Finding qualified sales talent is a growing challenge faced by sales organizations today. Unfortunately, many organizations put a great deal of effort into the selection process but stop short when it comes to executing an onboarding plan. In fact, research from the Sales Management Association reveals that 62% of companies consider themselves ineffective at onboarding new sales hires.
A lack of effective onboarding is a large contributor to slow ramp-up time, poor performance and high turnover rates among sales hires. You can avoid this fate by intentionally planning and executing an onboarding strategy for every new member of your sales team. Here’s how.
Step 1: Make Sure You’re Bringing the Right People Onto Your Team
All of the effort of onboarding will be wasted if you’ve hired a person who’s not a good fit for the role. Before you begin your search, gather stakeholders in your organization who understand what the role requires for long-term success, and create an ideal candidate profile.
This profile should include the hard skills, soft skills, behavior style and communication style that are best suited to the role. This blueprint will help you to objectively measure a candidate’s fit and avoid biases in the interview process.
It can be helpful to work with an experienced provider to develop an ideal candidate profile and find talent that’s naturally wired to excel in your selling environment.
Step 2: Start the Onboarding Process Before Day One
Once you’ve hired a new salesperson, start them off on the right foot by sending them a package of information before their first day on the job. This approach saves time and tells the new hire what to expect once they arrive on day one.
Along with standard paperwork, consider including the following information:
- History of your company.
- Biographies of the team members the new hire will be working most closely with.
- Your organization’s core values and culture.
- A map of the building and any parking directions they might need.
Step 3: Review Assessment Results With Your New Sales Hire
An excellent way to ensure fit for the role is to assess a candidate and compare their motivators, behavior style and personal skills to what the job requires for success. A comprehensive assessment will provide information that you can use far beyond the selection process, including the best ways to onboard them individually.
A new sales hire should have time slotted to sit down with their direct manager and review their assessment results together. This meeting will uncover the best ways for the two to communicate and any gap areas to target with training and coaching. This type of level-setting conversation cultivates a culture of transparency and sets up the relationship for long-term success.
Step 4: Follow a Structured Onboarding Schedule
It’s important to strike the right balance when it comes to the amount of time a new sales hire spends in onboarding. Not enough, and it can feel like a “sink or swim” situation. Too much, and your new hire may feel overwhelmed and demotivated.
Try to set a tight schedule in the first two days that includes some or all of the following activities:
- An office tour.
- An introduction to your company’s offerings.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) training.
- An introduction to your sales process (with in-depth training to follow).
- Lunch with the new sales hire’s mentor and/or sales team.
- A competitor review.
- A review of your company’s ideal customer.
Step 5: Set Expectations Early
It’s important to establish expectations with your new sales hire early so they clearly understand their performance indicators and the appropriate way to conduct themselves when interacting with internal and external customers.
Try to remember that “uncommunicated expectations are premeditated resentments.” When salespeople and their managers don’t communicate expectations clearly, there is a great opportunity for frustration and resentment. You can avoid this problem by communicating expectations up front.
Expectations should include measurable milestones and encompass:
- Company guidelines.
- Job expectations and standards of work.
- Measurable outcomes.
- Feedback and meeting cadence.
- Communication channels.
Set 30-, 60- and 90-day plans that your new sales hire can work toward — with the expectation that there will be a follow-up meeting to review progress.
Step 6: Give Your New Sales Hire the Necessary Training
It’s critical that your new sales hire receives training in the standardized sales process the team follows. This education ensures that everyone on the team works from the same page, speaks the same language and efficiently moves prospects through the buyer’s journey to the close.
Make sure that your sales process is easy to learn and apply in your selling environment and based on proven principles that achieve real results. Whether you train your team with live, instructor-led training or self-paced e-learning, choose a training provider that’s experienced, reputable, and equipped with best-in-class facilitation and technology capabilities.
Step 7: Provide Ongoing Coaching and Reinforcement
Enabling your salespeople is not a “set it and forget it” activity. Along with onboarding and training, your salespeople must receive quality coaching and reinforcement on a consistent and ongoing basis in order to maximize their performance levels.
Make sure that you partner with a trainer provider that offers a robust reinforcement program and sales management training to turn your sales managers into expert coaches. Salespeople who receive regular coaching not only perform at higher levels, but they also stay more engaged and loyal to your company.
The Bottom Line
With the cost of sales rep turnover at an all-time high, you cannot afford to neglect your onboarding strategy. As your organization grows into the future, focus on these tips, and partner with a training provider experienced in elevating and sustaining sales team performance.