You’ve finally taken a big chance on your first new territorial sales representative. They’ve made it through the application and interview process. You have offered them the 90-day probation period. If they get through that, they’re in!
This is your first employee. You’ve got a lot riding on their success. If they can sell in their territory without too much oversight and increase your sales in new markets, you’ve achieved your goal. If they fail, they can hurt your brand irreparably!
How then, with all this pressure, do you get through the first few weeks, mitigate your risk, and maximize your chances of their, and your own, success?
When it comes to orientation on day one, we like to say, “When the cement is wet, you can move it with a trowel. But once it gets hard, you’ll need a jackhammer!” Those first few days are critical because it is then, and only then, that you have the opportunity to answer the prospect’s questions before they do! That’s right! They will answer their own questions about your products, the best way to present them, and what your expectations are of their performance – with or without your input!
What makes it more difficult though, is that half the questions they won’t even ask you. You have to be proactive and anticipate their unanswered queries, quickly correct their misconceptions, and look and listen for any clues that indicate confusion. We are living in the days when new hires want to impress you, the boss, with, “got it!” …when they haven’t “got it!” Don’t wait a year to find out they didn’t get it!
TAKE A RIDE!
We suggest they spend the first day or two just watching you. You started your business with a few clients and then spread yourself out thinner and thinner until you had to get help. They are hopefully it! So have them watch you in action.
Show them how you organize your car and explain why. Show them how you enter the store. Show them what you are looking for in the store. Show them sales stoppers and how to remove them. Then introduce them to your buyers and say,” This is so-and-so who will be helping me provide better service to you.” Watch how they interact with the buyer. Watch the buyer’s reaction to them.
When you get back to the car, that’s the time to give a quiz. What did they notice? How did you prepare for the store visit? What did you take in with you and what did you do with it? What were the problems? How could sales improve in that particular store? Listen for suggestions involving instore merchandising such as displays, demos, and community outreach to develop a local customer base. Ask them what you said to the buyer and what the buyer said to you.
On your way to the next store, tell them the history of the store on your way. Tell them the idiosyncrasies of that particular buyer. Recall the challenges you have had, how you overcame them, and what challenges you still face in that store.
It seems risky but sooner or later you have to let them take over after you brief them and introduce them to the buyers. Now you’ll see them in action for the first time. Take mental notes. When you get back to the car, be sure to compliment them on their strong points first. Then recall what was said and what happened. Share with them how you think it might have been more effective. Then have them watch you again followed by another quiz, followed by another solo performance, followed by even more constructive criticism.
After a few days, and when you are feeling confident that they can represent, sell, merchandise, and solve problems with your products in new accounts, have them take you on a ride in their new territory. If you hired properly, they are already known in that territory.
Have them introduce you and your products to the buyers they have already sold other products to. It will become obvious what more they need from you to be successful. We recommend that you do this for several days just to make sure they are presenting your products correctly and using the most compelling points. Notice how they organize their car and make any suggestions that can help them be more efficient.
We know a lot of this sounds obvious, but we continue to be surprised by CPG producers who don’t get in there and really cover the basics on day one (and the next few weeks!). Remember, retail buyers don’t buy your product so much as they buy you and your representative. Like you, they must have their buyer’s best interests at heart, and their buyers have to know it! Great customer service is what buyers buy.
Nothing will increase your sales at retail like constant vigilance and hands-on merchandising. Make sure your new representative has these qualities, agrees that they are the keys to success, and unequivocally understands that this is what you expect from them. Use the trowel. Don’t wait and have to use the jackhammer! Now, get out there and make some new sales!