Designing An Induction For New Sales People

Recruiting effective new salespeople is a difficult, expensive, time consuming process. Many sales managers are so pleased they filled a post they don’t realise the real work still hasn’t been completed.


Even before the salary meter starts ticking, your new salesperson will have cost you money, they have to start earning quickly.

The onboarding process is critical to get right. A minimum of a 12 week programme should be designed with the single objective of accelerating as fast as possible the salesperson to the minimum level of required contribution.

Below we list the key components of a 12 week induction plan:

  1. Cultural orientation. Critical to set the right expectations, the cultural norms that are excepted to be upheld and perhaps the ones that should be challenged.
  2. Logistical support. Where everything is, how the organisation works, how to find things out.
  3. Market context. How the market works, including the major customers and competitors. What are the major change drivers? Trends etc?
  4. Your value proposition. This should be much more than features and benefits. What are your competitive differentiators? The relationship between value and cost? Your service bundle?
  5. our market position? Pricing strategy? Negotiable variables?
    Customer knowledge – you can never know, or have, enough background. History, motivations, stakeholders, pain points, financials, contracts etc.
  6. Customer CRM, don’t scrimp on the time to really get them to understand how to use your system.
  7. The transition from desk learning, to observation visiting, to joint visits, to going solo. This process needs to be fully integrated with the knowledge and awareness building of the previous 6 points.
  8. Speed to competence needs to be validated. Your new salesperson’s new knowledge needs testing, role–plays observed, and potential scenarios explored.
  9. Create a detailed timetable with weekly milestones.
  10. The icing on the cake is when you discover the person you recruited is motivated enough to read around the subject and wants to lever in and test their own experience/ expertise.


If you’re lucky and you design a great onboarding process, your next sales person will break your existing speed to competence record and quickly become a major revenue generator.

Why Is A Great Innovating Company, In Reality, More Of An Also Ran?

If you had a 60 year history of producing electronics, had produced many segment defining products, some backed with proprietary technology you licensed to competitors and then, to protect your supply chain, you bought a film studio and a record company you would think you had a real chance of future proofing your business. Wrong.


The company is Sony and for all its assets, track record, great marketing, economies of scale and international reach it still keeps missing the technology zeitgeist, and perhaps that’s its issue, it doesn’t really get technology. To see its dominant share of the mobile music market destroyed in 5 years by a competitor with few of the capabilities previously described takes some doing. It’s not iPod that killed Walkman, but iTunes. Technology as distribution, not just as devices.

Don’t misunderstand the argument, Sony produce some great products; its Bravia (and before that Trinitron) TVs, cameras, phones, Playstations, Hi-fi, VCR’s, Vaio computers, the list goes on. But what it doesn’t win plaudits for is its propriety software, its user interfaces, the way its products can be networked etc. Its Playstation console is arguably better than Microsoft’s Xbox 360, with its built in Blue-ray player (again it invented it) and none of the Xbox’s red ring of death problems, but it still hasn’t dominated. Why? Not innovative enough around supporting game design and not developing the on-line offering fast or effectively enough.

The CEO, Howard Stringer, is on a mission to make Sony “cool”. To do that he’s got to change the cultural mind-set, away from the slinky, sliver Sony products, to something that might not even be product focused at all. What about creating memorable, immersive user experiences? Or taking their hardware excellence and linking it with some really innovative software and showing how that (app style) might link into social networks.


Sony doesn’t need better products, they need a different kind of imagination.

Transportation Service Levels

It seems appropriate this week to look at how travel organisations handle service and communication issues.


Putting The Customer First

  1. Any organisation that ramps its prices this week to exploit demand needs to be called out. It is perfectly acceptable to stop discounting but not to double prices. There is already evidence of some hire car companies and hotels doing this.
  2. Ones that put themselves in the customers shoes, what concerns are they going to have and can they be predicted? Compliments (again) go to First Direct Bank, all holders of their Directory product which includes travel insurance were sent an email assuring customers that the policy covers flight and accommodation related issues.
  3. Airlines are going to have an interesting challenge as the restrictions lift, how well organised are their rebooking procedures?

Removing Unnecessary Complications

  1. A common experience on Virgin trains is watching foreign passengers try to make sense of the ticketing policy. The train manager often takes 5 minutes over the pre-departure announcements explaining all the ticket restrictions and then has to tell someone that although they’ve bought a ticket they need to buy another (full price) one.



In all these examples the critical susses factor is communication. Many organisations work under the delusion that if they have nothing to communicate that’s what they should do, nothing.

