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How soon will a new sales person be fully productive?

# 42 March 2015

A lot of companies experience a problem in the time it takes for a new sales person to be fully productive. From the companies we have met this time varies from a couple of months to three years. In some cases the new sales person will leave, before being fully productive

Factors that influence the phase-in time are previous sales experience, experience in the industry, the complexity of your offering, and the sales cycle time.

Regardless, you may speed up this process. We see successful companies addressing the following areas to shorten the ramp-up time to full productivity.

1. Sales territories
For which customers (existing and potential) is the new sales person responsible?

Balance the sales territories between your sales people, allowing the new sales person to work on customers with a reasonable potential.

Over and over, we see examples where new sales people are left with customers no one else wants. We also see experienced sales people sitting on a bigger customer base than they can fully cover, but are reluctant to let go. In these companies they are not approaching the true potential of the market.
It is imperative that new sales have reasonable sales territories – not just left-overs of customers and prospects.

2. Targets
When and how do you set the targets for new sales people?

Set targets already from the first day.

Even if it’s difficult to decide upon a revenue target from day 1, you should at least be able to set activity targets: Examples are ”to have contacted half the companies on the prospect list during the first month”, “to have created X no of new business opportunities within the first quarter”.

The advantage of activity targets is that you can track the progress of the new sales person from the start, even though the orders have not started to come in yet. To follow up on activity targets will also give you an indication on what the sales person will deliver later on, which also makes it easier to set the revenue targets earlier.

Another important aspect of setting targets is to establish the lowest level of expectation: For example “to close your first order within the next two months”, “to sell for at least XX $ during the first six months”.

3. Coaching
How do you manage and develop a new sales person?

New sales people need coaching, at least weekly.

Sales management need to ensure that new sales people get started – and keep up – with their sales activities. And the sales people need assistance in the business opportunities they are driving, as well.
Another aspect of the coaching is also for the sales manager to do joint visits to educate and to ensure the quality of the sales behaviour.

The coaching is certainly easier with a more experienced and skilled new sales person, but even for the most experienced, it is vital that they are coached.

Recruiting a new sales person is an investment. Successful sales organisations ensure they get maximum return on this investment.