IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

3 Simple Steps to Train Your Sales Team to Succeed

Deploying new salespeople without proper training and knowledge of the evolving sales model is dooming them to defeat. By Mike Schmidtmann

MOST NEWLY HIRED SALESPEOPLE in our industry don’t last a year in their job. They either get fired or become frustrated and quit. Owners grumble that “nobody wants to work anymore,” but the real problem is much different. Why is it so hard to attract, hire, and retain productive new salespeople in our industry? Because the buying process has changed, and as a rule MSPs are not properly training their salespeople.

Imagine soldiers trying to take a hill from the enemy. At the top of the hill, the enemy sits in a fortified pillbox loaded with machine guns. As the soldiers charge up the hill, the enemy mows them down. Wave after wave of soldiers are sent. Finally, the soldiers overwhelm the enemy and they take the hill. But at what cost?

“Hamburger Hill” was the slang name for an actual battle fought in the Vietnam War in 1969. It was in the Dong Ap Bia mountain range, a heavily fortified hill only a mile from the Laotian border. The Americans took the hill, but at a terrible price. The irony was this hill held no strategic value, and the American soldiers abandoned the site after a few days.

Solution providers and MSPs are sending their new hires up a metaphorical Hamburger Hill, and the majority won’t succeed because traditional sales approaches won’t work anymore, which leads to failure for so many. There are two key problems: 

Lack of skills training. No MSP would ever send an untrained tech out to fix a serious network problem, but the same MSP sends untrained salespeople out all the time. Untrained on prospecting methods. Untrained on how to qualify realistic opportunities. Untrained on how to ask probing questions, present, negotiate, close the deal, and so much more.

Owners often ask candidates in the interview process if they “know how to sell,” as if sales skill was something you can easily learn, like riding a bike. The best salespeople have spent their entire careers learning and mastering new skills and techniques. Most MSPs don’t have the resources or ability to train and mentor new salespeople on their own. Those who don’t invest in skilled sales training are likely doomed to failure.

The buying process has evolved. Salespeople used to find customers. Now customers find you. Customers generally dislike talking with know-nothing, pushy salespeople, and avoid them at all costs. They are much more likely to conduct research online or ask their colleagues for recommendations. Many sales are over before most salespeople even sniff the opportunity. If they aren’t getting referred, if they aren’t appearing in internet searches, if they aren’t nurturing a wide list of possible prospects, they won’t sell enough to make you or themselves happy.

What to Do?

The secret to winning Hamburger Hill is to avoid it. Avoid sending new, untrained people up a hill to get gunned down. Think of the salesperson as one component of a comprehensive campaign to identify, target, nurture, and win new customers.

For the greatest success, follow these three steps:

  1. Invest as much or more in marketing as you do in sales, since that’s where the customer journey begins.
  2. If you can provide a new salesperson with a small base of accounts, do so. This will allow them to build a referral base and make some sales transactions that get them acclimated to your order processing system.
  3. Invest in continuous learning, not just in technical knowledge but sales skills, communication skills, and business skills.
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