Why You Need an Onboarding Program for Sales Staff.
No prep for new sales staff increases the odds of failure!
With a strong program to onboard new salespeople, you are much more likely to keep your new superstars.
Can you imagine a new recruit for a top football team entering the first game of the year with no pre-season prep and never having read the playbook?
Every elite sports team starts with a training camp to get their team game-ready.
New recruits work with coaches in strength training and spend hours in the gym to improve their endurance and to reduce their chance of injury. They spend the pre-season in scrimmages and simulations to increase their chance of winning.
If you dump new sales hires directly onto the field without any prep, you risk failure. You must start your new recruits out correctly to improve their odds of success and to reduce turnover.
Failure of newly hired salespeople is expensive
The sales profession has the highest turnover rate of all positions. HBR indicates the turnover for U.S. salespeople can run as high as 27%, which is twice the rate of other positions. The HBR article also reports that the average tenure for a salesperson is less than 2 years.
Industry experts calculate the cost of hiring a salesperson in the thousands of dollars. It’s very expensive to lose salespeople in less than 2 years. If you hire the best candidate and provide a great onboarding process, you can dramatically beat these odds.
Onboarding is more than orientation
Don’t confuse onboarding new salespeople with conducting an orientation for new hires.
With the orientation, you present the company and describe benefits. In an onboarding program, specifically for new sales hires, you prepare your sales recruits with the knowledge, skills, and tools to succeed in sales at your company, even if they have similar industry and product experience!
We present below some key steps you can use to increase the success of your sales onboarding program.
How to Successfully Onboard New Sales People
Step 1: Develop a welcome package
Your welcome package should include all items your new salespeople need (laptop, business cards, phone numbers, CRM login and training, access to your VPN, a corporate credit card, etc.) Luckily, many HR cloud software services/packages have onboarding features to help with all items a new salesperson needs (from tax forms to seating assignments.)
To manage all the welcome info you need, create a checklist of items a new hire needs to operate. To develop the checklist, get input from all departments (HR, Accounting, Purchasing, Facilities, IT, Sales) responsible for helping the new salesperson
Your onboarding process can also leverage social media to make new recruits feel welcome. One great and easy tool to use is LinkedIn. Help new hires connect their LinkedIn profile to your company’s corporate account. Make sure all relevant staff members also connect through LinkedIn.
Your corporate LinkedIn account is a great cheat sheet to help new salespeople place names with faces. Encourage all team members to send new salespeople a LinkedIn “connect” request. You can even create a closed group for your department on LinkedIn to facilitate conversations within the sales department.
LinkedIn can also be a learning tool. Your seasoned sales staff can share sales tips through your private LinkedIn group. New recruits can post questions to the group (even when they are on the road.)
Step 2: Define success (use top performers as a benchmark)
Define success for your new salespeople. Keep notes of successful new salespeople and use their early history as the benchmark.
If you have a short sales cycle, your benchmark could be days to first sale or first quarter’s quota. If your sales cycle is very long, set performance milestones based on moving deals through the pipeline. For example, a milestone could include a certain number qualified contacts entered in the CRM.
Provide information necessary to meet milestones. Make sure your onboarding training provides all new sales staff with the information they need to meet these early targets. Give feedback along the way to let the new hires know how their performance stacks up with your expectations. Offer help when they fall short.
Step 3: Create a sales playbook
In this document, you should include items such as:
• 90-day ramp up plan
• Ideal client profile
• Sales process and defined steps of the sale
• Key customer personas and how to appeal to each
• Product details
• Selling approaches used by your most successful salespeople
• Sales tools available to your team
• Key company contacts for important sales information
Note you can make this a living document by placing it in your cloud-sharing environment.
Step 4: Train for Success
Use several training platforms to make it easy for recruits to get the info they need when they need it. Focus on providing the sales skills and information needed for early success. Be careful not to overload new staff with information not needed in their initial weeks. You can use a variety of tools to train new hires, including:
Bring all recruits into the same training session and provide an overview of your playbook. Keep these sessions short and interactive. Adults do not learn by listening to lectures.
E-learning tools (Video, Webinars, and podcasts)
Create on-demand offerings for training. You can use these to reinforce your intro training and to provide product information. Create small modules based on steps in your sales process. Make sure this training is mobile-ready to enable on the go training.
Make it fun. You can use game tools to inform and test your new salespeople. One report by Aberdeen found that companies using gaming techniques in the hiring process increased engagement of new staff by 48%. You can use simple online tools such as Survey Monkey or more involved gamification platforms such as Axonify, Zunos, Gameffective or iPresent.
A benefit of using games to teach is how easy it is to assess the training’s success. Administrators can immediately review results and get feedback on how much new hires are learning.
Google Hangouts (to enable joint sales phone calls)
You can use tools such as Google Hangouts to enable new salespeople to observe a senior salesperson making online presentations to prospects.
Step 5: Assign a Mentor
Research shows that new sales reps have the highest risk of a leaving during the first 90 days. These early days can be a time of high anxiety when new hires lack key info on the company, the offerings, and the process. New reps can get discouraged easily when they don’t know or can’t find the right info.
A formal mentor/protégé program can help launch the new salesperson on a success trajectory. A+ companies have formal mentoring programs that run 12-18 months for reps brand new to sales.
Assign a veteran sales rep to keep an open communication channel to each new hire. The vet can play a critical role in helping the new hire succeed in your organization. Assign top-performers who are somewhat recent hires. A salesperson with decades of experience at your company may not know what it’s like to be a newbie.
If you assign mentors, make sure they understand what you expect them to do. Give the mentors the tools, training and time to perform this important role.
Step 6: Do a weekly check-in
Each week the sales manager should check-in with the new salesperson and the assigned mentor (if you have a mentor program.)
This check-in can be a quick five-minute phone call. You just want to see if the new hire has any questions or outstanding issues. During this conversation, you should check to see if they need any help.
Step 7: Monitor your onboarding results and continuously improve
Create a set of metrics to monitor the performance of your onboarding program. You can use many of the same success metrics you defined in step two above. In this case, you would look at the average for the new sales class (not just one individual.)
Your metrics could include the average score on product info quizzes, time-to-first-sale, size of the contract, etc. If you have a long sales cycle, measure your onboarding program’s performance against interim milestones. These interim milestones would measure metrics that bring new prospects into your pipeline and move them along.
Make sure these interim milestones correlate with the actions of successful sales performers. For example, if making it to the oral presentation rounds in a long proposal-driven sales cycle correlates strongly with sales success, you could use that as a milestone.
To evaluate your sales onboarding process, continuously measure results against your targets. Flag outcomes that fall short or exceed expectations. Improve what’s not working.
Good luck with your new sales hires.