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Create a Winning Team: A Complete Guide to Sales Onboarding

April 9, 2020

sales training

It’s a long and expensive process to find, hire, and train new sales talent.

Once you’ve hired your new sales rep, you need to invest time to onboard them and get them up to speed. It’s especially important to ensure you build their knowledge in a variety of topics, including but not limited to company values, product knowledge, and more.

Sales onboarding sets your team up for success

Sales onboarding is the process companies establish in order to bring new sales reps into their organization, teaching them the skills and knowledge they need to perform their job, and prepare them for success.

It’s not just important for hiring managers and companies; onboarding sets the tone for new employees, and can potentially affect their experience at a company. Organizations with a strong onboarding program, based on research by Glassdoor, can improve new hire retention by 82%.

You don’t want to spend time and resources training your new reps only to have them leave after a short term, right? The first few months after a new rep is hired are the most critical not just to their retention, but also for their performance and long-term success, so it’s really important to get your sales onboarding process right.

4 best practices for onboarding new sales hires

Did you know it takes an average of three months for a new seller to be ready to interact with buyers, nine months for them to be competent to start selling, and 15 months or more for them to become a top seller?

In order to get sellers performing at a high level, that’s a huge investment for companies in terms of time and resources. But the good news is that you can shorten this timeframe if you establish a strong sales onboarding program. And what you’ll get by investing in solid processes for your sales onboarding program is a team of salespeople who fully understand your company mission, your customers, your products, and more - which translates into getting more returns on this investment, faster.

Here’s a few tips to help you help your new sales reps ramp up faster and start performing like your A-sellers.

1. Set clear goals and expectations

Have 30, 60, and 90-day plans for onboarding with scheduled check-ins to evaluate your new rep’s progress and determine what areas they’re doing well, where they’re struggling,and what type of additional training could be used to help them further improve along the way. This helps establish expectations for the new rep’s participation in the onboarding program and also helps guide the manager through the process.

As part of the established goals and expectations, make sure you include benchmarks and quotas. You should be calculating your onboarding rate based on the average number of months it takes to have a new sales rep hit 100%, or as close to that, of the quota you set for them.

Perhaps you could further segment the average onboarding period by experience; for example, compare how long it takes for a veteran sales rep to ramp up, versus the time it takes for a fresh college grad to ramp up.

2. Fully train new salespeople

The next step to onboarding your sales reps is to make sure you are providing them ample training opportunities.

Teach your reps your sales methodologies and all the tools that are part of the process. This could include everything from your CRM to your content management system. Learning to use team or company technology can be difficult to adjust to in the first few days of onboarding. Give them access to all the sales collateral your marketing team has created so they can get a head start on learning about what’s available as a resource and how to articulate the products’ values.

Have your reps sign up for practice calls and call reviews – lots of them – from easy to hard. It’s helpful for new reps to listen to not just call recordings from your top reps but also from reps who haven’t been part of the team for as long. This helps new reps to learn from a multitude of experience levels, and can compare their own practice calls to these. Be sure to be providing feedback every step of the way throughout their onboarding process so the new reps know where they can continuously improve on.

Train your reps on everything they’d be handling with customers, whether it’s negotiating, common objection handling or onboarding new customers. They’ll need to know what sort of judgment calls they can make about discounts, what’s the etiquette like for discussing these topics with prospects, and know what the process is like in handing off a new customer to the customer success team.

When their onboarding program finishes, make sure you review the goals and expectations you’ve set with your new hires, as well as the feedback you’ve provided to the rep throughout the process. It’s important to gauge whether a rep is ready or not to start representing your company in front of customers on calls.

3. Partner new salespeople with veteran reps

The next step to onboarding your sales rep is to have them shadow veteran reps in your sales organizations. You’ll want the new reps to learn how your company conducts sales, but not on live calls with customers. Rather, you’ll want to be training them in an environment where you can teach them and monitor their progress.

Have a tenured salesperson show the new sales reps the ropes and observe how existing reps do their job. This can include anything from how you’re supposed to manage deals, send follow-up emails, qualify opportunities, prospect, and close deals, and more.

