Regardless of whether you're hiring the finest talent, you can't expect new salespeople to win without a powerful onboarding plan.
Onboarding is the way to help a new recruit quickly adapt and succeed in a new environment.
Onboarding rockstar sales people can incorporate run of the mill best practices like having them audit your SDR training handbook. However, it should also integrate a number of training and engagement components for them to easily acclimatize.
Research shows that effectively onboarding new sales people significantly increases:
- Retention: Traditionally turnover costs per rep are around $97,690 after including all HR efforts, expenses, and lost sales deals. 65% of perfectly onboarded sales members are more inclined to advance within an organization when an institutionalized onboarding process is utilized.
- Interpretation: It's costly to contract new salespeople, and it's considerably more financially savvy to hold the ones you have. An alternative is to add a professional outsourced sales team which can reduce costs, save time and deliver results.
- It supports profitability: Starting a new position is laden with efficiency traps. "What would I do in this scenario?", "How does this tool work?", and "Why do we do things like that?" These are regular inquiries that new salespeople will pose. A fruitful onboarding process answers a considerable amount of those questions proficiently and can greatly increase efficiency.
As per the Society for Human Resource Management, a legitimate onboarding procedure ought to achieve three principal destinations:
- Acclimatize - Acclimating a new employee is far more than just pointing out the location of the break room or explaining the parking situation. Every workplace has its own personality, and every company has its own goals and philosophies. Newly hired employees need to understand what the company expects from them and the specific role they will play in achieving team or company goals. At the same time, new hires need to be made aware of what they can expect from the company, such as management support, availability of resources or performance reviews.
- Engage - A Gallup Study showed a strong correlation between engaged employees and a company's profitability, turnover rate, safety record, absenteeism, product quality and customer ratings. An effective onboarding plan offers an ideal opportunity to boost employee engagement, such as fostering a supportive relationship between a new hire and management, reinforcing the company's commitment to helping employees' professional growth or proving that management recognizes the employee's talent
- Retain - According to an article in 'Inc." about the costs of employee turnover, monetary costs to replace an employee can be as much as 150 percent of the annual salary. Most of these costs are hidden, reflected in lower productivity, reduced morale among remaining employees who are asked to do more and special knowledge or experience that only the departing employee possessed. Quantifiable costs can include recruitment fees, interviewing and the time it takes to train.
So now it’s time for my 6 tips to onboard new sales reps more effectively:
The main thing you have to understand about onboarding new reps is that it’s anything but a one-week occasion; it's a procedure that can take a long time (Truly.). How long depends on the industry and product/service etc.
In light of that, you have to define and institutionalize an onboarding procedure that is intended for the long term. What explicit activities does each new hire need to finish in the primary week? Which classes do they have to finish in the principal month? With set goals and targets in mind what would be the desired accomplishment for Q1.
“Our sales team members are the face of the company in the market, and it’s so important to set them up for success,” says Deborah Hanamura, Executive Director of Sales & Marketing for Paladino and Company. Create a structured onboarding checklist with recommended time periods so that we can begin to schedule the onboarding activities before the new team member even starts:
- The early days emphasize company culture and include meetings with leaders from each sub-team or division in the company. We cover foundational lessons about our brand, service offerings, company history, and additional context to help them understand the company better.
- The next phase moves into products and services education. We review product descriptions, sales playbooks, and scopes of work for standard projects.
- Once they understand the company and its solutions, then we move into a deep dive into the markets we serve, our client segments, and buyer personas so that they can understand how those buyers will relate to each offering from their unique perches.
“The process is methodical and emphasizes a deeper understanding of our services over getting someone into the market as quickly as possible,” Hanamura explains.
In short, you should analyze your current onboarding process (or the onboarding process you hope to implement if your company doesn’t have one yet) and identify specific events every new sales rep can be taken through, then make them the standard for all hires.
A new sales rep can’t be expected to retain 100% of the knowledge that they’re presented with during onboarding. It always helps to have some resources and reference guides that they can easily refresh their memory on the fly.
“Before a new rep comes on board, the company should work to build a document filled with FAQs about the company and the role, compiled using questions that previous employees and customers often ask,” advises Kraig Martin, Commercial Director at Storage Vault. “This will be a permanent and physical point of reference for them should they need help with routine questions.”
“Developing sales processes and intelligence documents will save your new reps from lots of wasted trial-and-error in their first month or two on the job,” adds Jeff Kear, Owner of Planning Pod. “You should equip your new reps with sales objection documents that provide them with the most common objections that you hear from prospects and the best ways to respond to them. This way they aren’t surprised by any responses they get from prospects and can respond quickly to many objections.
“And you should definitely make sure your new reps have a complete array of phone scripts and secret weapons that they can start using out of the gate; these scripts should cover most of the touchpoints during a typical sales cycle. Most good reps will customize these later on to fit their style, but providing them with these resources upfront gets them up and running much faster.”
