Effective Sales Onboarding

10 Tips For Sales Onboarding Success

Effective sales onboarding requires a strong and focused curriculum. It should provide scope for plenty of practice & role playing. A good sales onboarding experience finds engaging ways of delivering content (presentations, videos, war story huddles, online courses & in-the-field rep shadowing, to name just a few).

Successful sales onboarding places a heavy emphasis on selling skills and peer support. Most importantly, it should deliver an ongoing plan for what happens when the initial training is over.

Here we explore the 10 “must have” tips for a truly successful sales onboarding programme.

1. Sales onboarding should span the 1st year of a new hires tenure

Aberdeen Group research reveals: 90% of organisations believe employees make their decision to stay for the long-term within their first year of employment.  However, the majority of the survey respondents had onboarding programmes that lasted from a few weeks up to 3 months. Very few had programmes that extended beyond 3 months. (Source: “Onboarding: A New Look at New Hires”)

The first few days and weeks of a typical onboarding programme are fairly intense. New hires get plenty of hands-on time, learning about the organisation, its offerings and the sales process.

New hires tend to exit these first few weeks feeling highly energised. But what happens next? In the vast majority of cases, nothing, which represents a missed opportunity.

Don’t make the mistake of treating sales onboarding as a single event or a checklist of activities to be completed. You would be wise to think about your onboarding process as a 12-month engagement. As a result, you will be far more likely to retain your top sales talent.


70 modern sales KPIs you should be tracking

Effective Sales Onboarding

2. The programme should be owned by a cross-functional group

This group should include stakeholders from Sales, Marketing, HR, Sales Operations & Sales Training. They should be collectively responsible for setting the agenda & determining the success metrics for your sales onboarding process.

Don’t fall into the trap of having your onboarding programme owned by the sales function alone. You will most certainly deliver a poorer experience if you do.

The day-to-day activity of a successful sales rep touches on many departments. For example, Sales will need contact with HR for pay & rations. They will bump into Marketing to understand key messaging and for demand generation. Undoubtedly, they will need the guidance of that veteran Sales rep to fully understand the sales process and successfully navigate it.

Why wouldn’t you bring all of those skills together to shape your onboarding process?

It also fosters a culture of ownership for sales success across your key departmental functions. And who wouldn’t want that?

3. The onboarding programme content should focus on 4 pillars

  1. Company & Product and/or Service
  2. The Sales Role & Process
  3. Customer/Buyer Insight & Journey
  4. The Sales Stack of Tools

It goes without saying that any onboarding process needs to impart detailed knowledge of the company and its culture. For any rep to be successful they clearly also need to have been well tutored in the products and services they are selling. New reps also need to understand the sales process in depth.

And this is where many onboarding processes stop. However, we would recommend taking the time to extend the training to get under the skin of the buyer. Help the sales rep to really understand the messages that resonate with the buyer and why.

Lastly, don’t ignore the stack of sales tools. Engagement and adoption of these will be critical to their (and your) ongoing success.

4. Put the content, tools & resources somewhere easily accessible

It sounds obvious but the goal here is to reduce new hire ramp time. One way to do this is to make it easy for new hires to locate the materials they have used during the onboarding process.

Consider grouping your materials into areas you know they will want to revisit. For example, why not place them into categories such as Deal Qualification, Product Benefits, Competition, Objection Handling etc. Doing so will make the job of locating the specific materials that much easier. Your newbies can then spend more time practising the art of selling and less time playing ‘hunt-the-resource’.

We’ve all seen the stats on ‘training retention times’. One of the most common postulates that 70% of new material is forgotten after just 24 hours. Given we know that new hires will need to revisit the materials used, it makes sense to make that process as efficient as possible. Doing so will help reduce ramp time.

5. Create a communication plan that helps new hires to understand what the onboarding programme entails

Communicate early and often. Set the expectation of exactly what will be required during the onboarding process and how success will be measured.

Make it fun and engaging. Sales onboarding can be daunting at the best of times. At this stage, the goal should be to convey a culture of engagement and support.

6. Build a mentoring programme into the sales onboarding process

This is a win-win. What better way to recognise your top-performing stars than by calling them out as the folks who will mould the latest set of recruits?

Mentoring programmes are a great way to provide ongoing support and guidance to new sales hires. They allow for a deeper focus on developing key sales skills and competencies.

Mentoring programmes should last through an employee’s first year. They deliver an additional mechanism to reinforce formal training efforts and activities. However, more often than not, the mentor relationship persists well beyond the initial year.

Creating a culture of recognition like this will have today’s newbie striving to be tomorrow’s mentor.

7. Embrace social media during onboarding & teach social selling techniques

Your new reps are likely to be millennials. Traditional training methods can sometimes feel outdated and sub-optimal to this group. Make good use of video, social media, and collaboration tools to encourage conversation and interaction. Training sticks more when it speaks the language of the learner.

‘Social selling’ is the practice of using social media and social networks to drive more leads, prove authority, and educate prospects. It’s a key part of the modern sales landscape. The places your buyers choose to hang out have dramatically changed over the last few years. Adopting a social selling strategy will make sure your new hires are best equipped to connect with them.

8. Benchmark the success of your onboarding efforts

This is critical to the ongoing success of your onboarding programme. How do you know if what you are striving to deliver is actually having the desired effect?  How do you know where you need to refine your onboarding? You won’t if you don’t take the time and trouble to measure it.

The market that your sales teams operate in is ever-changing. New competitors enter the fray, new products get launched. The only constant thing in the world of sales is change.

Your onboarding process should be regularly reviewed and tuned to be confident that it always meets current needs.

9. Create new hire groups

Much like a mentoring programme that ties newbies with old-hands, there is a great opportunity to create a support network out of each graduating class.

Promote the creation of new-hire groups by giving the class collaboration tools that will help them grow their fledgeling relationships. Such bonds create a strong support network that will live throughout their tenure at the company. Reinforce this by creating ongoing opportunities for each group to gather together at regular intervals.

10. Introduce the concept of ‘Leading Sales KPIs’

At first glance, sales targets can often seem a little daunting. Maybe even unachievable. Work with your new hires to make sure they understand the benefits of driving targets against leading sales KPIs.

These are the KPIs that span the sales journey and represent the best practice milestones that will ultimately deliver closed deals. For example, the rep that regularly manages to book 10 new client meetings each week is far more likely to reach their end revenue goal.

Breaking down achievement into smaller chunks that span the sales journey will keep reps motivated and on track to deliver against the bigger goal.

Start increasing the performance of your sales team today!

Don’t be fooled into believing that sales onboarding is a short, sharp training event. Embrace the idea that successful sales onboarding should be a 12-month deal. The result will be higher performing and considerably more loyal sales machines!

There are many more secrets to getting the most from your existing sales team. If you’re hungry for a little more sales performance inspiration, we’ve got this eBook with 6 sure-fire ways to increase the output of your sales team.

Alternatively, fill that form at the top of the page to get your free copy of our whitepaper – ‘The 70 modern sales KPIs you should be tracking’.

About SuMo

SuMo increases sales performance by monitoring & coaching the high-value sales behaviours that deliver sales success.

What will SuMo deliver for me?

  • a clean & healthy sales pipeline
  • improved forecast accuracy
  • accelerated sales performance

SuMo is in use by blue-chip organisations globally such as UBM, Vodafone, Roche, SIGG4S,  and Qlik.