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Sales Onboarding Metrics: The Basics

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The impact of sales enablement as a whole can be difficult to measure. But typically, onboarding has been one of the clearest aspects of a sales enablement function to apply metrics to. While many organizations have plans in place to capture the effectiveness of onboarding programs, some common metrics on the surface can be misleading in illustrating sales enablement’s impact.

As sales enablement programs proliferate across a broad spectrum of organizations, it becomes increasingly important to design systems of measurement that allow enablement leaders to gauge the effectiveness of onboarding initiatives and adapt future programs accordingly. According to the 2019 State of Sales Enablement report, the onboarding of new sales reps is among the top three areas in which sales enablement is heavily involved or oversees.

However, measuring the success of sales onboarding programs is often an ambiguous task, spurring an immense number of different approaches and strategies. The specific metrics that indicate onboarding success can look drastically different from one company to the next, and there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach. Since no single data point or participant survey will show you whether or not the program was successful, having a balance of quantitative and qualitative measures are crucial in interpreting the results of onboarding initiatives.

With the drastic impact that onboarding can have on new sales rep success, it’s important to have an understanding of core metrics and best practices that translate to sales rep performance. Here are a few key indicators of success.

Time-to-Milestone Tracking

Collecting standardized time-based metrics that show the velocity of a new sales rep over the course of their ramping process can be an excellent way to measure the initial success of an onboarding program. Milestone tracking is a strategy that nearly all companies utilize in some form to measure individual new rep performance, but there is a large opportunity for companies to leverage time-to-milestone insights within the broader onboarding program.

Reaching a key milestone, like the first sale, is an important moment for many new reps. With the high level of visibility that these crucial points take on within the sales organization, it’s no surprise that salespeople take this milestone to heart and want to reach it faster.

“When we went back and talked to the sales team, what they really wanted us to measure was how we could pull in their time to sales by a month,” said Rhett Livengood, director of digital sales enabling at Intel. “That was the key metric, so by tweaking the metric and our focus, we were able to get, again, more resources, more scope, and get pulled out into newer groups.”

Developing a methodology to track new rep performance over progressive milestones is an efficient way to identify pain points within the ramping process and match onboarding initiatives with specific stages of sales rep development.

Sales Stack Adoption

Rep adoption rates for sales resources and tools can be a telling measurement of the effectiveness of your onboarding and broader sales enablement initiatives, especially in growing organizations with new or recently restructured onboarding programs. As new systems are put in place, it may be hard to identify metrics that are scalable or actionable in the long run.

Sheryl Buscheck, senior director of sales enablement at ServiceTitan, utilizes adoption as a measurement tool to help build a scalable foundation for onboarding. By understanding how tools are adopted during onboarding, her team is able to see how that translates to sales rep performance.

“You build out the systems, you get adoption and then you can translate it into: we scale onboarding, they get onboarded faster,” said Buscheck. “And we can do that across all sales roles very quickly and easily and consistently, so we should have better consistent sales productivity metrics.”

Adoption rates are an indicator that the tools, programs, and content you provide to your new reps are actively contributing to rep success. While the simple rate itself may not tell the whole story, adoption allows sales enablement to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of a sales stack, which can then be followed up with a more in-depth investigation.

New Hire Feedback

Perhaps the most important qualitative measure of onboarding success is the feedback collected directly from new hires. This information can provide context and depth to an organization’s selected quantitative metrics. One-on-one conversations with new reps at different stages throughout onboarding can be a powerful tool in understanding the new rep journey at your organization.

Without this knowledge of personal experiences, it can be incredibly hard to find the true pain points and successes within an onboarding program. Marrying key quantitative metrics with first-hand stories sourced directly from new sales reps presents a holistic picture of what works and what could be improved within the sales onboarding process.

“Don’t just rely on the numbers,” said Buscheck. “Get active in the field and talk to people. Talk to some of your best performers, but also talk to some people that are struggling, find the distinction between what the best performers are doing and the people that are struggling are doing, and try to marry up some trends.”

Creating formalized opportunities for new hires to provide valuable feedback is also important. Without a strong system in place, critical information is likely to go undocumented and underutilized as a means of assessing and improving onboarding efforts. Providing a platform for new reps to offer up personal insights and experiences creates a feedback loop in which reps feel comfortable speaking candidly about their observations.

As an essential piece of any full-scale sales enablement function, onboarding programs deserve a system of holistic measurement that allows for continuous assessment, improvement, and reiteration. It is best to approach this measurement from multiple perspectives, and carefully selecting a set of metrics will help paint the bigger picture of how onboarding impacts your sales organization.

Assessing time-based metrics, sales stack adoption rates, and new hire feedback will provide a solid baseline measure of onboarding success. Milestone tracking serves as a black and white snapshot of immediate onboarding success, and tech adoption rates provide an indication of whether or not you are providing the resources that your reps need for long term success. Direct feedback from new hires can round out the assessment with robust and in-depth information on personal experiences within the onboarding process.

Even with a similar baseline strategy, no system of onboarding measurement will look entirely the same from one sales organization to the next. To successfully maximize onboarding programs, it’s essential that chosen metrics tie back to a broader strategic vision and are utilized to fortify efforts in fulfilling that vision.