The amount of communication should be in direct proportion to the level of anxiety the customer is suffering. With extremely stressed customers it’s very difficult to over communicate; through making regular, timely updates expectations can be managed much more effectively.

One of the most difficult things to get right is the balance between procedure and initiative on the part of the front line person. Do they simply say they have no news and act as ignorant as the passengers or do they try to work out some form of coping strategy? Remember, what initiative is – appropriate disobedience.

Vision Building – What It Is And Isn’t

From our work we’ve gleaned the following do and don’ts around Vision Building:


  1. Don’t have a Vision and a Mission. We’ve never seen an organisation successfully communicate both of these and show how they can function interdependently. Also when you ask people to quote one they often quote the other. A good vision will do all you need it too.
  2. No numbers or dates. Something that states £100m by 2015 is a goal not a vision.
  3. Visions are aspirational and as much about the journey as the destination. They are for the long term, something that needs changing or can be achieved in 5 years is probably not long term enough.
  4. Creating a future that a vision captures is where the real benefit is. There is nothing more motivating for someone than to have a future articulated to them that they would like to become part of.
  5. Don’t confuse visions with marketing strap lines, clever word play or alliterative statements. Sure, you’ll want to distil it down to a short phrase, but start with the long version, otherwise it’s just a word-smithing exercise.
  6. Where does a good vision come from? It comes from a passionate point of view of what someone or some team wants to create. Vision building is not a technical, tick the box exercise, it should come from the heart, a clear expression of a future state which is different from the current state.
  7. If it’s done as in point 6 it becomes a statement of intent. It should be directional, broad enough not to be restrictive, specific enough to allow options to be discriminated for and against.
  8. Finally, the most important point, vision building is a deep act of leadership, you’re offering people an opportunity to take part in taking others (customers and employees) on an exciting journey together.

See Values and Goals for the other two components of an effective Purpose Framework.

Values – How They Underpin Everything An Organisation Does

In building an effective Purpose Framework how you approach Values is critical to get right. Below we summarise the main points:


  1. Culture is expressed values. Values are the basic building block of what it feels like to work in a particular organisation. If you want to change the culture, change the values.
  2. A values driven organisation needs fewer rules, its values act as a touchstone for guiding peoples’ actions and behaviours.
  3. Values are not ‘common sense’, or ‘unnecessary because we all have values’. An organisation without clear values will not be able to offer any kind of ethical, contextual or behavioural framework. Whilst your personal values may be obvious to you they are not obvious to me. See MPs expenses for more context.
  4. Distilling them down into five or six maximum is a good idea. Ten or more values is too many for people to carry round in their heads.
  5. The whole focus should be on the behavioural expression of those values. You are not making a personal comment on an individual’s values, but on their visible behaviour – either positively or negative, as it relates to your values. The key here is to develop behavioural indicators.
  6. You are not asking people to leave their personality at reception and become an organisational clone, indeed one of your values might speak to originality or creativity. An organisation does not have dominion over what people think or feel, but it can motivate people to behave in certain ways and proscribe behaviours it deems unhelpful or antipathetic to building its vision.
  7. Values must always be viewed as a set. Never allow selective quoting, and never play ‘top trumps’ where one value is viewed as being superior to another.
  8. A values-driven organisation feels inclusive, people are more positive about giving their discretionary effort, customers notice the difference.

See Vision and Goals for the other two components of an effective Purpose Framework.

Securing Your Future – Setting Strategic Goals That Deliver

Given your organisation has its Vision, it now needs a set of Strategic goals that will drive its activities, priorities and decisions towards making that vision a reality. It’s in the Goals you find out how serious the organisation is about creating a future that is more than just a larger set of financial numbers than it’s currently achieving.


  1. Strategic Goals don’t normally number more than 10.
  2. They will be clearly articulated, easily passing the ‘water cooler’ test of being understood by everybody.
  3. Although simply stated, they will have significant detail underneath with a clear plan of how they will be achieved, with milestones and accountabilities clearly labelled. Strategy is essentially the mechanism for delivering the Strategic Goals.
  4. Strategic Goals need to be masters (not servants) of, and integrated with, the current year’s business plans.
  5. They should be more than just about financial growth. Profit is an output of doing something, so making more profit is a function of doing different things. The most effective sets may cover such things as:
    – What it is you are selling?
    – How you intend to engage differently with customers?
    – Expansion, where, how, when?
    – Solo or by making new partnership or alliances?
    – Organic or acquisition?
    – How you intend to use and develop your people capital?
    – Technology, a disruptive focus or just a condition of play?
    – Intellectual property development?
    – Innovation?
    – New markets and/or new segments?
    – Challenging existing orthodoxies?
    – New/emerging value chains?
    – New costing models?
    – New routes to market?
    – Optimising or transforming – or both?
  6. Leadership is critical to the process of developing effective and mobilising Strategic Goals. Without a point of view about the future, linked to the vision of what your organisation isto become, your Strategic Goals will not drive anything.
  7. The best time frame is 4-7 years.


