stride without displaying frustration.

An effective sales leader learns how to amplify the employees’ strengths and mitigate their shortcomings. S/he wants the best for his/her people and makes them want to give their very best in return. Doing so requires advocacy, optimism, humility, and emotional intelligence. These words may or may not describe your sales superstar. Proceed judiciously.