One of the biggest mistakes that a sales firm can make as they grow is overlooking their sales training and onboarding processes. This is such a common issue that a whopping 22 percent of companies have no formal onboarding program.
Modern sales leaders need to realize just how critical a successful and efficient onboarding strategy is for the entire sales team, and the organization itself. Without an effective onboarding strategy, new sales reps are forced to enter into unfamiliar areas, lacking the skills and information necessary to make well-informed decisions surrounding clients and sales techniques.
Onboarding is crucial for organizations who want to succeed in the increasingly competitive sales landscape. Derek Draper, former VP of Sales for Wildfire, mentioned in an interview with First Round Review that “too often, we expect people to learn by osmosis, hand them a phone and tell them to bring us some customers”.
Developing an efficient multi-faceted onboarding strategy will help your organization be more process-driven, and equips your sales reps to help your company close more sales and fine-tune your onboarding process with their experiences and insights.
Process Paves the Way for Successful Sales Teams
Investing in creating a successful onboarding process can have huge payoffs for your company. An estimated $37 billion dollars is spent annually to keep unproductive employees who don’t completely understand their job in the U.S and the United Kingdom alone.
You wouldn’t let a developer have access to your organization’s information and back-end without a complete understanding of your protocols and processes, new sales hires shouldn’t be sent onto the floor without a thorough understanding of a company’s sales processes.
Sales reps need access to a systematic onboarding experience, and having an organized sales onboarding process helps companies experience 50% greater productivity in new hires.
Making sure that your onboarding process focuses on building an understanding between the new hire and their role is critical to effective onboarding. Learning a new role within an unfamiliar organization won’t happen in a day, week, or even a month. This process occurs in small chunks over a longer period of time.
Research completed by CSO Insights shows that for 64% of sales reps, it takes a minimum of 7 months for them to ramp up to the existing sales team. But for companies that are growing rapidly, or who need to hit their Q4 numbers, the sales team cannot wait that long.
For some young companies, the onboarding process mainly consists of job shadowing and learning from their experiences. These peers may have a lot on their plate without having to show a newcomer the ropes, or might not have the interpersonal skills necessary to comfortably demonstrate and explain your sales process to another.
To create the most effective and hands-on learning experience for new hires, your company should be able to break down your onboarding process into specific blocks, consisting of a mixed training elements, including:
1. Classroom Training and a Welcome Plan
Classroom training is a key factor in the “discovery” process, for both the employer and new sales team member. At least the first two weeks of a new hire’s experience within an organization should focus on their orientation to the company and its inner workings. Within this timeframe, an employee should have at least a basic understanding of the following areas:
- A thorough introduction to the organization.
- The sales department and the set sales goals.
- Role relevance to the organization.
- An introduction to the job “how-to’s”.
Along with this relational information, teams can utilize HR software and cloud services which offer onboarding features. This technology can help the HR and sales departments coordinate necessary information, while providing the new sales team member with the corporate information that they can access when they need it most. Automating these onboarding tasks can result in a 16 percent higher retention rate for new hires. Management can increase the efficiency of classroom training and their onboarding process by implementing this software for new sales hires to generate higher sales, faster.
2. Resource and Content Sharing
Providing new sales hires access to content, tools, and resources surrounding the organization and their new roles is a vital when creating an efficient onboard strategy. As a sales team, there are two types of resources that are most helpful for your new sales professionals:
- Sales Playbook: A sales playbook consists of digital or physical sample templates outlining each step of the sales process.
- Industry Sales and Case Studies: Put together binders or a digital resource that has case studies and industry sales information on the industries that your organization deals with. These documents should outline:
- Recruitment issues surrounding different industries
- Common problems that sales representatives run into with these industries
- Proven problem-solving to streamline the sales process.
Get your new staff up to speed on the industries that they’ll be dealing with, along with providing accessible training on specific client challenges. Keep these materials in an easily accessible location, making sure that new or existing team members can find the information when they need it. This creates a route for increased productivity, and can lead to a reduced ramp time for new hires.
3. Provide Opportunities for Role-Playing, Job Shadowing, and Mentorship
The best way to make sure your new sales rep is retaining the information in your onboarding process is to implement a personal one-on-one approach to your training.
Collaborative learning, such as in-depth role-playing sessions help people to learn in a way that’s natural to them: by actively participating in their learning. According to ASTD Research, 65% of employees say the quality of their training and learning opportunities positively influences their engagement.
During the first 3 months of onboarding, junior sales hires will need more one-on-one training and feedback sessions, so check in with them 2-3 times a week during the first 3 months. Senior outside sales reps will need less ramp time, since they have more experience to pull from, but do not overestimate this, and know it is still your job to train them. Have them in once a week during ramping, and once every 4 weeks once they’ve reached target productivity. These meetings allow sales leaders and trainers to course correct early on, ensuring that good habits are forming.
During these face-to-face meetings, new employees need to actively listen and appreciate constructive feedback, which ultimately provides a more productive learning environment.
Have the trainee write down and record the sales processes that they’ve learned. This allows the individual to actively make the messaging their own, or as though they’re creating the messaging themselves.
4. Continuing Education
The onboarding process doesn’t stop when someone has ramped up to the sales job.
Continuing education is no longer a choice for organizations, but a necessity, since companies with continuous sales training reap as high as 50% higher net sales per employee than companies without. New hires are actively seeking continued education and professional development opportunities within their workplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, millennials “want to feel deeply committed to their role and to work for a manager who will invest in their development”. They care less about money, and more about learning.
Onboarding and training should be an ongoing experience for new hires. 60% of companies fail to set milestones or goals for new hires, and without these set goals, companies are lacking the driven minds and goal-oriented sales team members necessary to increase revenue. Provide continuing opportunities and milestones for your sales team, once they’ve got the real-world experience to fine-tune their abilities.
Where Does Data Utilization Fit In?
Many companies simply choose an arbitrary ramp time, but the time needed depends on a company’s sales processes, and the details of the product or service itself. Use analytics and data technology to measure the ramp time of your sales reps.
Managers should base sales ramp time on facts, not gut, as this number will provide a general idea of exactly how long members of your organization’s sales team require to perform at the rate required to generate revenue and increase ROI.
This data can be used to measure the flaws within your onboarding process as well. If you have a large employee turnaround, have a data analyst figure out where your strategy went wrong. Don’t onboard more, onboard better with combined data from both the hiring and onboarding processes.
Being aware of your processes, implementing strategies, and driving continuous change will cultivate a successful and organized onboarding plan for your company. For more information on creating a structured, data-driven onboarding strategy, download our free ebook, Hiring Superior Salespeople.