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3 Ways To Help New B2B Sales Reps Avoid Early Collapse

Apr 11th, 2018

Data rules the world. A phrase you’ve surely heard 1,000 times remains just as true in 2018: We track everything from plane ticket prices to calorie consumption and even how much sleep we’re getting.

The reality is no different in B2B sales, where sales managers can track which reps make the most calls, close the biggest deals, hold the best win rate and many other statistics that highlight success and failure in the sales organization.

So what’s a sales manager to do when a new rep isn’t meeting goals? What if the newbie is struggling to close that first deal, despite completing the sales onboarding program with ease? Maybe more prospecting and discovery calls need to be made. Or maybe the calls are simply going off the rails.

Whatever the issue, B2B sales managers need to examine measurements they can directly influence before focusing on sales pipeline and other areas they only indirectly affect, according to Brainshark Chief Readiness Officer Jim Ninivaggi.

“Pretend the sales manager is a hitting coach. ‘We need to work on the rookie’s hitting, but I don’t know what to work on. I just know his batting average has dropped.’ That happens in sales,” Ninivaggi said. “Organizations don’t watch the swing of the hitter. Too often, managers are managing through spreadsheets and CRM. They just track the results. If this salesperson hasn’t closed a deal in their first 60 days, what’s wrong?”

Diagnosing what’s really giving your new sales reps trouble can prove tricky. Ninivaggi outlined 3 actions sales managers should take when their new hires are struggling.

Perform A Sales Readiness Assessment

Sales managers that don’t verify whether their reps truly understand company products and messaging will be handicapping the value of their sales onboarding and training programs. At worst, they could be costing the company relationships and revenue by turning unprepared reps loose on prospects. This is what makes assessment so valuable.

Assessments can consist of quizzes and tests, but more effective methods require reps to practice selling situations in person or via video coaching, where they can demonstrate and articulate the knowledge they’ve acquired. This can apply to prospecting calls, product demos, negotiation calls and other situations.

The sales enablement team at Brainshark, for instance, will build out structured role play scenarios where key information is withheld unless reps ask the right questions. (Example: the prospect’s manager turnover rate is 50% per year!)

Afterward, the sales enablement team can review video of the role play exercise. This allows team members to evaluate a rep’s ability to make value statements, handle common objections and secure commitment from the prospect . They’ll ultimately recommend whether the rep is ready for the field or needs more sales coaching. If it’s the latter, sales managers can rest easy knowing reps are making their mistakes during the sales training process and not in front of buyers.

“Assessing is about ensuring the rep has the knowledge and skill to do a specific activity. Knowledge we can check through quizzes and tests, but skills have to be observed. This is where the video coaching assessment comes in,” Ninivaggi said. “I can’t tell you why your swing is off unless we watch you.”

[Related: What Is Sales Readiness? And Why Should You Care?]

Measure Sales Rep Activity

Sales managers also need to track whether reps are engaging in activities that directly lead to sales pipeline and revenue generation. Too often, managers are worried about playing “big brother” – trusting that their reps, especially the new ones, are doing the right activities at the right level. Here at Brainshark, we look at rep activity (such as sales calls, prospecting calls and emails sent) very carefully.

If a rep’s activity volume is too low, or if the rep is not pursuing the right sales activities, it’s only natural that your sales results will take a hit.

“The top salespeople are usually the ones with the most activity; it doesn’t guarantee you will close more deals, but if you have no activity, you won’t be closing any deals,” Brainshark Chief Sales Officer Colleen Honan said.

Really Analyze your Sales Results

Being certified as ready and engaging in the right activities won’t matter if your sales reps aren’t producing the desired outcomes. It’s up to sales managers to evaluate why this might be the case.

“Is it game-time choking? Are they in a bad territory?” Ninivaggi said. “I sold into financial services companies in 2008. Not a great time to be selling financial services. There are times that rep performance will be impacted by things outside their, or their manager’s, control.”

Even when reps possess the right skills and knowledge, a lack of mental poise can hurt their ability to handle the natural twists and turns of a sales conversation. Nurturing confidence in new reps is key, and if doing so becomes a recurring struggle, the organization might need to reexamine its sales training and onboarding process.

Brainshark requires all new sales reps to demo its sales enablement software in front of CEO Greg Flynn. Whether the reps succeed or struggle, compelling them to face a high-pressure situation and a customer with superior product knowledge is beneficial in the end, Ninivaggi said.

“On a sales call, nothing ever goes exactly the way you plan it,” Ninivaggi said. “If you don’t have the confidence to listen for queues and ask questions, then you go back to what you know, and then the call goes off the rails. Experienced salespeople have that confidence because they know how to roll with the punches.”

READ MORE: Want to learn how you can prepare sales reps for any situation? Download a free copy of our eBook on the 4 Pillars of Sales Readiness and find out for yourself today!