The Tipping Point, by Malcom Gladwell is a staple in the required reading at most business schools. It’s defined as: That magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.
When applied to new sales hires, I think it can be translated into: That magic moment when your sales person stops costing you money and starts earning you money.
Some people see every new hire as a gamble. I’d prefer to see a new sales hire as an investment. And just like an investment, you have to give a sales person time to appreciate in value. There may be downturns, but patience amidst those downturns can pay off in a big way down the road.
When guiding someone through the trials and tribulations of reaching that tipping point, controlling what you can is important… and there are things you can control:
Give them training – “The Power of Context”
The Power of Context: Human behavior is sensitive to and strongly influenced by its environment.
Every product or service has external forces that are critical for salespeople to understand. This is referred to as “The Power of Context” in The Tipping Point. It’s important to train your salespeople on the context of their role:
- What other forces are at play in the market?
- When are potential customers most likely to buy?
- What is your customer's operating reality?
- How long is a typical sales cycle?
Give them process – “The Law of the Few”
The Law of the Few: the 80/20 rule.
Often times, 80% of a salesperson's success can be tied to 20% of their activities. And these activities can vary from company to company. Sitting down with a top producer in your company can lend some insight into which activities are most important to generating revenue/building experience. If you want your new hire to reach their tipping point as fast as possible, teaching the processes and activities that contribute to the success of your top sales reps is absolutely critical.
Give them time – “The Stickiness Factor”
The Stickiness Factor: The quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea.
Once context is established and good habits begin to form, the only thing left to do is wait for things to become "sticky." Some things can only be gained through experience… and experience can only be gained from time spent:
- Understanding how to handle objections specific to the product/service
- Building out a network of referrals
- Establishing a strong social presence
- Knowing when to pursue lucrative opportunities and when to lose fast
It takes time for social selling to stick in the minds of prospects. It takes time to build out a network of referrals that feed you more leads. It takes time for a person to go from an unfamiliar salesperson to a trusted business partner in the minds of their customers. It takes time to reach “the tipping point.”
It’s worth the wait… because once a salesperson reaches a tipping point, their activities become much more meaningful.
But I get it. Walking the line between sticking with your new sales hire and pouring money into a lost cause can be tricky.
So…How can you know if your investment is worthwhile? At what point should you put your foot down and accept that you made a hiring mistake?
That’s the million-dollar question for hiring managers and business leaders everywhere. And unfortunately, there’s no clear cut, one-size-fits-all answer. But there are ways to inch closer to the answer, as it applies to your own company:
Evaluate your new hire turnover. As you bring on a batch of new people, the percentage that actually stay with the company over a longer period of time may provide insight into whether or not you’re giving up on your new hires too quickly. Ask top producers in the company for their input and come up with a reasonable time frame together.
- Evaluate your onboarding process. Are you providing your new hires with adequate resources to reach their tipping point as fast as possible? This can mean product education, teaching sales hires how to position themselves in the market and on social media, and establishing good processes and habits.
- Evaluate what each new hire is costing you. Estimate the time it takes to train a new hire, the cost of training a new hire, subtract any sales income made in the training period (only because that’s not indicative of whether they could have made the sale on their own), and then take the remaining amount and divide it against the value the salesperson has added to the company.
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