Can Reps Really Learn to Sell with Bad Leads?

Accelerating new employees’ learning curve is a great way for your sales team to get a leg up. When it comes to green inside sales reps, some important questions every sales manager has to consider are: How soon do I put a new rep in front of a prospect or customer? When will they truly be up-to-speed on our business and know the right qualifying questions to ask? Which leads should I assign to new reps, and how many?

At Infer, we’ve worked with many companies to help them spot good leads, and we’ve noticed one on-boarding approach that keeps cropping up – giving the worst leads to the newest reps. At first, this seems like an inherently cruel way to train new hires. But the more we see it in action, the more sense it makes.

Here are 4 ways that this teaching method can actually smooth the transition for new team members:

1. It takes the pressure off. While everyone likes to have a shot at the big wins, as a new rep, it can be a relief to know that you’re probably not going to bungle a big deal. And when you strike gold, the reward is that much sweeter.

2. It clarifies what a good customer looks like. The more time you spend calling down bad leads, the easier it becomes to spot those diamonds in the rough. You gain an appreciation for where prospects are in their buying cycle and pinpoint the right questions to ask in order to qualify (or disqualify) leads rapidly.

3. It gives you ample opportunities to practice your pitch. When you’re given low risk scenarios in which to get started, you can experiment as you figure out the best ways to approach prospects and field their questions. After all, the best way to learn is by doing. As you hit a stride and start converting low-scoring leads, you can make the case to take on higher-scoring prospects.

4. It helps boost your personal productivity. Thankfully, there are many great new sales automation tools out there to save you time – but as a new rep, you need to build intuition about when to leverage automated sequences vs. the personal touch. Predictive scores can speed up this process by showing you which leads to hone in on, which is huge because you can’t be efficient if you’re crafting personalized messages for every single lead that comes through your queue.

Sales Onboarding Tips for Managers

Of course, in order to successfully train reps on lower quality leads, sales managers also need to be thoughtful in how they motivate new reps and measure their performance. It’s best to be transparent with them about what leads they’re getting, and why. Managers might need to modify standard sales SLAs to be more appropriate for the types of leads these reps are going after – so they’ll put in just enough effort without going overboard.

It’s also important to compensate new folks fairly by adjusting their quotas. Rather than referring to overall conversation rates in determining comp plans, sales managers should look at historical rates within the specific bucket of leads they’re assigning to the new reps. Our customers typically call these Infer C or D-Leads, and they naturally convert at a lower rate than the Infer A and B-Leads given to more experienced reps.

Your team could also consider implementing a tiered training program, in which new reps spend a couple days working D-Leads, then a week working C-Leads, and eventually graduate to B-Leads. Once a rep shows mastery by hitting the average conversion rate, you can start feeding them A-Leads.

No Lead Left Behind

For companies that get this strategy right, it really pays off. When you focus new inside sales reps on the leads that are least likely to convert, you won’t have to worry about burning the best deals on someone who’s still getting the messaging down. At the same time, they’ll gain confidence in your lead scores from the get go, vs. developing a habit of picking and choosing leads arbitrarily. Finally, this approach will ensure that you’re not missing any opportunities to build your pipeline and hit your number. By having fresh reps work at least some percentage of misfit leads, you’ll ultimately be able to confirm whether your model is working as expected.

About the Author

Prior to joining Infer, Jamie spent eleven years at salesforce.com. During his tenure he held various roles across the organization. He was instrumental in defining the inside sales process, pioneered salesforce.com's SMB marketing efforts, and helped shape many parts of the product roadmap. Jamie is well-known for his thought leadership content on topics such as predictive intelligence, sales & marketing best practices, CRM adoption, and social strategy.

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