Prior to their first sales job, people grow up having experiences as customers, watching others as customers, or hearing stories of the buying experience. Depending on whether those stories are positive or negative, the listener will make up in their mind if sales is a good or dirty word.
Then they will go to work for your company as a salesperson. Maybe they need a job or maybe they love the idea of helping people buy. In my experience, most companies get blindsided by their reps’ failure because they just assume people aren’t bringing any baggage with them. But we are all human, so wherever we go and whatever we do, we bring our past experiences.
Identify Their MindsetThe first step for improving your sales team is identifying where the issues are and what can be fixed. When training new sales hires, organizations often treat everyone as if they all need the same information and have the same mindsets coming into their roles. Even if you are aware that people will have different lenses for how they see the world, and even if you build your training to get everyone on the same mindset plane, you will be more effective when you know your starting point.
A salesperson’s success starts with the recruiting phase. Selecting those who will be the best fit will start the new hire off on a good path. Whenever possible, have the hiring manager identify the potential new hire’s mindset when it comes to how they view sales. Do they have a positive or negative association with it? Do they feel that to win at selling requires manipulating, pushing, or tricking people into buying? Or do they feel that sales equals service and that their role will be to help the right people buy, which will improve their life in some way?
The goal is not to hire people who have no baggage or negative past experiences with salespeople. Rather, you’ll need to filter out the candidates who have been burned so badly they won’t be effective in a selling role, and you’ll need to know the general mindset of those who enter into your training program.
Train Them Not to Take OrdersMost new hire sales training programs focus on the knowledge needed for selling that product. It’s about features and benefits. It’s (hopefully) about the proven sales process: following the proper steps to move a prospective client forward while overcoming objections. In my experience, an excellent training program will also teach the skill of persuasion. For most companies, that is a small part of the focus—they tend to assume people will know how to sell and that they just need to be taught what they are selling.
The sales organization fallacy is that someone who wants to work in sales and was hired for a selling role will succeed because they are motivated by money. They are there to work hard and smart, close as many deals as they can, and have an unlimited earning capacity. Yes, that will be the case for some people in sales. But many will default to their comfort zone.
Part of your job in training and developing salespeople is to provide that new hire with mindset-shifting awareness that will keep them from defaulting to order-taker mode. An order-taker usually means well and wants the best for the client but will hold back from what they perceive as being pushy or confrontational, which results in noticeably less production. The world doesn’t want or need pushy or confrontational salespeople. It needs professionals who can guide salespeople to a better place. Once your salespeople realize that sales is an act of service (giving, not taking) for the prospective client, they will start to shift away from order-taker mode and embrace their true role.
Help Them Leave Their Old Baggage BehindWhat gets in someone’s way of becoming a sales professional are their self-imposed limitations based on their past experiences. Your primary task is to help them identify what happened in their past and understand how it drives their current actions. Yes, this sounds a lot like therapy—because in a way it is. The main result you want is for them to realize they are not that “bad” salesperson they dealt with before and that your product provides great value to your clients.
With awareness comes the ability to move past those limiting thoughts and beliefs. Sales leadership should be armed with that awareness and be on the lookout for signs that the salesperson has brought their baggage to their desk and is letting it get in the way of their productivity. This vigilance will facilitate accountability and positive reinforcement in a collaborative way.