Every quarter we run an informal dinner bringing together 12 to 15 sales leaders to openly discuss their challenges and share their best practice and industry trends with their peers in a relaxed environment over some nice food and wine. Here’s a roundup of key discussions:

Find out cultural fit by introducing people to the team

At interview ask relevant questions to determine a candidate’s personality and how they will fit within your organisation. On top of that, it would be more telling to have them meet the team and talk to different people at different levels. How do they interact? Are they naturally inquisitive? What questions do they ask? The way they behave will help you determine how well they will fit. Ask for feedback from the team for additional insight. Is ‘meet the team’ part of your interview process?

Identify initiative at interview stage

A popular topic discussed at a previous dinner, and especially important in smaller companies where support isn’t always available, is how do you recruit people that will take the initiative. One guest says they set a task mid interview to see how they respond, whilst others felt using competency based questions to drill into behaviour was more effective, for example asking, “Tell me a time when you came up with a new idea or improved a process that lead to increased sales?”

Day 1 should set the bar for the onboarding process

25% of employees leave a new role within the first 90 days. Everyone agreed successful onboarding not only gets your recruits delivering results quickly, but also helps them to integrate and, ultimately encourages them to stay. Day 1 shouldn’t be wasted on admin so make sure paperwork is completed beforehand and their laptop and phone are ready to go (a point some guests admitted they were guilty of).  If it’s not, and worse still they don’t know what they’re doing, it will leave a negative impression from the outset. One guest said they always take a new starter out for lunch on Day 1 to welcome them. How do you make a good impression on Day 1?

Find a way to keep your best sales person interested and motivated

Every guest agreed promoting your best sales person into management isn’t always the right course of action, but some felt they’ve at least earned the right to have a go. One guest recently lost two of his best people because he couldn’t promote them. So how do you stop your best sales person getting bored? There were different ideas between industries too. One guest said just pay them more money, whereas others said it’s not enough if they want more responsibility. You need to find a way to keep them motivated and interested otherwise you might lose them.

Use a buddy system to turn new recruits into assets

One guest assigns every recruit with a mentor who then shares 50% of commission on all deals for the first year. This was however for very complex deals where new starters need a lot of support and guidance to be successful. One guest disagreed however suggesting people gravitate to who they want to learn from. It’s also important to decide who you think would make a good mentor (and who wouldn’t!) How would a buddy system work on your team?

Put personal development plans (PDPs) in place during onboarding

Every guest agreed their sales people needed to have PDPs in place to help support, develop and drive their performance but couldn’t always see how best to do it. If everyone Is office based, under one roof it’s easier to have regular one to ones and talk through issues as they occur. But the very nature of field sales makes a structured PDP challenging so even more important. Having it in place early will make them feel like they have a long and rewarding career ahead of them with you.