Effective sales onboarding involves extensive practice and role playing; a progressive, focused curriculum; multiple ways of teaching (from presentations and videos to online courses); an emphasis on selling skills; peer support; and planning for what happens when training is over.
If your organization is like most, the first few days and weeks of your sales rep onboarding program is intense. Reps get ample hands-on time with leadership, managers, and trainers, learning and getting excited about the business and the sales process.
Everyone leaves those first few weeks feeling good. But what happens next?
The average time to ramp for new sales reps, according to CSO Insights, is over 10 months. That means no matter how thorough your training program is in those initial weeks, your new hires still have a steep uphill climb to full productivity. So even though formal training might be over, the onboarding process should extend for several more months.
Companies that take a more holistic, long-term approach to rep onboarding have the best chance to collapse time to productivity and reduce churn. Here are 10 post-training sales onboarding exercises that can help you in this aim.
1) Practice, practice, practice.
Reps absorb training through repetition. Have reps practice delivering the pitch, explaining competitive differentiation, and handling objections as much as needed. Deliberate practice can take place in front of a peer or on a rep’s own time. Anything that gets them practicing before doing a sales call will increase sales training stickiness and rep confidence.
2) Create a focused, progressive curriculum …
Where onboarding typically breaks down is after the two-week mark. What happens when the new hire's excitement wanes? By creating a long-term plan ahead of time, you will not only onboard reps more efficiently, but also formulate a program to continue their learning and build enthusiasm far beyond the start date.
3) … that builds knowledge with each step.
Reps stay engaged when new lessons challenge, inspire, and pave a clear road toward application. Reinforce the basics and build on them over time. Boredom creates disengagement and ultimately churns your best reps.
4) Get social.
Face it –- your new reps are millennials, and the old training methods can sometimes be outdated. To reach new reps, technology and social networks need to be part of your strategy. Use video, social media, and sharing tools to encourage conversation, peer development, and interaction. Training sticks more when it speaks the language of the learner.
5) Share tribal knowledge.
Tribal knowledge lives in every sales organization, but is it making its way to new hires? Share your best practices and tips at scale with guided lessons, video, or other interactive activities to draw out hidden ideas. Top performers should be encouraged to participate and recognized for their contributions.
6) Benchmark success.
How do you know your sales onboarding program is actually working, or dare I say, getting better? To tackle this question, create an onboarding scorecard that measures key metrics by start group and tracks how they behave over time. Are these metrics getting better, worse, or just staying the same? Adjust your program accordingly.
7) Focus on selling skills.
According to CEB, reps spend 19 hours per year on product training, but only 14 hours on sales training. This hopefully makes them experts in your product set, but not necessarily equipped to engage prospects, deliver insights, and sell. Start by ensuring new reps understand the sales process and help them qualify opportunities until they get the hang of it.
8) Introduce social selling.
Social selling -- the practice of using social media to drive more leads, prove authority, and educate prospects -- is a key part of modern business development. Introduce techniques like these early in a rep’s tenure, because trying to change behaviors in the future is that much harder.
9) Leverage start groups.
Reps normally start with other reps, often called a “start group,” and these relationships lend a strong support network throughout their tenure at the company. Reinforce this by creating ongoing structured opportunities for start group interaction and peer-to-peer support.
10) Have reps plan their own success.
At first, sales goals can seem like pie in the sky, especially when a new rep is expected to hit their number from the start. Encourage reps to take your greater sales goals and plans and build their own “plan to make the plan.” When they chart their own path to success, getting there will be that much more likely.
Originally published Nov 24, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated January 28 2019