Onboarding new sales reps is a tremendous opportunity for setting up your sales force for success. If done correctly, it can help teams establish a cohesive and powerful culture. If onboarding of new sales reps is done haphazardly or without much planning, it can lead to costly turnover and burnout.
Organizations spend a lot of money and time recruiting talented sales reps. Don’t let that recruiting effort go to waste. Here are some tips to make sure that your onboarding process will equip your sales team with the tools they need for a long and successful tenure at your company.
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One of the most common questions that sales leaders and managers ask is, “How long should you give a new sales rep to get to full productivity?”
The first step in answering this question is figuring out your standards for full productivity. If you don’t already have these numbers, dig through your CRM data to determine the average number of deals closed per month, average revenue per rep, meetings set per month and other result metrics that are important to your team. If possible, leverage your data to see the average amount of time it took your past reps to get to this level of performance. Using your own historical data will give you insight into how long it typically takes sales reps to get to full productivity.
If this data is not available, rely on industry standards to inform your sales new hire onboarding process. It can take anywhere from 3 months to a full year for new hires to achieve full productivity. The key takeaway here is that onboarding is a process. You can’t throw someone into a new role with just a few days of training and expect them to start producing right away. At the very least, new sellers deserve a few months to acclimate themselves to the new company and learn the things they need to reach full productivity.
Starting a new job can be scary, especially for new hires that don’t have previous sales experience. It’s important to set realistic expectations. This helps managers plan and have reasonable expectations. It also helps new sales hires stay motivated. Setting extremely high expectations for new reps can overwhelm new hires and lead to burnout.
For example, if someone has never cold called before, you can’t expect them to start setting 15 new qualified appointments per month through outbound prospecting. Try setting a goal of 5 new meetings a month then as they ramp up over the course of 3-6 months, increase expectations gradually.
This will help sales leaders establish a sustainable and healthy culture. Expecting too much right out of the gate will lead to your new reps losing motivation. It will also rush the onboarding process. Take a tiered approach to setting goals for your new sales hires.
Most sales teams focus their onboarding efforts on teaching company values, history and processes. Then they will move to product knowledge to make sure all new hires are up to speed on the latest offerings.
This is all very important and critical for sales success however, teams often ignore skills training when onboarding sales teams. Sales leaders and sales managers will often assume (incorrectly) that new sales hires already have basic sales skills, especially if they have a few years of experience under their belt.
This sort of assumption can lead to a breakdown in culture and team cohesion. First, you can’t rely on the quality of sales skills training that someone has received in the past. It’s very possible that your new sales reps have learned bad habits and a selling methodology that is incompatible with the sales culture and methodology that your organization is striving for.
Even if all the new hires have extensive skills training prior to their role, there is only one way to ensure that your entire sales force is using a common language and following a coherent methodology. You have to train new sales hires on skills as they are onboarding. If your team is filled with people using varying language to talk about opportunities or using a different methodology to strategize on deals, then it will be very difficult to coach your team.
There are plenty of sales training courses available to fit your team’s needs. Find a skills training partner with a methodology that is backed by field research. Leverage this sort of training in your onboarding process to establish a coherent methodology and a common language for your sales team.
There is only so much a person can learn by sitting through multiple training sessions. Make sure that your onboarding process is not just a series of meetings and training sessions. For a successful sales team onboarding process, you have to allow new hires to shadow experienced sellers at the company.
When new reps get to shadow experienced reps on the job, they get to see all the theory they are learning in training be applied in real scenarios. Adults have a very hard time learning new habits and skills unless they are taught in context. Paring new sales hires with experienced reps is the best way to give new sales reps context for their new role.
During these shadow sessions, also allow time for new sales hires to do role play exercises with experienced reps. New hires might be afraid of being wrong or nervous to participate in role plays with the onboarding manager or the sales manager. However, with other experienced reps, new sales hires will be much more comfortable letting their guard down and practicing their new skills. This exercise helps build muscle memory and get the new reps’ feet wet in a low stake environment.
Onboarding is a great time to set certain expectations about the sales team’s culture. One of the things that sales leaders often strive for is a culture of coaching and continuous improvement. Therefore during the onboarding process, leave time for one-on-one with managers and start the coaching early.
Sales reps that are new to the company won’t have calls to be coached on however, it is a great time to expose them to coaching through call recordings. If your team is not doing so already, make sure you have a library of recorded calls from your team that showcase best practices and also learning opportunities.
Sales managers should leverage these sort of call recordings during the onboarding process. It gives new reps insights into what a real call will sound like. It also makes it clear that new reps will continue to get support from their managers through coaching. Including this coaching piece in your sales team’s onboarding process is the first step to establishing a culture of continuous development and learning.
Sales is a tough role. The unrealistic expectations that teams have of new reps make it even tougher. Burnout is one of the main reasons why sales teams have a high turnover compared to other business units. Be patient with your reps and treat the onboarding process as a process, not just an event. Give new sales reps ample opportunities to gain product knowledge and establish sales skills. While the process may seem long and extensive at first, it will eventually pay off with sales reps that are more productive and more motivated to have a long tenure with your company.
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