When Sales Onboarding Becomes Completely Virtual

BY:  Rebecca Herson
April 7, 2021
Updated on March 11, 2024

Table of Contents

Hiring and onboarding new sales reps because your company is growing so fast is fantastic, but you still have to onboard all your new hires. You want new sales employees to start having sales conversations, building their pipeline and closing deals ASAP, but you have no choice but to wait while they complete onboarding programs.

As if that’s not enough of a challenge, you’re probably carrying out all your onboarding remotely. COVID-19 pushed most enterprise sales teams to work remotely, and while vaccines are rolling out around the world, very few companies have returned their sales teams to the office. Pushing new hires to in-person onboarding is likely to backfire badly, since under one quarter of Americans say they feel safe participating in out-the-house activities, and 74% of employees say they’re more likely to stay on at their company if they can work from home at least some of the time. Moreover, if you are selling to a large geographic area, your sales team is likely to be spread out no matter what.

You need an onboarding process that is fast, effective, and fully virtual, so that you can bring incoming sales employees up to speed swiftly, see ROI on new hires quickly, and avoid pushing employees out of their comfort zone.

Here’s a handy guide to help any sales leader develop a virtual onboarding process for onboarding new sales reps to the team, and support them with training and certification.

Hand over control

Traditional in-person onboarding programs rely on frontal classroom-style teaching and/or one on one mentorship to train new hires, with the teacher or mentor setting the pace of learning. but new virtual onboarding is all about giving users control.

Advanced virtual sales coaching programs allow sales employees to choose when, where, and how they complete their onboarding sessions. Experienced sellers and/or individuals who are already familiar with your market and solution can speed up the training, while people who are new to the material can slow things down or repeat sections without feeling embarrassed.

Offer a range of formats like audio, video, text, etc. so users can pick the one that best suits their learning style, and make sure that all your onboarding programs are mobile-first, not just mobile-friendly, so that users aren’t tied to a desk while they complete the modules.

Offer training on-demand

If you’ve previously had sales managers coach new hires, you’ll find that you can’t simply translate that into online personal coaching. Both managers and employees are busy, so they’ll just resent having to rearrange their schedules to suit the other person. According to our research, 31% of people surveyed identified that coaching takes too much time for managers as a key obstacle. On-demand sessions allow new hires to fit onboarding in around all their other commitments and responsibilities and reduces the burden on managers.

Additionally, making onboarding on demand demonstrates trust in your new employees and sets your relationship off on the right foot.

You might be able to get employees to complete hours-long training sessions in person, but that’s not going to go over well in a virtual setting. It’s important to break up virtual onboarding programs into shorter, bite-size modules that users can start and pause at will. Digital platforms help by remembering where the user left off last time and offering quick reviews when they return. AI-driven platforms like Second Nature can pinpoint weaker areas and offer suggestions for improvement.

Motivate employees to train with gamification

Onboarding is an accepted part of joining a new company, but that doesn’t mean that new hires want to complete it. You can make it mandatory, but just because someone’s reached the end of the onboarding program, it doesn’t mean that they paid attention to every section or took in all the material.

The only way to increase the impact of onboarding sessions is to make them engaging enough that users want to complete them. AI-powered sales onboarding makes it easy to include interactive, gamified challenges, and friendly intra-company competition that drives new hires to do their best.

Provide realistic training experiences

You already know that it’s not enough to have new hires memorize all your product features, master the theory of effective sales conversation, or learn a list of talking points. It takes practice to hold a successful sales conversation, so you need to incorporate that into your virtual onboarding program.

AI-powered sales coaching simulations like Second Nature deliver realistic sales scenarios that enable new hires to gain the confidence and fluency that comes with experience. They can be hosted entirely in the cloud, allowing users to practice their sales pitch whenever and wherever they like.

Monitor new hire progress with analytics

Getting an accurate picture of sales employee performance is always challenging, but it’s even more difficult when new hires are carrying out all their pitches from home and you can’t overhear their practice or real sales conversations. You don’t want to wait until someone’s been with you for 6 months to find out that they don’t really have a clear grasp of your company’s value proposition.

As a result, it’s vital to use onboarding platforms with built-in analytics that track metrics like time spent on practice sessions, completion rates, use of your brand language and a score for both mastery of the company content and softer skills. You need to set specific expectations for 30, 60, and 90 days after a new employee joins your team, so that you can stay on top of their progress and get an early warning if anyone shows signs of falling behind.

Connect new hires with the rest of the team

You want sales representatives to feel part of the wider organization, even if they’re working alone at home, so your virtual onboarding program needs to connect new hires with the rest of your workforce and align them with your brand values.

Communication is the only way to fit new talent into existing teams, so make sure that employees have secure communication channels where they can feel safe to ask questions and request guidance on tricky sales situations. Hold regular video conferences and happy hours so that teams can chat “face to face,” allowing time for employees to get to know each other as well as discussing work-related issues, and arrange in-person bonding activities whenever possible.

With AI, virtual onboarding programs can be more effective than ever

AI-powered sales training software like Second Nature enables enterprises to craft effective virtual onboarding programs that offer on-demand, realistic, and engaging sales training that’s customized to each user’s needs. Together with carefully thought-out metrics and integrated communications channels, your new hires can be quickly integrated into your workforce and begin completing deals as soon as possible.

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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