Organizing and training new sales reps are two of the most rewarding tasks a manager or business owner can do, but they frequently are among the most mishandled. Few understand that salespeople require as much or more structure than any other job in the company. “Just go out there and bring in some sales” is a common misconception, which shows little regard for the value that a well-organized sales team can create. To optimize your sales team’s production, a training system is key.

Call of Duty

First, institute a pre-call planning procedure. New sales reps genuinely appreciate the guidance and are usually eager to implement anything that will help them be successful. Pre-call planning lays out the questions the sales reps should ask and information to obtain. General guidelines to a 30-second commercial, objection handling, and ballpark pricing are always welcomed by new reps in pre-call planning.

We find that the most important area where reps need pre-call planning is with next steps and what to ask the prospect to do if the call goes well. Salespeople cannot close a sale if they do not know what to ask of the prospect. Make sure to include a list of next steps and how to ask the prospect about these in your pre-call planning guidelines. Enormous revenue is lost by companies when the salesperson ineptly says, “Can I call you next week?” because they don’t know what the better next step is or what else to ask the prospect to do.

In order to support accountability and get reps into a pre-call planning routine, also utilize a post-call de-briefing checklist. This is no more complicated than making sure the salespeople did their pre-call planning, that they were prepared, and they utilized the suggested questions and next steps. In general, a useful practice for all managers who ask employees to plan something in advance is to always follow up later about the results of that planning.

On the Clock

Finally, managers need to ensure that reps know what tasks are expected at specific hours of the day. All sales activities should be ranked in three categories: tasks done during normal working hours, tasks performed during non-business hours, and tasks that should not be done at all.

Expense reports and call reports are important, but do they really need to be worked on during prime selling hours? Most emails and research can be done at quiet business times when prospects are not available to speak with reps. At Sandler Training, we call the prime selling hours “Pay Time.” Those are the best business hours for prospecting, meetings and presentations—not for paperwork and research. Only revenue-producing activities should be done during “Pay Time.”

Tasks that should not be done by salespeople include production assistance, most deliveries, unnecessary follow-ups with unqualified prospects, and creating data sheets or handouts. One of my biggest pet peeves is improper prospect list development. Developing a list of prospects to call on is extremely important, yet new salespeople are very ineffective at it.

Through many years of working with thousands of salespeople, I’ve come to the conclusion that new reps should never be allowed to create lists. Their manager should be handling or overseeing this important task because it takes enormous time away from the new salesperson’s time to prospect and sell.

New salespeople may spend hours researching and investigating leads when they should just pick up the phone or go someplace (not in the office) where they can find and speak to prospects. Good prospect lists can be purchased from reputable list suppliers, or you can have an office administrator learn to do research or list harvesting.