In order for new hires to be successful they need to know what is expected of them. The onboarding process is the best setting to deliver these essential details and get new employees acclimated to their work environment.
Start with the organization's overarching mission: What are the corporate goals that the entire team is working towards and how will the new sales rep help achieve them? The better they understand this, the better equipped they’ll be to have a positive impact on the company sooner.
After company goals move to individual milestones you expect them to reach by specific dates, whether that's an amount of new revenue, a number of new clients, or an (SDR Training) a number of qualified leads passed onto your closers. Creating 30, 60 and 90 day plans will keep new hires on track and ensure they don’t get overwhelmed by all the information delivered to them.
“When setting expectations for new sales reps, you need to be totally realistic,” Kraig Martin says. “Base your targets on the work that previous new hires have done, balancing this out with the achievements of your existing staff. Account for the length of the sales cycle in your target creation so that the goals are reachable.”
You have worked hard to hire skilled people and your new sales reps have a history of success and valuable experience. But that doesn't mean you can simply throw them in the deep end on their first day and hope they start making sales.
This may go against the title of this blog, but there’s no point rushing things either. Ramping quickly, but still effectively, still takes some time...
New sales reps, no matter how talented or experienced need to receive proper personalized training when they are first hired. They need to learn how your company’s products work, the sales process of your team follows, who the major players are in the industry, etc. “The worst thing you can do is hire a salesperson and rush them out to market without integrating them into the business,” warns Deborah Hanamura.
According to Jimmy Rodriguez, COO of 3dCart, the complexity of your product should influence the type of training you offer to your new reps. “Our particular product is a software that has many unique features and benefits so we have to ensure that each of our reps is familiar with them,” says Rodriguez. “Outside of dedicated class training on the product, we also have our sales reps spend some time on customer support so they encounter different customer personas and product questions.”
Pro tip: If your organization uses Hubspot, or another CRM platform with sales automation features, you can use the software’s automated tasks and reminders to provide constant guidance on your company’s sales process and the exact actions that a rep needs to take on a daily basis. Having step-by-step directions like this makes it easy for new hires to get up to speed.
Allowing new hires to shadow veteran salespeople as they interact with customers, give demos, and close deals is a great idea. Pairing them with specific mentors within the sales department is an even better one.
This process must be handled with care, though. Your top sellers might not have the time or the patience to mentor the new recruits, and matching the new hire with the wrong mentor can actually have negative effects. Look at experienced sales reps who have the necessary skills and insights, but also a natural ability and desire to teach and develop you new rock stars.
For new reps, the mentorship process should include not just watching experienced sellers, but also having those mentors present when they’re ready to set off on their own. “It’s one thing to listen and another thing to try to handle the calls themselves with the support of a teammate,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation. “If we give a new rep too long to onboard and sit and listen, they become more and more nervous to jump in. Having team members there to back up the new rep as needed is a great way to train sales reps quickly and force them to get on the calls early.”
You may also want to have your new sales reps shadow team members in other customer facing departments. “One great onboarding strategy that has worked for us is to have a new sales rep shadow an existing rep for two days, followed by shadowing a customer care specialist for two days,” says Amir Reiter CEO of CloudTask. “Shadowing the sales rep is just common sense, but we have found that shadowing one of our customer care reps gives them valuable insights into many of the issues and challenges that crop up with customers after the sale is made. This knowledge can help them better identify the perfect customers for our product during the sales process and give them a better sense of how our customers converse and interact on a day-to-day basis.”
Properly onboarding new sales reps is a process that will need to be optimized over time. It's highly unlikely that you'll find the perfect approach right out of the gate. That's okay, as long as you're willing to continually analyze your onboarding efforts and optimize them for greater future success.
Ask yourself questions like: “Are our company goals being helped by our current onboarding process?”, “What processes can we automate for greater productivity?”, and “Is the sales mentorship program we’ve implemented working as it’s supposed to?” Answer honestly and adjust accordingly.
Feedback from the sales rep is the best way to understand if the onboarding process is working. Are they connecting the dots between the company, market need, and target customer? Are they recognizing the impact that a sale has on the business? Do they interact with the team independently without prompting, showing they are part of the company in a meaningful way?
We don't see the impact of sales immediately, so we need to look for other signs that the onboarding process is a success.
There you have it, what onboarding is, why it's important , and how to do it successfully and efficiently. We have covered a lot in this article so lets do a quick recap of the six tips:
1 - Have a Standardized Process
2 - Put It All in Writing
3 - Set Clear Expectations
4 - Take Your Time With Training
5 - Partner New Reps with Veteran Sales Team Members
6 - Optimize Your Onboarding Process
Implement these tips and your company will be much more successful when onboarding new sales reps. Good luck!