Streamline Onboarding Efforts to Maximize New Rep Productivity
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A sales rep’s first days, weeks, and months as a new hire are critical to ensuring their long-term success at a company. Taking the time to nurture their skills and provide them with a solid knowledge base for their new role during this initial period equips them to make more meaningful contributions to the company right from the start.
Since many managers and sales enablement teams don’t have the luxury of time to commit to this process, getting new hires productive as quickly as possible is essential. Building a streamlined onboarding program should be a top priority for sales enablement teams to smooth and shorten the transition from new hire to high-performing sales rep.
Following a layered framework that builds from foundational knowledge, to practical skills, immersion, and continuous reinforcement is one way sales enablement teams can streamline onboarding to make the best use of everyone’s time. Here are steps to take in onboarding to get reps ready to sell faster and maintain their skills over time.
1. Boot Camp
It’s common practice at many companies to run all new employees through the same HR-mandated basic training session during their first day or two on the job. This “boot camp” lays the foundation for new sales reps to develop their industry expertise and understand the company and services they’ll be selling.
While it’s important to spend time during this day going over office norms, company culture, and expectations for their role, this is also a prime opportunity to give new hires facetime with key leaders across various departments. Not only does it give new sales reps the chance to ask questions and build relationships with stakeholders, it also opens up the door for increased collaboration by giving leaders time to talk about the top priorities for their departments.
Having this training happen during the first few days is ideal for new hires, but to make the best use of time, consider having these happen on a regular basis each month, whether it is once a month or bi-weekly, and time your hiring to when these sessions are scheduled. That way, people you lean on to share knowledge know what to expect, and all new hires have a chance to get to know each other and start on the same footing.
2. Skills Learning & Training
After new reps have the foundational company knowledge, dive deeper into training them on the specific skills they’ll need to be successful sellers. Since reps may come in with varying levels of knowledge about the industry, product, or service, one useful tactic is to have new hires do pre-work on their own before coming into skills training sessions. Studying materials on their own ahead of time can help everyone get up to speed and prepare for sessions so that they can tackle the skills at the same pace.
When the sales enablement team only has the new reps in the room working on skills for a matter of days, it often isn’t enough time to truly cover everything they need to know before throwing them into the field. By flipping the classroom to have reps complete the watching, listening, and reading portions on their own, time with the enablement team can be spent more efficiently.
“We’ve put a lot of energy in the last year into putting content online and we’ve been very strict, with the help of our sales leadership, about having people do that pre-work in advance of being there live in the room,” said Gina Krigbaum, head of sales enablement at Talend. “And when we’re in the room, our live onboarding is focused entirely on being experiential.”
Schedule these sessions to give new reps enough time to really digest the material. Give them the pre-work when they start but depending on the amount they are expected to do ahead of the sessions, set reasonable deadlines within the first several days so that time spent in the room is meaningful.
“I think when you start day one – and sometimes it has to happen that way – but it’s like a firehose coming at you, whereas if you’re able to come in day two or week two, you have a sense of what you’re really dealing with, you’re technology is all set up already, and you can really learn from it,” said Roz Greenfield, co-founder and chief enablement officer at Level 123.
3. Practice & Immersion
To get reps performing faster, focus on enforcing activities that lead to productivity. Sales enablement professionals should sit down with sales managers and leaders and ask them for the key milestones new reps need to be prepared for: when should they be able to make their first call to a prospect? When should they be able to demo? When should they be able to make discovery calls?
Isolate those activities that directly impact revenue and design programming around those to prepare new reps to meet the deadlines sales managers expect. Lean on high-performing reps to show the new reps what good looks like. Create opportunities for shadowing and peer-to-peer learning, and let reps practice important stages of the sales cycle.
Help new reps gain confidence by practicing in front of different audiences, for example managing objections with the sales managers or demoing in front of the C-Suite. Putting them in front of top leaders adds a layer of pressure to the experience so that it feels close to the real thing, but still allows for the chance to work out the kinks and apply feedback before jumping on their first call.
On average, people forget 70% of what they’ve learned during training within 24 hours. To avoid the pitfall of having onboarding efforts be for naught, reinforcement of skills and knowledge is an essential last piece of the puzzle.
“Sometimes we think, ‘Oh, they’re onboarded, they’re out of the program,’” said Greenfield. “And then a year later they’re like, ‘Well, I wasn’t trained right.’ And it’s a matter of when am I actually really presenting pricing, when am I actually really doing the legal stuff? Let’s reinforce it as it comes up.”
To do this most effectively, sales enablement teams need to align with and lean on the sales managers.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of being on the same page with the sales managers, and I really work to develop ongoing relationships with them, and then put some of the ownership of program back to them,” said Julie Newhouse, sales enablement manager at Lyft. “I really need them to help be the vehicle to either drive that change management piece, drive a new behavior, or whatever it might be.”
Communicate often with the sales managers about the process and involve them in the checkpoints along the way so that they can help reinforce skills and positive behavior on an on-going basis. This also makes it so that the onboarding team can focus on facilitating and guiding the learning, and sales managers can be accountable for making sure their new reps are progressing toward their goals.
With metrics and deadlines always looming over the onboarding process, the easiest thing to forget sometimes can be to make the experience enjoyable. Practice, especially in front of an audience, can be daunting, but at the same time sitting in a classroom can feel like a drag. When designing onboarding programs, remember to weave in some fun, like prizes, games, social events, and more.
“You want them to feel proud and have confidence that they’ve joined a good company, so make it a good time,” said Greenfield.
By streamlining the onboarding process to maximize experiential learning, reinforce through practice and immersion, and leverage knowledge from leaders across the company, sales enablement teams can help decrease ramp time and increase productivity for new sales reps.