Whenever I build out my company’s financial models, the dreaded question always comes up, “How many months will it take to ramp a sales rep?”
I always want to say six months, but I know it will be closer to 12. No matter the degree of training or level of mentoring, it seems that enterprise reps always take a full year to hit their stride.
This is a tough problem to solve butt new crowdsourcing technologies, when combined with a little human touch, can make a huge difference. These tools might just allow us crazy entrepreneurs to convince our CFOs to put a "5'' or "6" in the spreadsheet cell for “months to ramp a rep.”
Here is a simple three-part plan for how to get there.
1. Identify the top pain points for reps.
To achieve speed and efficiency, there needs to be trust. When you hire a group of new salespeople, wait until they have been in the field for 30 days and then crowdsource their biggest sources of pain.
A group crowdsourcing session over a 48-hour period can help you pinpoint their biggest roadblocks to succeeding and moving faster. What do they not understand about the product or service? What objections are they struggling with the most? What internal processes do they not understand?
The crowdsourcing platform is the technology piece of this process. It builds a common voice among the team, versus a vocal minority, and that common voice engenders trust. The human aspect of this process involves proving that you are a leader who cares about each new rep’s success.
Granted, this is self-serving for you because they will ramp faster after identifying their problems. But you are taking time to show that their success matters to you. This approach banks trust, so when you have a really challenging goal or initiative, they will go above and beyond to help you achieve it.
2. Dangle a reward carrot for clients.
This step is about tapping your clients to help with ramping your salespeople. Approach your 20 best clients and offer them something special. Offer them the ability to shape your offering in some concrete way. Tell them you are starting a customer advisory board (CAB), but not like any they have been on before. This one is going to offer them four unique benefits:
- Access: You will give them behind-the-curtains access to product development and the go-to-market strategy.
- Time savings: You will ask them to join a crowdsourcing session and watch a monthly five-minute video. The video will state a problem, your angle on the solution and then ask an open-ended question about what they think of the problem and solution. This effort will require 30 minutes of their time each month, as demonstrated in this example video: POPin Video – Looking for Leaders.
- Peer-based transparency: During the session, clients will be able to see what all their peers think about the problem and solution. They can discuss their problems while knowing the crowd is like-minded, since as users they already see value in the products offered.
- What’s In It for me? This is the most important part. After a year of running crowdsourcing sessions with employees and clients, I’ve found that getting people to participate is the biggest challenge. You must have an incentive for them to participate. You know your industry best and what a good incentive looks like, but here are some simple ideas: Offer them annual discount purchases; meetings with your executives; an annual offsite for CAB members only; access to industry thought leaders; etc.
As a result, these clients will buy into your strategy and product direction. This should greatly shorten sales cycles with those clients. Also, if the group is gelling well, at the six-month point you should ask each of them to refer three other peer companies into the group. Their referrals are the best possible leads to help your younger reps who are trying to ramp.
You can convene CABs with different functions. Executive, marketing, and technical CABs are all possible, depending on what your product or service does. Crowdsource from each group, give them incentives and build those networks to drive sales.
3. Use a withholding stick for partners.
Our partners often have a better sense of our company’s weaknesses than our clients or employees. Partners can be a goldmine of information, so set up Partner Advisory Boards and crowdsource from them as well.
Many companies will give some sort of co-op or funds to partners who perform well. I am not suggesting that you pull any of those incentives. I am advising you to add a requirement to your incentive program that they must log into crowdsourcing sessions and give you feedback to get the funds/incentives. Their feedback may touch on your strategy, go-to-market direction, product or biggest pain points.
Crowdsourcing provides an ideal platform to drive success for a company’s initiatives through the intimate engagement of its employees, partners and clients. The goal is to make everyone who matters an accomplice in your plan.
This approach will give you the buy-in and engagement needed to ramp new sales reps in half the time, from 12 months down to six. You will be doubling the productivity of your sales trainings programs while closing more deals and accelerating revenue in the second half of each rep’s first year.