See Vision and Values for the other two components of an effective Purpose Framework.

Taking The Knocks – Sales And Handling Rejection

There is no doubt that selling and sales management is tough work. In our experience almost half of new sales people give up within their first year and we believe this is mainly due to the high amount of rejections they receive when starting out, and their unrealistic expectations of success/fail rates.
It is always upsetting to see good, keen, able people come into sales roles only to find in their first few months that it takes a lot longer than they anticipated for their first successes to arrive and that it’s incredibly hard work getting there. Just as sports people have learned a great deal from the world of business in professionalising their activity; so do business people learn some vital lessons from the sports field.

In a broadsheet last week, Jonny Wilkinson commented on his performance in the recent Six Nations tournament under the heading ‘My Goal Is To Take The Knocks And Improve’. He went on to say how he expects to take the knocks during the games and to be such a target because of his skills and the threat he poses to the opposition. But he has to take the knocks from the media as well and anyone else who wants to have a go; that also goes with the territory.

There was something else he said that is potentially very powerful; “I just play the game to enjoy it, to try to help my team to win and to improve as a player and as a person” Of all the tips and techniques out there to help you take the knocks and handle rejection, these three elements are quite profound:

  • Enjoy what you do – find the thing that you enjoy most about what you do (your reason for doing it hopefully) and keep your focus on that, then taking the rejection is part of the action and not something to be avoided
  • Make your contribution count – look for ways where you can add to the overall success of your team, handling rejection as part of your role enables you to position yourself to add real value to your organisation – like Wilkinson looking for that drop-goal opportunity
  • Strive to continually improve – realise that it’s only through taking the knocks that you actually develop your skills and ability, this is where you really learn your craft; if you can pick your self up each time and ask yourself ‘ what have I learned that will help me next time’


Viral Learning – A Future For Getting Ideas Across?

Why do some ideas stick and others fall by the way-side?
E-learning has been a natural progression for training provision. Leading on from classroom sessions to distance learning, from one-to-one coaching to self-help manuals, the next step was to make learning available electronically either online or offline.

E-learning has had mixed results. Where it has been employed as part of a blended learning programme alongside other more practical and interactive methods – it works well. Also where the subject matter and the style of the individual’s learning preferences suit – it does a good job. But it’s not a perfect solution.

What of the future? What about the next generation of learners used to mixing up learning channels on the internet (Google and Wikipedia for starters) and sharing ideas with their peers via social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger etc) before they even consider picking up a book?

Look at the success of viral marketing methods. Look what happened to the Christmas No.1 song in the UK this year – viral promotion at its most effective? Even Simon Cowell thought so.
What if organisations could harness some of this methodology to help spread best practice ideas throughout their work-force? What if there was a way of utilising the organisation’s intranet to facilitate a sort of cross between Facebook and Suggestions-box? Maybe it could be called Suggestbook or If it were made open and accessible to all employees (even remotely) suggestions could be posted, tried, commented on, and even rated. Employers could even set up incentive schemes for the most highly rated ideas. Maybe financial rewards for the ideas that prove to make a significant commercial impact – who knows?
There’s (at least) two elements that need to be considered:

  1. For ideas to really penetrate they need certain characteristics better explained in ‘Made to Stick’ by Dan and Chip Heath – it’s well worth the read. Successful ideas need to have certain qualities, including their ability to ‘replicate’, how they break down into ‘digital chunks’ that can be passed on with only small adaptations or modification without losing the key message.
  2. For ideas to spread the environment needs to be fertile, and without wishing to stretch the ‘viral’ metaphor too far, ‘The Meme Machine’ by Susan Blackmore has an interesting take on Universal Darwinism for how ideas get transferred. For successful viral transmission sometimes all that is required is the mechanism to be set up, the right conditions to be fostered and finally, the removal of inhibitors!

What are your thoughts on Viral Learning? Get in touch and let us know.