Monday, March 31, 2008

Eight tips for new employee orientation

How do you feel when you enter a party where you know nobody but the host? A little disoriented? A bit uncomfortable? What do you do - stand by the punch bowl or find a comfortable corner in which to park yourself?

Now picture yourself as a brand spanking new hire in your company. It's just like the party scene, except you have to be competent pretty fast if you want to be able to stay. There's no parking by the punch bowl or lurking in the corner allowed. How do you as a leader set somebody up for success?
  1. Give them the basics - location of the rest rooms, the lunch room, a tour of the building so they can see where they fit into their new world. Also make sure they have some documentation of HR policies such as vacation scheduling, handling of sick or personal days, etc.
  2. Remember to orient them to the basics of the work tools - Blackberries, the computer network, etc. If you assume that they already know how to use them you're asking for problems. A new employee wants to look competent, so they will be less likely to ask you a question because they don't want to look stupid. The result will be that they'll lose productive time trying to figure things out for themselves. (By the way, new employees are a great way to test the effectiveness of your processes. The best processes are streamlined enough that they don't take long to learn.)
  3. Provide an effective job-content training process. Sitting and watching someone do the job all day long puts a glaze over the eyes and slows retention. Get them involved. Make it multisensory - explain, show examples, discuss, have them do with coaching, have them do independently and provide feedback.
  4. Share your expectations to help them do it right the first time. If you like reports to be handed in on purple paper and stapled in the lower right corner, say so. Give them the chance to meet your criteria without reading your mind.
  5. Early stages of development need frequent feedback, positive as well as negative. Catch them doing something right to reinforce the behavior you want to see. If you only focus on mistakes you'll create a climate of fear.
  6. Find them a sponsor. You know who the informal leaders are, and who can weave their way through the informal organization. Hook your new person up with someone who can help them feel like they belong. After all, the social connections at work are what keep people going when the going gets tough.
  7. Show them the context of their job. Work is one of the chief places where people get meaning in their lives. If I tell someone that I staple packets of paper for a living I'm not very connected to a sense of purpose. If I, on the other hand, understand that the stapled packets help to raise the operating funds for my company I've got a purpose. Context leads to purpose, sense of purpose leads to motivation, and motivation leads to better performance.
  8. Set goals. Early on, short term goals are better. I might set a goal to learn how to operate a teller station (and balance my books) by the end of the week. Later I can learn how to open new accounts - that might take 30 days. Keeping the goal's time frame short gives the new associate ample opportunity to experience the thrill of victory early on, which keeps your future key employee feeling positive and motivated.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Measurements for your sales function

Whether you're a lone eagle or run a staff of salespersons, your sales efforts will be greatly impacted by what you're measuring, how you're measuring it, and who's doing the measuring.

Activity measurement

In most organizations experience starts to indicate what the standards are for the sales cycle, like:
  • Who the usual buyer is

  • How long it typically takes to go from "hello" to "press hard, third copy's yours"

  • The types of contacts that generate the most results
  • How many contacts it takes to obtain business

  • How many quality contacts it takes per week to generate X dollars in sales

The first place to start with measurement is to gather data to see what your (or your sales staff's) numbers are in each of these areas. If you're starting with inaccurate information your efforts to set goals will be an exercise in frustration for you and demotivating for your staff. In addition, inaccurate activity goals will lead to busyness, but not necessarily business.

Once you have a track record of what activities lead to what results you can set activity goals if you want. It helps new sales staff feel the thrill of victory for achieving short-term milestones and stay motivated until that first deal comes in. Activity targets may be an especially good idea if the sales cycle is long. You don't have two quarters to wait to find out that - oops! - nobody did what was necessary to generate new business and now you've got two more quarters to wait for them to bring it in!

Results measurement

How do you quantify "good" results? In some companies the top line is the only number of concern. But in companies focused on customer loyalty some additional measurements might come into play:

  • Gross revenue

  • Average gross profit (is the sales staff giving away the store to buy business?)

  • Size of individual transaction (impacts # of customers to manage)

  • Repeat sales vs. new sales (indicator of customer loyalty)

  • Sales from referrals (another indicator of customer loyalty)

  • Returns (indicator of product quality issues or sales mismatches)


  1. Beware of how much data you require on what level of frequency. Cumbersome CRM (customer relationship management) system design can chew up 10-20% of your sales staff's time. You want accountability, but not at the cost of 20% productivity!

  2. If you're going to collect data, use it to make your decisions.

  3. If results are not going the way you want, check upstream to fine-tune the areas that need attention.

  4. Make sure you're paying attention to your sales team's skill set as well as their attitudes. All of the goals in the world won't get results if they don't have the tools or the "want to" that fuel top performance

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Welcome to The Summit Blog! I've been blogging under my own name for 3-1/2 years, and now we've decided to fold my blog under the company umbrella. In this blog you'll find ideas for leading yourself and others, goal achievement tips, war stories about company culture change, and the occasional review of a recent book we've read.
If you'd like to check out the archives from Peak Performance From The Coach's Desk, just click this link.