For example, if a tenured sales rep is preparing for a customer presentation or demo, invite the new reps to shadow the veteran rep. Show them how the demo or presentation is structured, who the audience is, how you got in touch with this prospect, and how you recommend to follow-up.

Let the new sales reps learn by example: this in turn helps more established reps to learn to lead by example and creates a positive peer-to-peer relationship in your sales organization, and also provides a resource for new reps to seek out additional help.

4. Use sales training and onboarding software to expedite the process

Here’s what you don’t want: a traditional, outdated onboarding process that leaves your new sales reps overwhelmed by information overload. Even worse, the information thrown at them during the process isn’t readily available for them to reference afterwards when they need it, and they’re not sure where to get their questions answered.

To shorten your sales rep’s onboarding time, we recommend you to focus on developing a curriculum that builds skills over time - a learning path plan that enables them to learn efficiently and effectively as they ramp up and begin to contribute to the team. A well-built sales curriculum can not only shorten the ramp-up time, but also turn new hires into top performers.

This is where you can bring in sales training and onboarding software to help expedite the process. Such software should include assessments, micro-courses, and roleplaying opportunities to help the new reps get more and more familiar with your sales methodologies, ideal customer profiles, product values, and more.

Reps should be able to practice what they’ve learned throughout the onboarding in mock sales scenarios so they can be ready to start talking to customers. Have them practice giving presentations and demos, write cold emails, make real phone calls with you as the customer - get them used to talking on the phone.

They can complete assessments and micro-courses to show you how well versed they are in what you want them to be learning, and you can continuously monitor their progress and bring in targeted coaching where necessary.

This frees up your time in conducting in-person lessons and eliminates the need to have them read printed materials. Having such software also ensures that all your reps, regardless if they’re global, remote, or in the same office as you, are learning from the same materials and referencing a single source of truth.

How can sales onboarding decrease ramp time?

Having a sales onboarding process in place can lessen the time it takes for a rep to get up to speed with your processes and objectives.

In hiring a new sales rep, you’ve already invested time, resources, and effort to bring them into the company. It’s important to ensure you can maximize the return on that investment by training them thoroughly and bringing them up to speed with your company, product, and processes.

  • You can set goals and expectations with scheduled check-ins to ensure that your new hire is fully present and making continuous progress throughout.
  • Have them practice, practice, and practice making calls and getting familiar with sales processes and methodologies so they can be ready to hit the ground running when their onboarding program is complete.
  • Assign veteran reps to buddy up with your new sales reps to ensure they know how sales is done at your company and also allow them to provide fresh ideas in response to what they’re learning from the tenured rep.
  • Leverage sales training and onboarding software to further expedite the process and use that as a medium to serve up training, micro-courses, and assessments to the new hires so they can practice what they’ve learned and put it to real scenarios

Did everything we recommended?

It’s best you start documenting your onboarding processes for your next round of new hires. Have everything written out, documented, approved by any relevant higher-ups so that it’s a single source of truth that all new reps are trained from.

Optimize your onboarding process

The last thing you want is for a sales rep to be overwhelmed with information, or dissatisfied with the onboarding they’re getting. Make the process seamless and easy-to-follow so it’s painless for you as the manager and the rep as the new hire. You’ll also make it easy for yourself if your execs or anyone from any department ever wants to know how sales hires are onboarded - transparency makes everything so much easier!

Conclusion

Onboarding new sales reps is one of the most critical areas of focus when it comes to improving the return on investment for sales training. Onboarding new sales hires is tough, but if you put in the time and effort and do it right, you’ll be able to start getting a return on your investment in the time and effort you invest in new hires. Imagine the benefits of talent retention, high morale, and overall quality of your sales organization!

Follow the tips we’ve outlined above when developing your onboarding strategy, and propel your sellers to maximum productivity and success as quickly as possible. 

Educate your salespeople and set them up for success – use top-level sales training providers to bring more knowledge and confidence to your team – and see how that translates to profit for your company! 

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