By Bob London
You know the “set it and forget it” method that seems to work so well on infomercial products? Well, that doesn’t cut it when you are trying to bring a new salesperson up to speed. You can’t just say, “Welcome–here are some leads, go for it!” You need a well-designed onboarding process to help new salespeople hit their quota faster. Yet onboarding new sales reps is one of the most critical aspects of sales enablement that often gets overlooked.
To help you understand the risks of improper sales rep onboarding and provide some solutions, we’ve curated what we believe is some very useful content from a variety of well-respected sources.
1. Sales Person Onboarding Best Practices E-Book (PDF)
The business case for onboarding and how to implement it as a strategy to drive sales performance
Lee B. Salz, Sales Management Strategist, TheRevenueAccelerator.com
Page one of this very readable e-book was a real grabber–something many of us can relate to:
The Unexpected Employee. It’s 8:28am when Brett arrives at ABC Industries ready for his first day. He’s excited, but also a bit apprehensive. Brett walks into the office, puts on a big smile and introduces himself to the receptionist. “Hi, I’m Brett Wilson, your new sales person.” Looking puzzled, the receptionist responds, “New sales person? I didn’t know we hired a new salesperson.” She calls several managers, but no one knows what to do with Brett. He sits in the lobby as person after person walks by without saying a word to him
This e-book goes on to helps you understand the risks of improper sales onboarding, including the financial implications; there’s even a link (no registration required!) to a Sales Person Profitability Calculator (https://www.therevenueaccelerator.com/calculator.php).
John Kenney, Sales Benchmark Index
The theme of this article is taking a customer-centric approach to sales onboarding. Here’s an excerpt that gives you the idea:
Building a customer-focused program can be easy – if you have the content. This means that the research into personas and their buying processes is complete. Sequence this content first in the onboarding program. New hires will naturally want to dive into the details of solution features and benefits. Focusing on the customer early in onboarding sends a strong message.
There’s also a useful Customer-Focused Onboarding Scorecard to help you assess your own program.
By the way, Sales Benchmark Index deserves high marks for transparency and utility: This page http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com/competitors actually points to their competitors because, in their words,
Finding firms to compare SBI against can be time consuming and confusing. To save you time, here is a list of high quality firms that we are most often compared to.
Lindsay Kolowich, InsightSquared
This article provides a good, basic overview of important aspects of sales onboarding. For example:
Outline learning expectations. Providing a framework for the learning requirements of your new hires will not only make the process more efficient, but will help your reps measure expectations and internalize new information and skills more easily. Some learning categories include internal systems, product knowledge, marketing and lead generation, buyer personas and process maps, prospecting and opportunity management, competition and differentiation, and technology and other tools.
Gareth Goh, InsightSquared
InsightSquared earned a second spot on our list with this article on sales onboarding mistakes. Here’s one common misstep–and a solution to address it:
New hires are tasked with learning independently
New sales reps will learn better if they are paired with a “learning buddy” to share experiences with or turn to with questions. This “learning buddy” can either be a fellow new rep or a more experienced rep; there are advantages to each. When paired with a new rep, they will both be empathetic to what they are going through together and, being down in the trenches, can find unique ways of supporting each other. Meanwhile, the veteran rep will likely be a better source of answers to specific questions about the selling process. Whichever you choose, make sure that no rep goes through the onboarding process on their own.
5. TRAINING AND ON-BOARDING YOUR NEW SALES REP (PDF)
Sales search firms have probably seen it all with sales onboarding. This e-book takes an engaging and sensible approach, for example they have a bit of fun with anyone who still uses a Rolodex:
A common mistake is to hire a salesperson and hope they have contacts that can bring in sales. Often companies will ask the salesperson how big their “Rolodex” is as an interview question. There are a few problems with this as a question to screen for a great salesperson. Firstly, any sales person who has a Rolodex, might be a bit behind the times. Secondly, the reality is that even experienced, well connected salespeople need help from their company to be successful.
There’s also a quarterly plan showing milestones and progress you should expect during the sales onboarding process.
6. Meet Your Employee Onboarding Robot! (Why the Solution to Proper Onboarding Isn’t Just Buying Software)
Dana Papke, TPO, Inc.
Our final article isn’t specifically about sales onboarding, but the point is just as relevant: companies can be over-reliant on software to automate the onboarding process. Software is great for compliance (checking the boxes), but not for educating a new salesperson. The lead paragraph is priceless (as is the accompanying picture of the Jetsons’ maid Rosie):
I met someone recently who told me his company has “an HR system that onboards employees.” I immediately envisioned a cheerful robot (like The Jetsons’ ultra-efficient maid, Rosie, or the lovable R2D2 from Star Wars) that greets new employees and guides them through the halls making robotic introductions to their new co-workers.
Hopefully this list has provided you with some insights into why proper sales onboarding is so critical–and how to do it effectively. Feel free to contribute your experiences in the comments section below.