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How we train salespeople

At GoCardless, we are growing at a phenomenal rate. We recently passed the milestone of having processed £500m, a far cry from the £300 we processed in October 2011. We believe we have the best recurring payment system in the world, what we are trying to build now is the best sales team in the world. Crucial to our success is how we train our new hires.

This post goes through how to get from applicant to killer salesperson. We’ve split it into three sections:

  • What do we look for when hiring?
  • How do we train new hires?
  • Our 6 top tips for training

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, please get in touch.

What do we look for when hiring?

The first thing we did in this process was identify the 5 characteristics we cared most about in applicants. Those were:

  • Smart. Our product can be quite complex and technical. To succeed here, people need to be smart enough to learn the technical aspects of the product in detail.
  • Driven to learn and improve themselves. We strongly believe that how good you are in a year’s time is more related to your attitude than your current ability. How driven you are and how motivated you are to improve are the two most important drivers of success.
  • Likeable. People don’t like to buy from people they don’t like. It is essential that anyone we employ is friendly.
  • Communication skills. The ability to explain complex ideas simply is absolutely crucial for our salespeople.
  • Coachability. Giving and taking feedback is one of the most important aspects of our company culture. The quicker you are able to act on feedback, the faster you learn.

The one obvious gap here is sales experience. We have found that being smart and having a great attitude is a much better indicator of success than previous sales experience. We believe hiring awesome people and training them in the right way is the best way to get a continual funnel of exceptional sales talent.

How do we train them?

When new hires join, they go through an intensive 4 week programme. By the end, we expect them to be a fully ramped member of the team on the same level as anyone else.

So how do we do this?

  • Week 1. The focus is to learn about the product and basic sales skills. For product knowledge, they spend time in support and do lots of quizzes. For sales skills, they do lots of role plays and start doing live sales calls from day 3. Sessions include ‘Email training,’ ‘Competitor training,’ and ‘What is an API?’
  • Week 2. The aim here is to fully prepare joiners to deal with any question that might come their way. By the end of the week they should be able to handle all inbound calls. Sessions include an ‘Introduction to partners’ and an ‘Introduction to SEPA.’
  • Week 3. This is all about getting to grips with the more technical side of our product. They also go through a call they have had every day with another member of the team to get feedback. Sessions include ‘Effectiveness’ and a more in depth look at some of our larger partners.
  • Week 4. This is about ironing out anything new joiners might still be unsure of and getting them to pass the mighty Direct Debit balloon test.

Our 6 top tips for training

If you are looking to implement a similar programme at your company, here are our 6 top tips we’ve learnt along the way:

  • A structured programme is really important. Joiners should have a full calendar for when they arrive on the first day. The worst thing that can happen in anybody’s first week is having nothing to do or not knowing what to do.
  • Get buy in from everyone involved. The more upfront effort we put in, the quicker joiners get fully ramped up, and this is in everyone’s interest. When everyone understands the importance of training, they put more effort into preparing sessions.
  • Set goals and test against them. We have a really high hiring bar. If we have excellent people, and give them specific and easy to understand goals, it ensures they will succeed.
  • Feedback is king. Giving and taking feedback is a key part of our culture as a company. Joiners are sat next to other people who’ve worked in their role previously. This way, if people overhear something they say on the phone that could be improved - they get that feedback straight away.
  • Get as many people involved as possible. Not only is this important from a social and cultural perspective, it is also really important that they learn about different parts of our business from the people who know most about it.
  • Iterate. After the 4 weeks, I sit down with the joiner to see how we can improve the training programme moving forward. This way we can iron out anything that didn’t go well and take on any new ideas for how it could work better.

If this sounds exciting to you, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. You don’t need any sales experience, just a willingness to learn and proof that you’ve done something awesome before.

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