If achieving and maintaining organic growth is really a goal of yours as an agency leader, then the need to bring in new talent and develop them quickly is not negotiable. Of course, we occasionally get lucky and hire people who will figure everything out on their own through sheer willpower. However, these people are the exception and not the rule and generally, they have their pick of jobs, so if we’re being honest, do they really want to work for an agency that puts talent development on the back burner? No!
So, in coming back to reality, we must hire who we can hire. That doesn’t mean we hire just anybody – we should always find the best people possible. But it does mean, if we’re looking for the perfect person, we may end up simply hiring no one at all. The training and development system at your agency has to be tailored to the type of people you can actually attract and keep.
The good news, nay, great news, is that as we correct these common mistakes, we’ll naturally attract better and better people. This virtuous upward cycle is what puts organic growth on proverbial steroids, but it takes serious discipline. These are some common problems when hiring new producers:
1. Set It and Forget It
We can’t hire anyone and simply tell them to “go figured it out, that’s what I did!” Great, that’s what you did, that’s why you’re the leader! And getting going likely took a lot more time and struggle than you’re willing to extend this new hire. Don’t rely on the, “just go figure it out” approach. You can not underestimate the value of having a systematic process. What does a “systematic process” even mean? A systematic process will have at least the following attributes:
It’s written down - the process, training timeline, performance milestones, activity goals, etc. are written down where everyone can see them in all the glory of black and white.
It’s dynamic – it’s used and referred to, especially by leadership. They say, “look here on page 6 of the development guide, that’s where you can see that.” In this process of using it, it is continually improved, tweaked, modified, and updated.
It’s the Bible – as for training and development not following the process is considered a sin! But, unlike the Bible, it gets updated continuously, and the updates are serious expectations. With religious discipline we need to follow our own process no matter how imperfect – an imperfect idea 100% executed is far more valuable than a perfect idea 60% executed. Follow this mantra to create a culture and discipline around developing your new people.
2. No Rails to Ride On
A mistake I’ve seen made and have made myself is hiring new people and not giving them scripting and a detailed sales process. I used to think it was ideal to have new salespeople write their own scripting to “make it their own” – I’ve since realized this just wastes time. Why not build off all the years of experience that come in the form of a well-developed script and sales process? I now train new people by providing them with a detailed process, once they’ve mastered it, they can make it their own. Not surprisingly, new salespeople come to appreciate the consistency and effectiveness of the process and they don’t look to change it early on.
3. Wasting Time
Training, licensing, meetings, onboarding, etc. etc. etc. – don’t waste time during the early weeks on admin that can be done more effectively before they start or months after they start. There are two reasons for this, first, there is simply no substitute for getting to work as a salesperson, picking up the phone and asking for appointments, following up, networking, etc. Once they get to work they will build confidence – why wait three months or even three weeks to begin that process. I try to get people on the phone on the first day. Second, in some instances, getting started means you can weed out a bad hire quickly. Finding a bad hire often takes months and unfortunately, some go as long as a year – it doesn’t have to be this way. If I get them to work on the first day, then you’ll know by the end of the first week if there is a major problem. Have them do licensing before they start (across 70 hires I’ve rarely run into an issue with this) and have them do minimal on-boarding (going through benefits, etc.) – save any of that for when they need it (like when they actually become eligible for benefits). I always have new trainees make a couple of cold calls on the first day – of course they sound nervous and new, but it’s an invigorating way to end their first day – I tell them, “great job” and they get to go home “pumped”.
4. Being Too Nice
Don’t give new producers a lot of slack. Why? It’s not in their best interest. They are human and as a matter of self-preservation, we all gravitate towards the path of least resistance (some faster than others). If they fail to meet an expectation that you know is otherwise achievable, hold their feet to the fire. Let them know what the absolute expectations are – these should be things they can control such as finding prospects, sales activity, following processes, etc. Don’t let them slip on the little things that they have the ability to do. The best physical trainers have their pick of clients – they aren’t going to work with people who simply ignore what they ask. Make it clear, “these are the things that are non-negotiable and if you do them, and do them consistently, you’ll be successful.”
5. Being Too Mean
Don’t be a jerk! I’ve seen too many leaders demoralize a new salesperson. This usually comes in the form of showing pessimism about their small “wins”, i.e. the recruit says, “I had a good conversation today.” And then we respond, “yeah, that guy will never buy from us, I’d forget about it.” We need to leave our cynicism and so-called “realism” at the door and show some encouragement and excitement. We don’t need to coddle people and this career certainly isn’t t-ball, but we do need to encourage them. This is especially important as they get a few months in and they are in the grueling stages of building a pipeline and spending most of their time on the phone – this is the time they need all the vision and energy we as leaders can muster.
Have a process, follow it, and improve it continuously. Give them the rails to ride on and get them going quickly. Finally, find the balance between setting serious expectations and consistently encouraging them. Put it together and no matter where you’re at today, you’re going to see growth and progress.