Traditional onboarding and classroom style training is expensive and as a result, organizations continually pressure trainers and managers for shorter training schedules. 

It’s no surprise that this often results in less effective learning and frustration leading to a cycle of constant turnover.  However, there are new creative technology solutions to bridge the gap in abbreviated training such as virtual coaches and predictive training modules.

With shorter time frames, the basic challenge is the same – to assimilate new hires quickly, yet minimize turnover. There is a significant financial investment with all new hires, and that is especially true with salespeople. It is generally accepted that the cost of recruiting, onboarding and training a salesperson is typically one year’s compensation.  DePaul University’s 2015-2106 Sales Effectiveness Survey found the average cost of turnover for a single sales rep to be $97,690.

Great sales managers understand what it takes to nurture new hires into top talent. It is actually fairly simple if four elements are incorporated into the onboarding and training philosophy.  New training technology tools make this coaching and support easier to provide than ever.

1.  Pre-Training: Provide an overview of the organization and some of the training materials before the rep begins the formal program.  These materials can be a mix of traditional collateral pieces, videos, podcasts, webinars, or even some gamification elements presented through sales enablement platforms.  Being exposed to information before the formal training helps retention.   

2.  Onsite training:  Since so many reps may work from a virtual office, classroom settings and group training sessions are still valuable for building camaraderie. but the high cost is encouraging companies to shorten or eliminate this phase.  More and more companies are moving to virtual training – creating webinar-like sessions and virtual classrooms using video conferencing and meeting software.

This is also a great phase to augment with self-study learning.  Complementary curriculum can be presented in a sales enablement and/or learning management systems.  Strive to keep content in small chunks, make it interesting, and put a heavy emphasis on case studies, sales playbooks, value selling and real steps to moving a prospect through the buying process – training that brings your company’s solutions to life. 

To keep new hires on track, consider implementing peer coaching, practical practice and certification elements including quick quizzes or other self-study evaluations to measure competency and reward learning accomplishments.

3.  Ongoing support: As the sales rep heads out into the world it is crucial to reinforce the onsite training at the time the sales conversations are happening.  It is challenging for a manger or a trainer to be available and predict exactly what information is needed and help the sales rep on a daily basis.  Just-in-time support, or virtual coaching, is the best way to reinforce knowledge and desired sales behavior.  

4.  Tracking: Most companies have specific milestones and ways to measure leading and lagging indicators of sales onboarding success. Technology has more capabilities than ever to automate trainer and mentor evaluations, and find out if the sales rep is truly comprehending the content and not just checking the tasks off the list.

With this insightful feedback, sales managers can quickly identify gaps that may affect future performance and head off challenges before they become missed sales goals.

It cannot be emphasized enough. Onboarding is not a finite activity.  After the initial orientation to the company, training must always continue and be reinforced.  Studies show retention improves dramatically with reinforcement training/virtual coaching as compared to onboarding training events alone. The Research Institute of America found that retention rates increased by 25 to 60 percent with e-learning components compared with rates of traditional training of only 8 to 10 percent. The theory is that with e-learning, participants have more control over their learning process as well as the opportunity to review the training as needed.

Ultimately, the best measurement for a sales team is the percentage of sales reps that reach quota consistently over the long term.  By introducing everyone to the organization properly, offering quality training and providing ongoing support, you will create a strong team of well-trained professionals and reduce turnover for long-term success.

Chanin Ballance is the CEO of Veelo

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