The only way a business can expect to see growth is by making sales. And those sales are almost wholly dependent on having a high performing sales team that can accurately articulate your product or service value proposition in front of your prospects.
The creation of a strong, effective and productive team starts with sales onboarding.
Successful onboarding means:
- Hiring the right people
- Building a highly effective initial sales onboarding experience
- Providing ongoing sales enablement that empowers them to continue to deliver delighted customers
However, for some strange reason, onboarding is frequently overlooked when it comes to sales teams. The costly hire of a stellar sales rep almost justifies us rushing them through the door, expecting them to close deals just weeks after they first join our team.
But this rush to get them on the field is actually delaying their possibility of proving value. Without a well-thought-through onboarding programme, what we’ll actually end up with is a disparate team of well intentioned sellers. A group that end up pulling in different directions, not quite understanding your customer’s pain points, your businesses targets and making no use at all of your valuable sales resources.
5 Steps to a Successful Sales Onboarding Programme
Invest your time in building a holistic onboarding programme and prepare for huge paybacks. It’s the most scalable way to pass on the valuable knowledge you’ve been building over the years, guaranteeing your new-hires start from a much stronger foundation.
Build a path to success for your new-hires by putting these crucial steps to work:
1. Establish clarity:
It’s difficult to strive for success when you don’t really know what this looks like. Use your new recruit’s first week to set a strong foundation in the business by shedding light on:
- Role & Responsibility: Make sure your new rep understands what’s expected of them going forwards. What does the role entail? What’s expected of the seller on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
- Metrics & KPIs: What sort of numbers should your new recruit be hitting and by when? What cadence is expected of them? Offer a clear picture of what good selling looks like in your organisation.
- Onboarding process: Include a timeline into your onboarding process and share this with the new recruit. In it, highlight how long each phase will take, who will be included in each section and a list of FAQs for each onboarding stage.
- Interactions: Set up regular catch-ups between new sales reps and their managers to discuss the seller’s book of business. Be clear on rhythm and frequency of these meetings from the outset so your new recruit can be prepared to present their progress regularly.
Take Action: Prepare a starter pack with all these details for your recruits to review whenever they have doubts.
2. Set Up Connections:
Help set up their internal network by introducing them to the people that will help drive their productivity. This new network will help them to first adapt and later excel in their role. Make sure your new recruit is connected to relevant leaders, cross-function peers (in product, service, sales enablement, etc) and team members. For this last group, connect your recruits to both seasoned sellers and newly hired reps. Look into setting up shadow days with your top performers – this will give your new recruit a great view into what success looks like in your organisation and will also have the added benefit of acknowledgement for your top performing rep. Recognition like this is a huge motivational boost. Also plan get-togethers for new recruits to meet and share their experiences in the role so far. This will quickly create a great sense of community.
Take Action: Why not set up a lunch-and-learn session every couple of months to bring new reps together and share feedback and experiences? It could be the start of an inspiring ideas hub...
3. Facilitate Understanding:
The first week in any role is an overwhelming whirlwind of new concepts, names and schedules. Create a spacious onboarding experience by giving recruits time to digest the initial information and come up with queries and doubts by setting up regular checkpoints along the way.
To ease the learning process, consider breaking down the curriculum into easy to consume areas. For example:
- Products & services
- Sales process and methodology
- Sales tools
- Sales activities
Yes, this step is slightly time consuming but it will create a knowledgeable and agile sales force that will quickly become productive.
After this step, your new-hire should be able to comfortably articulate the value proposition of your products and services, as well as be adept at using your sales methodology and tools.
Take Action: Engage your new-hires with a fun and interactive competition around your product, messaging and technology. Split the group into teams and test their knowledge with a fun pop-quiz or challenge your reps to build the best sales pitch. Award the winners with a fun reward and publically congratulate them for their efforts, for added motivational brownie points.
***Want to build a sales competition but you’re feeling a bit dry on ideas? Download our ultimate sales contest guide:
4. Build up Confidence:
It’s always tempting to want to get our sales reps onto the playing field as soon as possible – after all, they’re a costly investment and we’re desperate to start seeing some ROI. But, if what you really want is to build an unbeatable sales force, it’s worth spending some time on perfecting our sellers’ tactics before sending them out on the road.
For this, set aside some practice time for the new recruits to start dipping their toes in the sales process pool. Gradually get them to participate in sales calls to practice applying the product messaging, allow them time to shadow team members so they can see how they engage with buyers, listen in on their prospect conversations and offer constructive feedback and coaching – always after the interaction takes place, never in front of the buyer – reinforcing on positive behaviours and offering further training in any weaker areas.
This step will vary in length depending on the competency and experience of the new hire.
Take Action: The beauty of sales is that it can always be improved on. Don’t just keep an eye on your new reps during the probation period. Coaching is an ongoing process, so make sure you’re setting regular sessions with your entire team.
5. Review Progress:
After your designated onboarding time (you will know exactly how long this should be after you’ve built the timeline mentioned on step 1 and clearly identify your new rep’s targets against it) it’s time to review the new-hire’s progress. By this point, your recruit should be a contributing member of the team, being able to demonstrate a good command of your product and service, a sense of the marketplace and have built a good relationship within the organisation and with some of your prospects.
Take Action: Measure each individual’s progress against their set target and offer extra guidance to anybody not yet meeting the mark.
Remember, even though the official onboarding process is now complete, an ongoing sales training programme will be needed to further develop skills and keep your sales force strong amidst the changing customer or market demands.
Is your team ready to meet the new buyer’s needs?
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