For a sales team that works well together, adding a new member can feel disruptive. What was once a productive, positive team can transform overnight into a group of quietly defensive cynics who seem collectively suspicious of the “new guy.”
Does this sound dramatic? Maybe a bit.
Think of it this way: Remember that feeling when a new kid joined your class halfway through the school year? The class dynamic shifted. Everyone felt uncertain about the new kid, and they avoided sitting next to him at lunch until after he’s found an established social group to join. Then you decided whether or not to interact with him.
Social Identity Theory is the idea that we define ourselves by the position we are placed within a group. In order to better ourselves, we strive to be better than other groups and take solace in knowing our place among groups. When the dynamic changes, everyone notices. The group parameters shift, and existing team members often feel threatened by the new arrangement.
The good news is that these things tend to smooth themselves out with the support and guidance of strong sales management. Here’s how:
How sales management should onboard reps
1. Be transparent about why you’re expanding the team.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a new team member can make existing employees think they are underperforming or about to be replaced. This is especially true for high-performing teams. (“Why would the manager need a new employee if we’re doing well?”)
This is where transparency and clear communication can help. When adding a new team member, explain to your team why the company needs more sales power and how this person brings value to the organization.
For example, you might have a new contract hasn’t been announced publicly to the entire company yet. Let the team know you’re hiring to meet the demands of a new client. Remaining silent only fuels suspicion, and potentially rumors.
2. Communicate your company’s culture during interviews.
During the interview process, “The First 90 Days” author Michael Watkins says that sales management must explain how the existing team culture works. This both helps determine whether the candidate is a fit for the team and prepares them for what to expect if they get the job.
In addition, employees appreciate new team members who align with the company culture (as opposed to not getting involved with the culture or trying to force new culture on the established team).
3. Introduce new members to your team before their start dates.
Help new reps ease into their role by letting them get to know the rest of the team, preferably before their start date. This also gives your existing team a chance to learn about the new hire.
This meeting should be informal, such as dinner or drinks at the local bar, a team lunch or some other fun bonding exercise. You can also introduce the new hire publicly on your company’s social media pages.
4. Assign a mentor to new employees.
Mentorships benefit everyone, so don’t hesitate to ask top-performing reps to act as mentors for new hires.
This gives the new employee a go-to person for direction and guidance when sales management isn’t available. This also helps to create positive relationships within the group. Your new employee may have extensive experience in sales, but a mentor is crucial to help understand internal workflows, CRM configurations and ERP software tools.
In addition, mentors have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, reflect on their practices and increase their professional value. A study from Durham University found that mentors significantly benefit from the mentoring because it allows them to self-reflect.
Finally, sales management benefits from assigning a mentor because a member of the sales team is in charge of training and coaching the new hire, while simultaneously developing their own leadership skills.
New employees don’t need to disrupt the flow of your existing team. Be proactive, transparent and communicative, and you’ll find that a new salesperson can bring value to an already successful team with minimal adjustment.