This African proverb is equally as applicable to successfully ramping up or on boarding newly hired sales people.

A “village” has never been more necessary than it is right now. Because we live in a face-paced, instant-information, impatient and pressure-packed world.

The business imperative is that new sales people need to be successful as quickly as possible.

As with many things, everything is easy if you’ve never done it before. So, let’s look at the things that can complicate and lengthen ramp time:

Ramp up a successful sales personInternal, and therefore within your control –

  • Complex offerings, whether you are a new entrant or disruptor in an existing market, or you have an expanded breadth of your offering.
  • Verbose or Featured-focused Messaging, especially in high tech firms, who seem to have forgotten about how to be persuasive. Instead of answering the “why should I change?” questions, they obsess over their solutions, focusing on what they do and how they work. That’s great if your prospective customers are already researching a purchase, but most of the time they are too busy running their businesses to consider alternative approaches.

External, therefore something you can manage and adapt to –

  • Information drives analysis, not decisions. Buyers have access to more information than ever, but as information drives analysis this complicates, confuses and slows their ability to decide.
  • Decision making in customers is more complex, with larger and more diverse decision-making units, or even buying committees.

How long should it take to ramp up a new-hire sales person?

The answer is in Dave Kurlan’s ramp up calculator –

Ramp up time = SC + LC + 30 days

SC is the length of your sales cycle and LC is the length of the new hire’s learning curve.

For example: If you have an eight-month sales cycle and a new hire’s learning curve is three months, you have a 12-month ramp-up period.

There will be outliers to this, where a small minority ramp up more quickly, but I’ve found these to be the exception, and I’ve ramped up thousands of sales people in many different companies. This equation gives you a realistic ramp time.

If your new hire is unfamiliar with your industry, but has proven experience in complex selling environments, then add another 60 days.

Hiring and ramping are two sides of the same revenue generating coin, and viewing them as separate could be holding you back.

How do you ramp up as effectively and as quickly as possible?

This starts with answering these four questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of your most successful salespeople?
  2. What type of salesperson do you want to ramp up: a new business hunter or an account manager to protect and grow your share of wallet? What they sell and need will likely be different.
  3. How have you set their targets? What solution focus have you given them, and territory have you assigned them? Are these targets realistic and achievable?
  4. What is your “Yellow Brick Road” to success? How do your existing top performers actually do what they do? Is this known, documented and therefore repeatable?

The components of a successful on-boarding plan and process.

  • Customer success stories
  • Your Yellow Brick Road
  • A fit-for-purpose overview of the job functions within your company that sales must interact with to successfully sell
  • Your point of view and pitch – answers to the question, “why should I consider you?”
  • Understanding of why customers should change to your company instead of maintaining the status quo or building a solution themselves
  • The problems and use cases you most often address and generate revenue from
  • Playbooks

The above needs to be phased in incrementally and delivered in various formats to map to differing learning styles, including:

  • On line/ self-paced
  • Shadowing and ride-a-longs
  • Face-to-face sessions with sales, presales, services and management to answer, test and challenge.

This all needs to be housed in a fit-for-purpose, prescriptive, yet easy to navigate application, which has integrations with your selling system (e.g. Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM,etc.) and is tracked and auditable.

You probably have an idea of who is in your village, but the key is the shared responsibility and intent to all lean-in and do what’s needed. The village’s physical involvement and time is paramount. Also, ensure you have a buddying-up system too, with experienced people working regularly with your new hires.

Tracking true North

Progression checkpoints need to be in place to help all involved understand if progress is being made. Checkpoints vary, but are formal, with objectives and –a deliberate sequence. You’re on the right path if they are sequenced as follows:

  • Day 1 with manager and buddy
  • Week 2 with manager to understand progress and relevance of territory
  • Month 1 with peers and manager to understand how good they are at prospecting and engaging clients with your value proposition.
  • Month 2 with manager to review territory, funnel and initial opportunities (if not done more frequently)
  • Month 3 with managers and their executives – dependent on your region, especially in EMEA, the outcome should be a go forward/ no-go. With all the above in place, you’ll know within 90 days if they’ve got what it takes.

Measurements: in addition to your ramp up time, you need some lead indicators like those below that give insight into how new hires are tracking to success:

  • Number of new leads
  • Number of first meetings
  • Roles met with and agreed-upon next steps
  • Predictable opportunity progression through your sales/ journey stages
  • Target/ quota coverage
  • Time to first deal
  • Time to consistent target/ quota achievement

Ramping up sales people quickly is a tough gig, but put into place the above and you’re on your way to being great.