A research study recently done in the UK found that 70% of employees see their “9-5 buddies” as the most important factor in enjoying their job. While the survey was not done only with salespeople, I have to think, given the social nature of most salespeople, that this would be a key factor among them as well. Additionally the study found that only 55% thought money was the most important thing. (Ok, that percentage might not be as high among salespeople!) I think this survey’s findings* on the importance of having a connection with your co-workers, further underscores the need for every newly hired salesperson to have a sales “buddy” or what I like to call a “Sales Pal.”
One of the best ways to create a successful launch of a new hire is to pair him or her with an accomplished salesperson who is interested in helping others succeed by being a mentor. In other words…a Sales Pal.
Need more convincing? 87% of the top 100 training programs used a mentoring/buddy system as part of their onboarding for new hires.** (Tips For Creating A Salesperson Onboarding Program.)
Another study found that 60% of managers who fail to onboard successfully, cite failure to establish effective co-worker relationships as a primary reason.*** Researchers also found that new employees are more likely to have learned and embraced company values and culture if they have a mentor or buddy.***
So, boil all this down and what does it mean? Sales Pal = Retention
What is a Sales Pal?
A Sales Pal is someone who takes on the role of a “player/coach” with your new hire. The Sales Pal is there as a resource and peer adviser. A Sales Pal should be a superior performer (not necessarily someone who has been there the longest) and have good interpersonal skills and a desire to coach and help others.
The Sales Pal is someone who knows what it takes to be successful in this particular sales role in your organization. He or she can be instrumental in guiding the new hire in the right direction. The Sales Pale should not be responsible for providing sales training but rather training in how things get done in your company. Every sales department is different.
The Sales Pal should be someone that the new hire can easily relate to and can trust completely. One of the purposes of this role is to create an informal environment in which the employee can ask and receive information about the ins and outs of how things work in your department and in your company. These may be questions that the new hire would be hesitant to ask you, because you are the boss. Besides, what if it’s a question about how to best handle you?!
The other important purpose of a Sales Pal is that having someone in this role has been shown to significantly speed up the learning curve for the new hire. Additionally, it helps establish a comfort level for the new hire and a feeling that someone at work cares about his or her success and “has my back.” It creates a sense of belonging. All new hires should have a Sales Pal whether they are a rookie seller or a veteran seller with years of experience.
Provide the Sales Pal with any tools that might be needed to be effective. Go over with the Sales Pal what your expectations are for how this person will help the new hire and how you envision the person maximizing the relationship. Give pointers on coaching and effective communication skills. You should monitor how things are going periodically. Check in with both the new hire and the Sales Pal to get input from each on the process. If it is not working, or not a good fit, consider a change to someone different. You can always position it as you want to expose the new hire to different types of successful sellers.
You should be sure that the salesperson you select understands that there is no additional pay or compensation for being a Sales Pal. However, if you can provide small tokens of appreciation, that can be a nice, unexpected touch that demonstrates your gratitude.
It is usually not a good idea to have the same person be a Sales Pal for every new hire. You will want to rotate this among several accomplished salespeople.
How To Select The Right Sales Pal
- Select someone who you are sure will be a positive role model and who WANTS to do it. Not everyone will want to invest the time and effort in doing something like this. Make clear that this is a commitment for more than just a week – it is open ended.
- Ensure the Sales Pal has time to be accessible to the new hire and that it won’t affect the person’s own selling. Someone who is disorganized or has difficulty with time management is likely not a good selection.
- Try to match the new hire with a Sales Pal that you think he or she will relate best to and learn the most from.
- Select someone who is proud of your organization and has demonstrated strong interpersonal and leadership skills. It also should be someone who can teach and communicate procedures and policies well.
- Select someone who is energized by taking on additional responsibilities and will look at being selected as a reward of recognition not a burden.
Sales Pal Responsibilities
- Be an accessible resource and coach for the new hire on policies, procedures, work rules, company culture, clients, etc.
- Don’t try to clone yourself. The new hire may have a different way of selling and that’s fine.
- Don’t be judgmental or criticize. Be a sounding board or let the new hire vent when needed.
- Provide insight and positive feedback to the new hire on things that you are observing and offer guidance.
- Introduce and include the new hire in social interactions in the office to facilitate the person feeling that he or she is a valued part of the team.
- Assist in training the new hire at the sales manager’s direction.
- Be patient, invest in the relationship and don’t try to cover everything in a day or a week.
- Identify additional resources for the new hire.
- Be discreet. The new hire will only trust you if he or she knows that you will keep things confidential.
- Be positive. A new hire already is nervous and may have doubts. If you are not a positive influence that will increase a person’s anxiety about this new position.
- Be proactive. Ask the new hire specific questions about how things are progressing and how you could help.
- Try to avoid giving your opinions about others in the office and no gossiping.
Take the time to map out a formal Sales Pal program for your sales department. As Robin would say, “Holy cow Batman, that’s brilliant!”* Jobsite.co.uk, ** As ranked by Training Magazine, *** “Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success” by Talya N. Baver, PhD.
(Here’s an infographic on research Gallup, Inc. has done on the importance of having a “best friend” at work. Will a “Sales Pal” become a best friend? Who knows? But it couldn’t hurt!)
- Social Tools Can Improve Employee Onboarding (blogs.hbr.org)
- Onboarding: The Made-Up Word that Delivers Big Value (openviewpartners.com)
- The Importance Of Being Trained: Why Onboarding Increases Employee Retention (dyn.com)