Improving The Odds

In SecretsTo Internet Industry Success we looked at what ad reps from other media are doing to break into Internet advertising. This week, we’ll switch roles and look at how the hiring manager can increase the chances of success for the new hire.

First, an inside scoop… not a week goes by that this column doesn’t generate some feedback from Internet ad sales people and sales managers. And while I occasionally am praised for brilliant and original ideas, that’s pretty rare. (OK, so it’s never happened…. but one can dream….) Most times, the feedback is more like this:

“Thank you for reminding me of the fundamentals to good selling! Over the years, I’ve learned and forgotten like ideas so many times… things I knew to be important as a sales person, I’ve forgotten to implement once I moved into management…”

So, be forewarned … this column is just a refresher in the sort of things good sales managers already know, but that often get lost in the demands of this fast-paced market and its relentless focus on breaking new business, meeting monthly numbers and staffing for growth. Priority one for sales management is building a high productivity team, so getting new hires into the results mode quickly is a constant wish. But it may be a goal we neglect to back up with the sort of efforts that make the biggest difference.

Who Is Selling Your Seller?

New sales people come on board full of enthusiasm and the certainty that they can sell whatever inventory you’ve got. They get on the phone and start pitching, only to get hit with objections they can’t answer. If the prospect on the other end of the phone is effective, the sales person starts to be sold by the customer, and starts to wonder if they’ve made a career mistake.

While you may not be able to anticipate every objection, make a real effort to cover all you can, and teach the new hire how to handle each, BEFORE they talk to real customers. Don’t set them up to fail, instead work hard to minimize surprises. The seed of doubt planted in a new sales person’s mind is much more disruptive than these same client objections would be to a salesperson with some history of success at your site.

Teach new salespeople your story, your strengths, the expected reactions and the preferred responses — don’t let the market teach them.

Point Them Toward Expertise

Provide resources to help new team members do their own research. Standardize a list of where to find information on your market, on the Internet market overall, on the advertising business. Good salespeople will want to understand all of this prior to making important sales calls; don’t make every new addition to your team re-discover all of those information sources alone.

We get dozens of email from sales people looking for resources to help them do their jobs, questions we’re not equipped to answer on a one-on-one basis. Imagine how much more effective those inquirers would be if that help, in the form of URL’s and search ideas, were provided by their own companies, for their specific industries.

It’s a Strange New World

Remember that the interactive advertising arena is a still-new industry in constant transition hard for experienced participants to stay on top of, overwhelming at times for the new entrant.

When you do decide to hire outside of the small interactive universe (and you will, because the pool of experienced sales reps is too small for all the growth we’re seeing), make sure you partner that decision with the commitment to help your new salespeople through the transition. Make the time to check in, to teach, to answer questions, to reassure. That personal involvement can be all that’s needed to insure a smooth transition, but without it, lots of new salespeople flounder far longer than necessary.

As this industry continues to explode, new participants will join in from every imaginable background. Hiring managers can make all the difference in how quickly those new team members become productive, which, in turn, can mean the difference between companies that are ready to handle growth and those that aren’t.

Where do you want your sales organization to fall on that spectrum?

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