Hiring and training sales reps is one of the more difficult challenges for entrepreneurs that aren’t experienced sales managers. I’ve talked to a number of entrepreneurs over the years that have tried hiring their first sales person only to have it fail multiple times, so much so that the entrepreneur continues to be the lone sales person in the company. Now, the sales assistant should be an entrepreneur’s first sales hire but most entrepreneurs, after deciding they want someone to come in and sell for them, want it to be completely taken care of and watch revenue magically come in the door.
SaaS startups in early adopter markets are even more dependent on developing a great sales team due to the nature of early adopter markets whereby there’s a lack of market awareness such that people aren’t even searching Google for the product because they don’t know it exists (this is one case where inbound marketing doesn’t work). As the SaaS startup grows, the need to scale out the sales team grows even faster, creating an acute need for sales rep training programs. Most companies, and especially startups, don’t train their sales people enough.
When developing a sales rep training program internally or evaluating outsourced ones, here a few things to keep in mind:
- Soft skills like presence on the phone need to be taught, in addition to more formal methodologies like Solution Selling or SPIN Selling
- Quality sales training with have some in-person training, some e-learning, and continual professional development indefinitely with the first year being the most critical
- An intense first week of hard core training is often a great way to set a foundation
- Mentoring from and shadowing of a senior rep is a great way to get some of the fuzzier, harder to document items transferred to a new hire
- Sales managers and executives are often the best to train new reps but their time is actually more valuable working with proven reps to help them be even more successful
Startups should outsource most sales training and focus on what’s core to their business while continually investing in their people. Sales rep training is hard to do well and it’s often not done, contributing to the hire failure rate of sales reps.
What else? What are your thoughts on sales rep training programs and what training firms do you recommend? Does anyone have a sales rep finishing school they’d recommend?