The 3 things you need to get right when scaling a sales machine

Between laste 2011 and early 2013, the LivingSocial team in France scaled it’s revenue by over 3x. Obviously a lot of things went into this effort, but the one key factor was alignment. The team managed to get alignment in these 3 key areas, and things started to click:

1) Recruiting – Hiring Profile
2) Onboarding – Onboarding Plan
3) Sales Management – 90 -180 day plan

Recruiting / Onboarding

In this first step, the main focus is on creating and applying a hiring profile. The conflict that arises most often is that the onboarding trainers believe they’re not getting great recruits, and the recruiters think that the onboarding trainers aren’t setting these new employees up for success.

Hiring, Training, Managing

To defuse this situation, you need a hiring profile that was built on the existing high-performing and low-performing team members. See the previous BTM post here on the topic, but going through the process of building this profile as a team will get everyone bought in.

Once everyone knows the profile, and the organization starts hiring against it, the quality of incoming candidates should start to stabilize. It may not go through the roof, but at least it will be more consistent, which makes it easier for onboarding to identify which skills to teach as a starting point for the whole new hire training program. As the on-boarding team trains these new hires, they also can provide a critical feedback loop to recruiters/sales hiring around the hits and misses on the hiring profile.

To help sales hiring/recruiting understand that the new team members are being set up for success, it’s also critical to communicate the new hire training to everyone. Everything from the new employee receiving their InstantCard ID badge, to signing them off as a fully-fledged team member. If the team has not been through the new hire training themselves, they need to understand how the training was built and what content was included. If they believe the content is good, then they will be able to sell new team members on the quality of the training, and they’ll also feel like these new employees are being treated with care.

On-boarding / Sales Management

The typical conflict seen in this relationship forms around the expectations for new hires. Often sales management expects new team members to come out of on-boarding with skills similar to their existing experienced sales people, which is clearly unrealistic. This often leads sales managers into the trap of believing the issue lies with the new employee, and questioning whether the new team member should be part of the team at all. As Mark Roberge points out in Sales Acceleration Formula….

So how do we fix this? First, its about having a new hire plan that both the trainers and the sales managers believe in. The onboarding plan needs to be realistic, it needs to recognize that top performers didn’t learn everything they needed to learn in their careers in new hire training in the first week.

I like to think of it as a minimum agreed quality bar, where trainers aim to get all new hires to master a consistent set of bare minimum skills. What this does is it gives managers an understanding of where they need to pickup when those team members leave new hire training and become the responsibility of the sales manager. If every new sales person joining the team joins with completely different base skills, its more difficult for the manager to pickup where new hire training left off. For example, if the sales manager knows that the person at least understands how to use salesforce, how to use the internal administrative tools, and a basic script, then the manager can immediatly start building on that foundation with objection handling, etc.

Once training and sales management are aligned on the skills new sales professionals will receive in new hire training, the next step is the post new hire training onboarding plan. As mentioned above, managers have a bias towards concluding that its the sales person’s fault as opposed to concluding that its their poor sales coaching. To help offset this bias, the organization needs to set concrete expectations for how much help a new employee receives from their manager in the first 90-180 days on the team. This number may vary depending on the length of the sale, but the goal is to have a fairly rigorous curriculum that sales managers are expected to use to ramp up their new hires. For example, week one could include sourcing 100 leads in their territory, week two could be calling all these leads, etc. The manager is the person ultimately held accountable for executing this plan and for making the sales person successful.

Recruiting / Sales Management

Just like the previous two steps, there can be conflict if the managers don’t believe the team is hiring the right people. The solution is that the managers need to be bought in to the hiring profile, and need to be committed to applying it in interviews. Article about hiring prof

This is the final step that closes the loop between recruiting, training / on-boarding, and sales management. It brings the process full circle, and should be the first step in iterating based on your learnings. Once you’ve built out version one of this entire process, you can make improvements by modifying the hiring profile, the the new hire training, then team on-boarding, etc.

In a follow on post we’ll talk about tactics for getting alignment between the teams. The critical first step is simply recognizing the different pieces required to build a sales machine, and making an attempt for them o fit together in a logical way. If they don’t, the consequences will be dear… turn-over , low productivity, and low morale will reign.