What Now? A Critical Time for a New Employee

February 2, 2012

Getting new hires off to a successful start

It all began when you realized you knew what you had to do: weed out the toxic employees from your company. It took time and sleepless nights, but you did it. The problem was that you were without a salesperson and you were working harder than ever, even if your office was more peaceful.

It was time to hire someone to help move your organization forward. You had an opportunity to hire a sales professional instead of just another salesperson.

After crafting an ad and placing it strategically to attract the right type of potential employee, a surprisingly high number of candidates submitted resumes for the position. You endured the exhausting interview process, and you believe that you have found an excellent addition to your team. What’s next?

The Next Steps

The time spent reviewing resumes and interviewing was a good start, but this process does not guarantee that you have found the right person. The interview should not stop just because you invited a new person to be part of your team.

The employment laws in most states allow the first three months of a new team member’s employment to be probationary. This means you can use this time to ensure that this person is the right fit for your organization.  

As hard as it may be to admit that you made a poor hiring choice and to face the daunting prospect of spending the extra time and expenses to search again, if you see signs that your new hire is not going to succeed in your organization, you should cut that person loose. If the new hire has a poor work ethic or a negative attitude during a time when you would expect the best behavior, you can presume these toxic traits will only get worse. The cost of keeping an employee longer than you should will be higher than the cost of starting over.

It is easier to see the bad signs in an employee who is working in the office around other employees every day than in a salesperson working in the field, but there are ways to evaluate commitment fairly quickly.

The First Weeks

Many companies spend the first several weeks teaching a new salesperson to perform an effective demonstration. If you hired someone to run leads that you are providing, this approach makes sense. However, if you hired a sales professional you hope will generate new business, it does not make sense for him to do a presentation before you determine whether or not he is willing and able to generate leads.

Before the first day of work, have a list of current customers ready to give to the new sales professional. Within the first hour of the first day, have him contact these customers to schedule check-up calls. New sales professionals should have a responsibility to be in no less than 10 homes per week, and the first week of work should be no exception. Starting a new hire in this manner accomplishes far more than just setting a precedent of activity. It also serves as an excellent way to teach him about your equipment, how to test water, how to do a plumbing assessment and how to interact with customers.

Make sure that these check-up calls are being scheduled at the customers’ convenience, not the salesperson’s. Some of these calls will happen during the evening and on weekends. Your job ad should have said that this is a requirement. Make sure during the first few weeks that this is not a problem. If a new salesperson does not have evening or weekend appointments the first week, he may mistakenly believe that this is not a strict requirement.

Whatever communication you require also should be established the first day. If you request daily time sheets, ask the new hire to complete and fax or e-mail them to you even if you were together on the day in question. The employee should understand that this is a requirement of employment from day one—this is easier than going back to him a month later and asking him to complete the forms.

It is important to teach a sales presentation, but a new sales professional will understand the concept of an effective demonstration far more successfully if he has seen the type of environment he will be presenting in.

The First Months

The first month is critical for a new sales professional because it will set the stage for the actions and attitude of this individual for years to come. It could also potentially raise or lower the standards of your entire organization. If it was your intention to hire a professional, not just a new body, then you should begin to expect your new team member to emulate the characteristics of a professional. A true professional worries about the results rather than the hours put in. If a new employee is always watching the clock, odds are he is not going to be an effective team member.

Education is also important for a professional. One of the best things about the water treatment industry is that there is no shortage of resources for gaining professional knowledge. Give your new team member challenges and the opportunity to become a professional. If he does not meet these challenges, question whether he is the right choice for your company.

Avoid sending a new sales professional on appointments with a veteran on your team unless you are sure that the veteran salesperson is not teaching shortcuts on a presentation or feeding him toxic language.

Lead by example. The person whose primary responsibility it is to train the new sales professional should be willing to do everything he is asking a new team member to do. If a manager is requiring work during the evening or on a Saturday, that trainer or manager should be willing to work those hours as well.

All things considered, be willing to accept the new employee as a member of the team. Do not set him up to fail. You did a thorough job of interviewing him, so do not insult him by not providing the tools for success. I have seen companies that are willing to supply a phone and a laptop, but will not give a new professional business cards. If I were a new employee, this would be frustrating and, frankly, a little offensive. If you want a professional for your team, treat him like a professional.

Adding a complete stranger to your team is a scary venture. It is a task that often walks a tightrope of trust and caution. But the rewards of committing to eliminating the toxicity from your organization and adding individuals that will adhere to and raise the professional standards of your company will bear wonderful fruit not only for your dealership but ultimately for the entire industry.

Kelly R. Thompson, CWS-VI, is president of Moti-Vitality LLC. Thompson can be reached at kellyt@moti-vitality.com or 810.560.2788.

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