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4 Tips for Onboarding New Sales Reps

By: Rebecca Herson
March 11, 2021
4 MIN. READING
sales-onboarding

Hiring new employees is a serious expense, especially once you factor in the cost of recruiting, filtering applicants, interviewing and assessing them, and performing background checks. It’s estimated that it can cost around $3,500 just to hire someone for a beginner position, and a lot more if you’re hiring a sales team leader.

You want to start to see value from your new sales people as soon as possible, but you’re handicapped by the need to onboard them first. On average, it takes 5.3 months for a new SaaS sales employee to ramp up to full productivity, which means you’re losing money the longer your onboarding process takes. 

Onboarding new sales reps is particularly challenging, because there are many areas that they need to master before they can sell successfully. For example, they need to be proficient in your workflows, how to use your sales tools, and the processes that you have set up for sales teams, but they also need to learn the features for all your products, and gain a full understanding of your company’s USP, messaging, and value propositions. 

We share 4 tips to make sure your sales onboarding process supports the success of your new sales hire.

1. Make sales onboarding interactive

Active learning is more effective than passive learning in every single sphere and subject. Just think about when you learned how to ride a bike. No one sat you down and taught you about balance or physics and made you write notes about the theory. Instead, you got on a bike and worked it out while someone gave you some pointers. That’s probably why you picked up how to ride a bike a lot faster than you learned geometry or calculus, which were taught through passive learning.

It’s the same for onboarding your new hires. Interactive onboarding programs bring your new hire up to speed a lot more quickly than frontal teaching, or having them read and memorize lists of features or pitch scripts. The more opportunities you offer for them to practice pitches or test their knowledge of product features, the better they’ll do. 

As a bonus, interactive learning is a lot more fun and engaging, which means that sales hires are more likely to complete the entire course instead of dropping it halfway through out of boredom. 

2. Make sales onboarding personal

Match your onboarding process with what each new hire needs to know and the skills they need to gain. For example, some might need more guidance on specific sales techniques, while others are already experienced in these tactics. Some new recruits may be familiar with the tech behind your solution, but others who are new to your industry need more grounding in the basic concepts before moving on to learning the details of your products. 

Different people also have different learning styles, like visual learners, auditory learners, etc. If you force all your incoming sales employees to sit through the same presentations, or worse, just read a playbook, some will get bored and others will be confused. It’s just as valuable to provide feedback that is timely and accurate, so that each new hire can identify their weaknesses and carry out exercises to improve upon them.

Use technology to deliver the tailored training that each hire needs, using the format and pace they need, directing them to areas that need improvement, and covering content that’s customized to their existing knowledge and skills. Today’s AI tools can analyze user’s responses and provide immediate feedback, so trainees can improve on their own, and their managers or training team can provide next steps that are finely tuned to their needs.

3. Make sales onboarding repetitive

Success in sales requires confidence, fluency, and intuition just as much as knowledge about specific product features. As a result, the more that sales reps practice their pitches, the better. That’s how they’ll learn to refine their delivery, improve their listening ability, and make better decisions about which points to pick up on and develop. 

It’s difficult to find enough time for sales managers to review pitches from new sales hires, but AI-based coaching software can step in, and enable employees to practice as often as they like to improve their skills. 

Practice is crucial for retaining information, too. According to German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, people forget up to 75% of new material as quickly as 24 hours after it was learned. However, he also found that reviewing material at frequent short intervals significantly improves retention. It’s a good idea to require all employees, but especially new hires, to review sales material and pitch guidelines on a regular basis.

Tracking progress can also be difficult. Although there are a number of potential indicators, it’s often hard to reliably and objectively assess leading indicators, and lagging indicators are, by nature, lagging. By the time you discover that your sales reps haven’t quite mastered your new messaging, you’ll have potentially missed out on 6 months of better sales.

4. Make sales onboarding clear

Your onboarding program needs to be structured and standardized, with clear time-based goals. You might set achievement requirements for 30, 60, and 90 days after onboarding begins, for example, with milestone activities each time. 

Besides sharing your expectations from each new hire, it’s also a good idea to lay out what your employee can expect from you. Describe the support they should receive from their manager, the resources that sales employees are given, the guidance and materials provided by sales enablement, as well as your systems for complaints and raising issues within the organization. Define the quotas you have for each sales employee and sales team, and your company’s quarterly and annual goals. 

Finally, make it clear what “success” looks like in your organization. Connect each new hire to shadow an experienced employee for a while so they can learn what you’re looking for in terms of pitch style, microconversions, and time to close, and/or send them video examples of perfect pitches to emulate.

Onboarding new sales reps doesn’t have to take forever

Onboarding new sales reps can be time-consuming, but there are ways to speed it up. By making your sales rep onboarding interactive and personalized, enabling them to repeat new material and skills, and defining what you expect from them at each stage, you can improve sales rep performance and increase their confidence too.

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Rebecca Herson

Rebecca leads marketing at Second Nature