While sales onboarding in the past was a periodic occurrence, most sales organizations are now permanently engaged in the process, given today’s fast-moving market. With new hires flowing in constantly due to growth — not to mention employee turnover — the need to teach new salespeople is constant.
Moreover, the dynamics of markets, geographies, demographics, technology and products means that veteran sales staff need to constantly learn new material — a process sometimes “everboarding” — new product rollouts, strategies for new target markets and more. This process is ongoing, and part of most effective sales organization cultures.
There is a constant and urgent need for sales stakeholders to deploy these processes quickly and effectively. The faster the onboarding and the more efficient the ongoing training, the faster new and veteran sellers can start impacting revenue.
As every sales stakeholder knows, even small changes in aggregate time to first call, first meeting and first deal can translate into significant jumps in revenue.
Faster onboarding and more efficient everboarding is also good for team morale. The faster teams get up to speed, the more each player brings in each month — particularly in transactional companies with shorter sales cycles.
With an eye to help sales organizations hyper-streamline the onboarding and everboarding process, here are five tips and best practices to follow:
Tip 1: Motivate Sales Reps To Take Responsibility for Their Training
There’s a limit to how much you can push sales hires and reps to complete training if they don’t see its value. You can encourage them, of course, but at the end of the day, they need to drive their own self-improvement. Understanding that onboarding and everboarding will help them reach or exceed their numbers faster is a great incentive.
Make each step in the process the salesperson’s responsibility, even if it means scheduling appointments with people they haven’t met. Creating a practice and coaching culture throughout the entire organization will serve reps well once onboarding is complete, helping them transition to owning their professional development.
Tip 2: Prioritize Content for the First Two Weeks
Active onboarding keeps getting shorter. This means that you need to carefully prioritize topics covered. Before new hires hit the floor in two weeks’ time, make sure they know inside-out:
- Your organization’s buyer target persona.
- Your corporate messaging.
- A reasonable amount about the product.
Tip 3: Emphasize That Onboarding Isn’t “One and Done”
There’s no way to escape the sad reality of the forgetting curve. Yet you can help your new and current reps overcome it by building in plenty of reinforcement into training — reiterating the same material in different ways numerous times.
Begin by introducing the topic at a high level, taking a broad but shallow approach. Then, go back over it many times, digging deeper into the details on each pass. Build in a good handoff process and coaching calibration for the weeks and months following the initial exposure to the material to ensure that reinforcement continues beyond the first active training period.
Tip 4: Standardize Your Scoring System and Feedback
Peer-to-peer sales role playing is the traditional onboarding and everboarding activity of choice. The problem is that role playing does not deliver a consistent and coherent picture of rep capabilities that enables their progress to be objectively tracked.
For example, if a seller gets feedback from an average performer, they might think they’re doing a great job whereas feedback from a top performer might include more constructive criticism. It’s important to find a standardized scoring system that you can trust to present a reliable assessment of seller achievements.
Tip 5: Ensure That KPIs Are Aligned With Business Outcomes.
Setting onboarding and everboarding key performance indicators (KPIs) is standard operating procedure. It is critical to ensure that KPIs are aligned with business outcomes. At the same time, connecting an individual KPI with a broad business outcome (like tying “knowledge of product feature X” to “enterprise-wide revenue growth”) can be overwhelming and counter-productive. To avoid this, make sure KPIs are aligned realistically with milestones.
For example, if your goal is to schedule 15 meetings by month two, consider breaking this down into weekly milestones that will show if you’re on track to reach this goal. If you miss milestones, you can still tweak the process to meet the KPI.
The Bottom Line
Today, every sales organization is a learning organization. And every seller is a learner at some point. Faster, more effective onboarding and everboarding processes are the key to bringing sellers up to speed – and to increase their numbers. Streamlining and quantifying everboarding and onboarding is the first step toward a more knowledgeable, happier and more productive sales organization.