Training a New Salesman

A cabinetmaker who has just hired his first salesman gets advice on how to orient and train the new hire. August 13, 2007

Just took in a salesman, my first. I have a sales kit mini cabinet, moulding samples, countertop samples, etc. I am having a hard time deciding what to teach first and what is the most effective method.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor K:
Well, you didn't mention the individual's qualifications and/or experience, or the size of your company, so I will approach this as if he/she is experienced in sales, but not necessarily in our industry... This could actually be a mini-book, but here's a truncated version.

1. First and foremost, training on company policies (hopefully from an employee manual, with dated read-receipt attached), and the expectations of their role (including sales expectations, lead generation, etc.).

2. Company-specific info:
- a. History of the company
- b. What sets your company apart
- c. Company Sales Process (Assuming this is documented, i.e., how did you get to the point where you needed a salesperson? You must have had a successful presentation.)
- d. Review/Inculcation of Company Pricing Structure and methods, along with real-world examples (past jobs, pricing mistakes, change orders, sales agreements, etc.)
- e. Department review - have them meet with everyone involved with the sales and service process. Administrative, Shop Manager, Project Manager, fabrication, installation, etc. (or whatever staff you have, so they know who does what).

3. Field-Training - After the above has been completed, have the newbie accompany you on no less than three, ideally five sales presentations. By the third or fifth presentation, they should be spreading their wings and running the presentation with you in the back seat observing (can also be used as a closing technique). From the beginning, if you prepare on-site quotes, have the newbie put into practice what they learned above (rather than sit there and watch) and compare notes afterwards to see if they "get it". If you prepare quotes post-presentation for followup, have them run the numbers, and again, compare notes. Note: Before going out on their first appointment with you, they need to be tested in some form. By the way, their first field presentation should be within the first week of employment, so they hit the ground running...

Set 'em loose... You may have to burn some leads in the beginning, but a way to avoid this is to play the owner card. If an appointment went badly, call back as the owner, and salvage the deal.

As far as sales techniques, estimating skills, people skills, leading the buyer, setting up the sales environment (where to sit and when not to, reading the buyers, who's the boss, identifying and pressing buyers' hot selling buttons, using their ears more than their mouth, interviewing the prospect), etc. Books and tapes have been written by sales gurus all across the land.

This should get you started, and give the newbie a sense of structure.

P.S. - After years of in-home sales presentations, I've found that most homeowners prefer the informal, consultative (i.e. - you're the expert, help me define what I see in my head, but don't "sell" me anything) format... But everyone has their own method. Most people don't like talking to a salesperson, but they feel much more comfortable if you come off as someone who knows what they are talking about, and can get them from A-Z with the least amount of pain.

From contributor J:
I agree with contributor K that product knowledge is the single most important thing from the customers' point of view. People buy from me because they know they are getting good info about the product and the possibilities, and none of that sales BS.

From contributor S:
This may sound odd, but you might want him to record conversations with clients. He tells them it is so he can make sure he has covered all the bases when putting together a proposal. We have had salespeople before, and when I would ask what the customer wants, they would sometimes forget important facts. You then have to go back over the same questions, which makes your company look bad. You can make all the notes you want, but in chatting you may miss things that mean a lot to the client. Your salesman brings the tapes back and then you can go over them and quote properly. If a customer says "I never said I wanted red counters," you have it on tape. No misunderstandings because of third person conversations.

From contributor B:
I have never had a salesman record a conversation unless I was calling a 1-800 number ("This phone call may be recorded..."). That is too strange. Don't do that, but instead take notes as soon as the customer meeting is over. They don't care that you are sitting in your car for 5 minutes after the meeting, they have work to do. A new salesperson should write down everything they can remember about the meeting - even the stuff about their kids, where they are from, etc. This won't be necessary later on, but starting out, they are on major overload, so notes are a must. Contributor K is right on target!