January 8, 2021

Sales Onboarding: 5 Foolproof Steps for Training New Sales Reps

Hiring and onboarding new members of your sales team can be complicated. Even when you find reputable candidates to fill open spots in your department and you feel confident that you hired the right people, difficulties may arise. Research from Clearslide and CSO Insights found that, on average, it takes new reps between six and nine months to get fully ramped up to the performance levels of established sales agents. 

This requires you, as these new reps’ manager and mentor, to boost the efficiency of that process any way you can. Following the steps outlined below as part of an airtight sales onboarding program will be critical to increase new sellers’ chances of developing successful, long-tenured careers as part of your team.

1. Onboarding should begin before new reps’ first days of work.

If you kick off the onboarding process some time before reps are set to report for their first day — say, about a week ahead — it greatly reduces the chances of new hires having any significant problems in their first few weeks with the team.

What does this entail? According to HubSpot, the pre-work onboarding period can include everything from “shadowing,” in which new hires follow established reps as they go about their daily routine, to learning about whatever software and other tools they’ll be regularly using. The latter is especially important if you use a proprietary or less well-known platform for sales operations. As manager, you’ll want to ensure that new hires have access to these solutions, as well as email and other tools to avoid first-day snags. Your reps-to-be can also use the pre-hire onboarding phase to further familiarize themselves with the organization’s history, mission, values and policies.

2. Focus on industry specifics.

If your new hires didn’t have direct sales experience (or highly relevant experience in a similar field, like account management), you most likely wouldn’t have brought them on in the first place. But that doesn’t mean they’ll know how to sell your company’s specific products or services from the get-go, or be fully acquainted with the broader trends of the industry. 

The onboarding phase that begins when a new employee in their first 30 days should focus on essential aspects of sales — identifying prospective customers’ needs, communicating effectively, understanding and overcoming objections and so on — through the lens of your unique organization. For instance, the objections expressed by customers in selling business insurance solutions will be significantly different from those encountered with electronic health records software. Your training content must clearly educate new reps as to the circumstances they’re likely to encounter in your corner of the sales universe. Case studies will be perfect for this purpose.

3. Establish clear goals and KPIs.

In sales training it’s common to divide the primary onboarding period for new hires into three distinct sections — this is often referred to as a “30-60-90 day plan.” In this sales enablement strategy, rookie reps spend the first portion of the plan learning the ins and outs of company tools, processes and priorities, particularly in the areas described above. The second phase is about accruing hands-on experience by being part of sales calls (at steadily increasing levels of involvement). Finally, reps will begin running point on certain leads, spearheading meetings, using all essential tools and establishing their own work routines with as much autonomy as possible. 

During each of these phases, reps should be pursuing concrete goals that can be measured with key performance indicators. For example, leading up to day 30, they could be assigned to set up a certain number of dummy prospect accounts to demonstrate their understanding of the team’s CRM platform, and be evaluated on how thoroughly they handled the process. Goals for the post-day-60 phase might be more along the lines of getting some prospects to agree to full sales meetings or demos after initial calls, or closing deals outright. As reps move toward their six-month anniversary (the point after which Clearside stated most reps will be about on par with established sellers), you’ll begin measuring classic sales KPIs such as win rate, quota attainment, contract value and profitability.

4. Set reps up for continuous improvement.

No sales manager wants their new reps to reach a place of stability and then plateau there, feeling content to hit quotas and other required KPIs but not to strive for more. You want them to steadily improve their sales skills for the entirety of their stint with the organization. Perhaps you think one of your new hires could ultimately specialize in leading territory planning efforts to expand into new markets, while another has potential to be an expert negotiator and could train others in that skill somewhere down the line. 

To bolster their chances of reaching those heights, it’s incumbent on their manager to steer them in the right direction through specialized sales coaching. Explain clearly why you believe certain avenues make sense for them to pursue and customize a coaching plan for you to execute at an appropriate pace.

5. Use a versatile sales enablement solution.

As talented as sales reps can become (and as careful as their supervisors are), success in a hypercompetitive business environment is as much contingent on the right technology as it is the right people. 

Onboarding must be backed by an agile sales enablement platform like Showpad. The agile solution gives reps and managers the crucial support they need to roll with whatever punches reps face early in their careers, through comprehensive content sharing and data analytics features.

Contact us today to learn more about Showpad or request a demo.