Sales onboarding is the method companies go through to bring new sales reps into their organization and help them gain the skills, knowledge and behaviors needed to perform effectively and reach their goals.
According to a Consumer Affairs report, sales jobs are predicted to be the top job in 2017, accounting for more than 16 million jobs nationally. But adding sales staff alone won’t enable companies to reach their financial goals in the short term. In fact, Training Industry Magazine estimated that it takes over a year - 381 days to be exact - for a new sales rep to reach the “same performance level as tenured sales reps.”
In today’s competitive market, companies simply can’t wait that long to get sales reps running at full potential. This is where a strong sales onboarding program comes in.
The Three R's
Onboarding is one of a sales rep’s first experiences with a company – and as the adage says, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” An O.C. Tanner article notes “69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding.”
With all the trouble and cost associated with hiring qualified sales talent, it would be a shame to get off on the wrong foot with a haphazard approach to getting them integrated into the team.
Unfortunately for many companies, the onboarding process has continued to follow the old playbook of a sales kickoff meeting: painful all-day immersion sessions and a week of shadow selling another rep. But is this approach working? Probably not.
Think of it this way – can you recall even half of what you learned or did last week? The most effective onboarding methods should provide new reps access to smaller, more consumable training materials so they can constantly go back and refresh their knowledge and aptitude on different products, new offerings, etc. The recent Aberdeen State of Sales 2017 report noted that best-in-class organizations are 81 percent more likely to leverage guided selling / on-demand sales coaching capabilities in their operations.
Not only does a slow ramp time hinder a reps ability to start generating sales to move the bottom line, but can also have a negative impact in terms of what you are paying them in sales draws.
A CSO Insights’ 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization study found that onboarding training services can improve win rates by 14 percent or downgrade them by 9 percent, depending on their effectiveness.
By integrating ongoing, real-time sales coaching and onboarding training, sales reps have a toolkit needed for ongoing success, the satisfaction of knowing they picked a great company to further their career, plus the skills and motivation required to go the extra mile to achieve their goals. All in well under a year!
Want more? Read about sales onboarding best practices.
If your goal is to achieve sales growth in 2017 (and we assume it is), hiring more reps alone won’t help you get there. It’s critical to also get those reps up to speed quickly by modeling the behaviors and objectives that align with your overall corporate goals. Following these three C’s will help you see results faster:
The Three C's
Cut the Content Overload
Going along with the point on ramp time above, science has proven that if we are not repeatedly reviewing information, we can forget up to 40% of it in the first 24 hours and up to 60% in 48 hours.
Reps – brand new or seasoned veterans – need access to smaller, more consumable training materials so they can constantly go back and refresh their knowledge and aptitude on different products, new offerings, etc. For example, offering on-demand persona trainings can help new reps refresh themselves on key benefit messages in the moment as they are about to pick up the phone for a sales call.
So here’s the point: Ditch the “data dump” and focus on more actionable, ongoing information.
Coach for Sales Success
Coaching has been found to have the biggest impact on sales performance – and is one of the best ways to get new reps up to speed and revenue generating quickly.
But again, too many companies rely on immersive coaching sessions over a short period of time. For the best success, coaching should be an ongoing practice. The San Francisco 49ers didn’t bring in Bill Walsh for a few one-day sessions, then tell the players to go forth and win. And Pat Summitt didn’t stop coaching the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team after one, two … or even eight national championships.
Coaching is a long-term process. Sales should be no different. And who better to help coach your reps than your star players? By integrating social technologies with stellar sales coaching skills, your top reps can easily tape their best sales pitches and conversations to give their peers real and actionable training on what works. In tandem, new reps should be encouraged to tape themselves and seek peer feedback from tenured reps so they can fine-tune their delivery and message. This kind of review is a critical, but often overlooked part of an effective sales onboarding process.
Most importantly, all this information needs to be at a rep’s fingertips. For sales, time is money. Reps need to be able to quickly access training materials and peer-coaching feedback no matter where the job may take them.
At the same time, there is nothing more motivating than for a rep – new or tenured – than to be able to see how they are performing against their own personal objectives, as well as against the broader team. By providing reps an automated dashboard that links everything they need in one location – from CRM and CPQ, to sales performance, commission payments, and onboarding all in one location – they will be well equipped to dramatically cut the time it takes to get up to speed and start successfully selling. Not to mention, management will have a central location to analyze what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to sales onboarding and sales performance.
Again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your sales team is often the first point of contact with a new customer or prospect. Getting them onboard and well-trained quickly is paramount to both their success and yours as an organization. At the same time, your sales onboarding process is a reps first foray into your company. A smooth process backed by the tools and training needed for ongoing success will give them the confidence they made the right choice by joining your company and motivate them to go the extra mile to achieve their goals--in well under a year!