Best Practices to Optimize Ramp Time for New Reps
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The way a new rep is onboarded can make or break their starting success at a company. This means it is critical to set up new hires to not only effectively learn, but also efficiently meet key milestones in the learning process to begin producing results as quickly as possible. Ramp time for a new hire can easily lag or lead to unproductive behavior without intentional and strategic onboarding programs, which is achievable with the right practices.
However, challenges in the form of time and content can affect enablement’s ability to optimize ramp-up time for new hires through onboarding programs. For example, many sales enablement professionals feel they borrow a lot of the sales organization’s time with the onboarding experience and also must generate or upkeep incredible amounts of content for the process.
These challenges combined not only make a demanding onboarding workload for sales enablement professionals but also lead to inefficiencies in onboarding and thus, slower ramp times for new reps. However, they can be alleviated by implementing a few proven strategies. Here are some best practices to optimize the ramp time for new reps in their onboarding to set them up faster for success from the start.
Build Out Role-Specific Learning Journeys
Practitioners can use the idea of a learning journey to design role-specific onboarding programs that take new hires through all of the necessary knowledge and skills required to be successful in their role. Learning journeys are created around the specific positions and role profiles that have been hired so that programs efficiently lay out the skills, knowledge, tool training, and goals of the rep’s role.
“Specifically, I would need to understand what’s the role that we’re looking to hire for, and what does success look like for an individual in that role,” said Mark Eckstein, director of enablement at Bizzabo. “Once we have that understanding of what success looks like, we’re then able to backtrack and analyze what’s the specific knowledge, skills, tools, and organizational understanding that’s necessary for a new hire in that role to reach success.”
Through understanding and analyzing the role, practitioners can create curriculum plans for each type of sales role based on the learning journey they need to follow to reach full competency. By creating a learning journey within the onboarding process for each specific role within the sales organization, new hires will be able to acquire information more quickly to better understand what is expected of them, tasks to accomplish, and the overall objectives of their role. With a clear understanding of what their role requires and the steps needed to prove competence through the learning journey, reps can ultimately reach high performance faster.
Prioritize Knowledge, Retention, and Skill Development
Tracking and improving how a new hire is learning throughout the onboarding process leads to the most optimal success levels as the rep begins their role. If the rep is able to learn, retain, and develop skills for their role sufficiently, then they will be better equipped to begin contributing to organizational outcomes. Consider implementing these four steps to boost knowledge retention and skill development:
1. Conduct cohort check-ins. Onboarding can often feel overwhelming, and if reps are having any difficulty understanding or digesting information, it can hinder their ability to retain and apply that knowledge as they continue through their learning journey. Taking the time to ask reps how they are feeling and giving them space to ask questions can help them more efficiently prioritize the areas where they need to focus most.
2. Create mentorship pairings. Mentors are able to answer questions and guide the new hire during their onboarding, which generates support for them and helps them to feel prepared in their new role by seeing first-hand what success looks like day-to-day.
“We specifically choose mentors who we deem as very successful within the organization,” said Eckstien. “This way they’re only passing on really high-quality information that’s going to really build efficiency and effectiveness for this new hire.”
3. Integrate scheduled assignments. Holding new hires accountable early on with some required assignments can help enablement not only to keep track of whether they are meeting key learning milestones but also to gauge how motivated and committed they are to achieving goals that are set for them.
“It’s the immediate snapshot of whether or not, and how much of what they just learned, they understood and can actually apply,” said Eckstien.
4. Leverage certifications. These certifications may range from modules to activities, but all have the end goal of testing if the new hire is prepared for their role. By doing this, leaders are able to see if their new rep is ready with the necessary skills and knowledge to do well in their role, which in turn minimizes ramp-up time by reducing the need for additional training.
“We do a certification where we give [sellers] a score…and then we come back and repeat the same exercise and just look if they’ve improved on the evaluation or certification scores,” said Robert Koehler, director of sales effectiveness at Compass.
Measure the Success of Onboarding and Continuously Refine
Finally, use key metrics to measure onboarding success and, once measured, adjust the program as needed to improve its efficacy. In doing so, analyzing two key metrics can be critical:
1. The trending satisfaction score. Survey reps on their onboarding experience upon completion of the learning journey and evaluate results over time across new hire cohorts to identify learning gaps and opportunities for improvement. This satisfaction score can further be analyzed as it relates to new hire performance and productivity to reveal trends and correlations that can be optimized.
“It’s really a key KPI,” said Eckstien, “At the end of every single new hire’s program they take this in-depth survey that they go over the entire program, what stood out to them, how much they feel that they retained and really their enjoyment and satisfaction of the experience.”
2. Milestone tracking. A sales enablement leader can use milestone tracking to determine if the performance of a new rep is up to par with performance expectations in comparison to other reps at the same point in time. By benchmarking performance relative to reps at similar stages in their tenure with a company, enablement can help managers assess performance, set appropriate expectations, and implement changes to the onboarding program to address areas of underperformance.
By using milestone tracking and trending satisfaction scores, leaders can see how their new reps are performing or how prepared they are to succeed after their onboarding experience. An important component of this strategy is to adjust the program as needed based on data and feedback. In doing so, practitioners can ensure the onboarding program is continuously moving the needle and adequately preparing reps to succeed.
Utilizing these practices during the development and maintenance of an onboarding program allows sales enablement professionals the opportunity to engage new reps in a successful onboarding process from start to finish. These strategies will help sales enablement professionals troubleshoot both time and content challenges while simultaneously optimizing the ramp time for new reps.
“We found that time to ramp is really the most common kind of measurement for onboarding success,” said Lori Wilbanks, global sales onboarding leader at Equinix.
This means that the faster and more efficient the ramp time is, the more successful the onboarding program is. By leveraging these best practices to improve onboarding efficiency, sales enablement can further optimize new rep ramp time and lead them to achieve high performance in their new role.