Improving the Odds: How to Ramp Up Quickly as a Sales Rep

by Linda P. Kester September/October 2017
Starting a new sales job isn’t always easy — for sales reps or their employers. Linda Kester provides six tips and expert advice from an executive recruiter to ensure a new employee’s successful assimilation into a company’s culture.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to use Amazon Prime to hire salespeople? You would type in exactly what you’re looking for, read the reviews and a rep would be delivered to your door the next day. In this accelerated scenario, the equipment finance salesperson is pre-programmed to fit in your company’s environment and culture. It wouldn’t matter
if you call on vendors, brokers or end-users, the sales rep would be prepped and ready to generate new business.

Until Amazon figures out how to do this, here are six tips for employers and new hires, plus some insight from an executive recruiter, to help sales professionals kickstart their results.

1. Get with the Culture

Jim Gavaghan, an executive recruiter at Molloy Associates and a former hiring manager at GE Capital says, “The faster you adapt, the stronger you become.” Gavaghan is an expert at recruiting talent. His more than 30 years of interviewing, hiring and placing candidates has given him an exceptionally good feel for who can get the job done and who can’t. “Understanding an equipment finance company’s culture is the key to making a good match. A sales professional who fits the job description, and is able to adopt the core beliefs of the organization, is more likely to succeed and drive long-term growth.”

“A sales person who is used to calling on C credits may not be the best fit for a funding source who only looks at A+ transactions,” Gavaghan adds. “We have to be realistic about who is the best fit.”

Gavaghan has been on both sides of the equation, as hiring manager and recruiter, so he knows what probing questions to ask candidates to determine whether they will fit a specific role. For instance, recruiting clients routinely look for candidates who can bring financing/ leasing clients to the table while maintaining a strong ongoing effort to bring in new accounts. Per Gavaghan, this type of sales person will normally use a consultative approach and can tell you how they plan their day/ week/month.

2. Learn the Lingo

Nothing wipes out credibility faster then using a buzzword in the wrong context. New hires may nod their heads and pretend they understand your internal jargon when they actually have no clue what you’re talking about.

If you’re a recent hire, consciously train your ears to pick up new lingo. Write down all of the new words/ acronyms you hear. As soon as you can, look up the meaning and try to figure out what your peers are trying to communicate.

To make the onboarding process easier, here are a few examples of equipment finance jargon:

  • FMV — Fair Market Value
  • Buck Out — $1.00 Buyout
  • Basis Point — One-hundredth of 1%, used chiefly in expressing differences in interest rates
  • FICO — Fair Isaacs Company, which developed the credit scoring model
  • PG — Personal Guarantee
  • D&A — Delivery and Acceptance
  • EFA — Equipment Finance Agreement
  • ROA — Return on Assets
  • ROI — Return on Investment

Employers — do your new hires a favor and add your own internal jargon and definitions to this list. But caution them against being consumed by jargon. Executives who show off by talking in the latest “corporate speak” are the ones who have made Buzzword Bingo an underground hit.

3. Find a Mentor

This falls under advice everyone gives but nobody takes. Find a mentor but don’t be needy about it (see tip No. 4). Wait at least a month after you start a new position and identify an employee who you respect. Ask that person, “Hey, are you free for lunch tomorrow? My treat.” At lunch, ask questions about what top performers are doing and how to avoid making amateur mistakes. You don’t have to be super formal about establishing a mentor/mentee relationship. Just take baby steps and figure out how you can be of value to her. In return, she may be prone to reciprocate with shortcuts for navigating internal affairs.

Employers must think strategically and assign a peer mentor from day one. New hires come in full of hope and fearful excitement. They may be anxious and afraid to ask questions. Providing a peer as a mentor will make them feel more comfortable about asking questions and encourage them to be better team members. They need to know who to talk to about day-to-day issues. You don’t want a rep to feel isolated if conflicts arrive and they have no one to talk to. Sometimes a small problem can quickly become a big one.

4. Don’t Be Needy/Annoying

  • Learn to hold your tongue. If you constantly chatter about irrelevant issues, you’re not going to ramp up quickly. New hires should speak 25% of the time and listen the other 75%.
  • Don’t complain. Frequent complaining is toxic. Take charge of your outlook. An upbeat attitude and perspective can make up for a lack of industry knowledge.
  • Put your cell phone away. It’s rude to look at your phone while you’re in a meeting. Research shows that multitasking is actually ineffective.
  • Stop whining about how hard it is. There’s no whining or procrastinating the first six months on the job. In the movie, A League Of Their Own, Dottie Hinson tries to quit the baseball team, telling her manager, “it just got too hard.” He replied, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.” Equipment finance reps who battle through the difficulties also reap the rewards.

5. Be Current

The sales environment changes very quickly. Customers do their own research. They self-educate by reading reviews about equipment vendors and finance companies before collecting proposals. In this ever-evolving model, prospects are almost 60% through the sales cycle before a salesperson enters. We have to adapt to this transformation by being visible and transparent and by inviting prospects inside our operations. New hires who are encouraged to bring prospects in for a tour or a brainstorming meeting can demonstrate that by working together they get privileged access to resources, insights and benefits.

Being current includes having the latest knowledge of CRM systems. “Being technologically proficient is vital for sales professionals,” Gavaghan says. “Companies want a rep who can transition smoothly into their sales operations.” is such a big player that employers almost expect new hires to navigate it adeptly.

6. Set Expectations

For employers, a critical step to onboarding salespeople is setting clear expectations of what success looks like in your organization. What are your expectations for the first 30 and 90 days? How will you measure progress? What are your strategies to penetrate, expand and protect strategic accounts? How do you expect reps to lead discovery sessions internally and externally? Clear objectives and expectations that are set early and frequently reviewed, generate immediate accountability. Reps who come in with their own goals and get right to work end up leading the team in originations.

Maybe Amazon will get into the recruiting business someday. Until that happens, we need to act like Amazon by continually adapting and looking for new ways to grow.

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