After hiring a sales person who has little or no experience with in-home sales of home improvement products and training him or her in the product and your multi-step technique, you're wondering, “Now what?”

For many home improvement companies, the next step is to place that person under the wing of someone who knows sales and knows the system. That could be your sales manager or a seasoned sales veteran with the maturity and management skills to help.

Cal-Tec Construction, in Fresno, Calif., for instance, has no formal sales mentoring program. But sales manager Greg Williams sees to it that new salespeople ride with veterans, at least for a while. “We don't have a set amount of time,” he explains. “We do it until they're comfortable, and I'm comfortable with them.”

Leap of Faith Mike Farina, sales manager at State Roofing, in Monroe, Wash., says having new hires ride with him or his two assistant sales managers will “build a working relationship that creates trust.” Farina says he operates on the theory that home improvement selling is a business that's tough to start in. There is, he says, a “leap of faith” that newcomers to the company — and especially to the business — have to make. In addition to their training, new people at State Roofing get lots of personal attention to help them get up and running quickly.

At Maine Window and Sunroom, in Portland, Me., mentoring takes the relationship a step beyond basic training. “Mentoring is more than riding with,” says sales manager Jim McCarthy. “It's ongoing communication via phone, e-mail, whatever. With new people, it's almost daily.”

Sophomores Even after new salespeople are running their calls independently, Farina keeps a close eye on them. He's waiting for what he calls the sophomore stage. “Sometimes,” he explains, “we get them going well, and they're excited. Then they hit this little block. It requires more mentoring. We coach them, move them through.”

Experiencing some frustration after early success isn't unusual, says Farina, and letting salespeople know that others have dealt with the same problem makes things easier on the new salespeople.

At Swimme and Son in Elizabeth, N.C., the sales manager rides along for at least a month before new sales-people go out on their own, says co-owner Mark Swimme. New salespeople also learn how to get their own leads. “If you take a salesperson and just put him out there, his chances of success aren't good,” Swimme says. “Salespeople aren't born. They are taught and mentored.”

The mentoring process also benefits sales managers. “I'm a selling sales manager,” says Gary Johnson of ABC Seamless Siding & Windows in Toledo, Ohio. “If I go out and watch, it keeps me fresh and abreast of what's going on in the field.”