Episode 253: Rachael McCormick on Ramping Up New Hires With Effective Onboarding

1.7K View | 12 Min Read

Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO Podcast. I’m Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today I’m excited to have Rachael McCormick from Vonage join us. Rachael, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Rachael McCormick: Thanks, Shawnna, and thanks for having me here today on Sales Enablement PRO. As mentioned, my name is Rachael McCormick and I’m one of the managers for Vonage’s Global Sales Enablement Team. My journey actually started with a marketing degree. When I graduated, many of the marketing positions I was looking into required years and years of experience, which I think many recent grads tend to find, and instead, I got into sales.

I had success in that role and learned a lot of skills that I still utilize today and incorporate that perspective for enablement. Ultimately, when Vonage acquired the first company I was working with, there were a handful of us who were promoted into an operations role. From there, I found my love and passion for enablement.

As for our team, we focus on selling skills, systems training, and content creation for tenured reps as well as new hires. That being said, we’re also responsible for sales new hire ramp just overall in general. Being that there are only so many of us on the selling skills, systems training, and content creation team, our team tends to work closely with the product and technical enablement team as well. As one solid team together, we support all of our global sales route sales to markets. I’ve been with Vonage for about eight years now.

SS: Rachael, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. I’m excited to talk to you. You mentioned you’re responsible for a lot of the new hire processes, including optimizing the ramp process for new hires on the global sales team. Now, in today’s sales environment where productivity is a top priority, why is effective onboarding so critical?

RM: Great question. In general, an effective sales new hire program is critical because it helps acclimate, engage, and retain good employees. If we focus specifically on the impact it can have on sales productivity, the knowledge shared during onboarding, whether it’s product, process, sales skills, or system knowledge, can really boost an individual’s confidence during a time that can be quite uncomfortable for some and simultaneously set them up for success to become a productive team member right off the gates.

SS: I love that. Now if we drill a little bit to understand onboarding, in your opinion, what are some of the key components of an effective onboarding program?

RM: I love this question. I’m going to focus on four components specifically. First, it’s important to integrate employees into the company’s culture and get them really excited about their career choices. A program should really embody the shared values, attitudes, and behaviors that your company aligns with. This specifically gives new joiners resources to also make professional connections. For example, make them aware of the employee resource groups that your company may offer. We work closely with the organizational effectiveness team to actually do this.

Second, keep it engaging by utilizing different delivery methods or formats, which appease different learning styles throughout their entire ramp time. Before COVID, we had all-day in-person training and it was information overload. Our new hire survey scores actually increased by approximately 30% when we moved to a more flexible training because we were able to utilize different delivery methods I mentioned, like live webinars, microlearning, and gamification. We started to present information long-term to help with that information retention.

Third, identify objectives that a sales new hire will need to achieve for effective job performance. You can identify the learning behaviors or techniques that a sales hire will need to execute that support the specific objective. Based on that, you can determine the enablement delivery method that supports the technique. I have an example of that. One objective could be that a sales rep needs to understand how to use a CRM. The behavior they need to execute might be to effectively use the CRM on their own to input leads or create a quote. Then you’d decide the delivery method to help them achieve that, which could be utilizing a test environment or even a gamified quiz.

Lastly, number four, keep it modernized and continuously listen to feedback. Our team likes to joke that sales enablement is like changing tires on a moving car or an 18-wheeler during busy times. We have to keep what is currently running and continuously evolve our programs and content to be up to date while simultaneously keeping into account, feedback from our audience and department leaders for improvement.

SS: Thank you. I think that is a great definition of the key components. What would you say are some of the common obstacles that sellers might experience as they are trying to ramp, and what would you say are some of your best practices to help mitigate those through onboarding?

RM: I’ll start with identifying those three common obstacles that we tend to see. Information retention, which I did mention in the previous response, and then lack of confidence as well, and third is lack of feeling connected in a virtual or hybrid work environment. In terms of information retention, we’ve adopted a model for just-in-time learning so that resources are short, targeted, and at our audience’s fingertips whenever they need it.

To support this, we’ve enhanced our resource repository tools and have standardized this by working closely cross-functionally with different departments, and we utilize the same tools altogether and align on the same messaging. This has been really impactful because, again, we have such a large audience across different time zones. Second, to mitigate a lack of confidence, it’s important to incorporate opportunities for simulated activities to practice. Whether it’s in a system test environment or role-playing sales skills, we really believe that repetition is key and we have a layered approach to that as well.

Lastly, to help new joiners feel more connected in a virtual or hybrid environment, we’ve implemented a buddy program where another sales team member works closely with the new hire to further welcome them, address questions, and help them navigate a new organizational culture.

SS: I have to say I love the buddy approach. It is like an instant friend whenever you enter a new organization. I think the other role that plays a key component in onboarding new hires is often the frontline sales manager. How do you collaborate with sales managers to reinforce the knowledge and skills learned in onboarding for these sellers?

RM: Another excellent question. We collaborate with sales leaders in two ways. First, we have regular communication with them, whether it’s during live calls or written out via collaboration software and weekly sales update newsletters, where we tend to provide updates on existing enablement initiatives, taking in feedback for enhancements, as well as making sure that they’re aware of some of the improvements from an onboarding perspective. This really gives us the opportunity to continuously collaborate.

Second being we’ve launched an enablement program for our sales leaders, where we’ve coached and collaborated on methods and tools that we also use during onboarding so they can continue to reinforce that message. For example, one focus for the sales leader training was data hygiene. We focused on that specifically on the ‘why’ it’s important so that managers can continue that message. We’ve had really great feedback from sales leaders on those resources and the release of these collaborative workshops to help them and their reps be more productive.

SS: I think those are fantastic approaches. I’d love to understand a little bit in terms of metrics or definitions. How do you define what it means for a rep to be fully ramped? What are some of those key metrics or maybe even milestones that you track throughout their ramp-up journey?

RM: We support all routes to markets with various ramp lengths, but on average, I’d say about 90 days. We ultimately break milestones up into buckets, whether it’s product, process, sales skills, or systems. For product, the rep might need to obtain all of their product badges that are specific to their role. For sales skills, the rep might need to submit a mock sales pitch that their manager approves and passes. For processes and systems, the rep might need to attend a training and then execute that process in a test environment to pass. In each one of those buckets, there are different milestones that need to be achieved over the course of those first 90 days or so.

SS: Amazing. Last question for you, Rachael. How do you assess and evolve the impact of your own onboarding programs to continually optimize the ramp time?

RM: Great question. We currently assess by evaluating NPS, so Net Promoter Score. We collaborate with sales leaders on the enhancements by utilizing internal cross-functional focus groups that our wonderful transformation manager actually does lead. As mentioned earlier, we’re really passionate about listening to feedback and hearing from our internal customers on what’s going well and where areas of improvement potentially sit. With recently launching our new enablement system less than a year ago, the next phase is to implement and utilize their integrated data analytics to further optimize ramp time in general, as well as further build out role-specific material for each route to market.

SS: I love that, Rachael. Thank you so much for joining the podcast today.

RM: Thank you, Shawnna. This has been great.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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