The Keys to Successful Sales Onboarding
Updated: Jan 4
Successfully onboarding new salespeople is one of the most crucial activities a business undertakes, yet I commonly see this area not getting the design attention and internal staff support it deserves.
Your sales organization’s onboarding plan should be a structured 90-day plan that includes weekly actions, key milestones, sales strategy, sales methodology, and just enough product knowledge to discuss high-level solutions with prospects.
Even veteran salespeople need ample time to learn your unique processes and systems. The key to them being equipped to translate their previous sales success into a new environment, even one in the same industry, largely rests on how well their new employer guides and supports their onboarding process.
I specialize in helping organizations prepare the necessary sales platform to attract, onboard, and retain top talent. Slowing down to establish a best practices foundation pays off tenfold.
I can serve as a resource in this area if you’re stretched thin and could use the easy button!
Building a 90-Day Onboarding Plan
The first 90 days can make or break the success of your new salesperson. When the employment market is tight and attracting top talent requires significant effort, a sales leader should not consider their hire secured until the successful completion of their Onboarding Plan.
In my previous article entitled, “Why Can’t I Find the Right Salespeople?”, I covered what it takes to capture top talent, represented by the Attract phase of the Employment Lifecycle. Now let’s explore through the candidate’s lens how they move through the next stage of their experience, the Onboard phase.
The most important part of successful onboarding is having a well-defined plan. If your organization doesn’t have a formal process in place, this is a critical gap you need to fill to avoid losing the new hire.
Without structure, a new hire can feel alone and fall into information overload that prompts them to second guess if they made the right decision to join your company.
Done properly, the onboarding process enforces the candidate’s employment decision and gives them a sense of feeling valued and supported immediately upon their arrival.
Remember, you are on as much of a probationary period as your new employee during the first 90 days. You need to make sure you are delivering on the culture and opportunity you promised them in the interview process.
A strong sales onboarding process should include a detailed 90-day plan with weekly actions and key milestones. Beyond that, it needs to tie into your next quarterly sales review cycle. This ensures next-level goals and milestones are continually set with your newer team members as they gradually mature into their roles.
Onboarding plans should also include access to your company handbook and sales resources so the seller can digest information at their own pace. Combining self-paced learning with key stakeholder check-ins can help immerse your new seller in your culture much more quickly.
Show them early the cause and effect of sending projects to the estimating team without all the necessary specs or why there is a procedure to bring in finance to evaluate non-standard sales opportunities.
The speed in which a new salesperson adopts your processes and embraces your culture, the sooner they can ramp up to become a high performer.
Sales Strategy and Methodology Comes First
Before your reps can sell any products, they need to understand the big picture. They probably generally know what you do from their own research of the company during the interview process.
What you need to focus on during their first week on the job is educating them on who they are selling to and how you help solve their pain points.
Go over the problems your targets face every day and how your company can help. Your objective is to showcase the various ways they can deliver your unique value proposition.
A customized Sales Playbook is the ideal tool to guide this knowledge transfer process.
You should also teach your people where your customers are both geographically and digitally. Tell them which job titles you are targeting with your marketing efforts. Show them the publications your customers read, and which trade shows they attend.
The faster your salespeople understand your go-to-market strategy, the faster they see how they fit into the revenue generation process. If you’re just getting started on formally defining your strategy, you will find helpful guidance in a previous article I wrote called “How Do I Generate More Qualified Leads?”
After you teach your people who you are selling to and what you sell, you’ll need to educate them on your pipeline methodology and customized sales process.
You’ll need to walk them through how to align with your customer’s buying cycle, how to properly screen prospects before entering the sales pipeline, what specific objectives should be accomplished during each stage of the sales process, etc.
These are the proven sales workings that lead your reps to success in your unique sales environment.
Don’t assume once a new sales hire understands your target market and value proposition that they have all the tools they need to get the job done.
You’ll want to provide a written and detailed account of the sales process, how sales activity is logged and reported on in your environment, and the list goes on.
Even an experienced industry veteran is likely to be hindered in their ramp-up if your sales process isn’t fully defined or they don’t have clarity on how to efficiently plug into your sales methodology and systems.
Rightful Positioning of Product Knowledge
I have seen many sales leaders focus deeply on product knowledge during the vital first days and weeks of onboarding.
They believe that deeper product knowledge is going to help their new sales rep be more effective and confident in their prospecting efforts.
It’s true that understanding your product more deeply will help sellers be more successful in the long run. The problem is product knowledge isn’t what’s going to help them the most in getting off the ground successfully.
A company’s sales onboarding process should focus primarily on your unique sales strategy and the roadmap you provide your reps to follow that is proven to generate a sales pipeline. Instead of inundating new sales hires with solution intricacies, it is proven that introducing product knowledge through broad strokes keeps their focus where it needs to be… on selling!
In most environments, this means solution engineer support will be needed to handle the technical questions on the new hire’s first several client meetings and behind the scenes as they encounter product-specific inquiries.
The new salesperson needs to feel confident they have a team behind them to handle the details, a team capable of delivering a solid solution.
This approach also fits well with the attributes of a high-performance seller as they will be eager to start selling. An experienced salesperson will be effective at navigating a well-defined sales process very quickly.
Keeping the focus on selling early on also minimizes the risk of new hire getting deeper and deeper into what they think they need for product knowledge before they can begin selling.
Your objective is for the new salesperson to become quickly accountable for generating leads and navigating the sales process while leaning confidently on their solution resources to represent product-related subject matter expertise.
Key Take-aways for Successful Sales Onboarding
Replace your product-heavy onboarding with workshops that train on your sales strategy, processes, and systems. Done properly, your reps will have more productive conversations with prospects sooner because you’ve shown them the secret recipe for how to uncover and work new opportunities in your unique selling environment.
· Create a detailed 90-day plan with weekly actions and key milestones
· Focus on sales strategy and customer pain points
· Provide new hires with a proven sales roadmap
· Don’t overdo product training
If you would like to discuss your sales onboarding process, missing resources to make it more effective, or any stage of your sales talent lifecycle, feel free to reach out to me at (618) 600-4647 or firstname.lastname@example.org or booking a call through my Scheduling Tool.
I am part of a national group of Senior Sales Leaders who collaborate to share insights like the examples shown in this article. We formed because of our shared passion to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue.