Sales onboarding is an important part of building and growing a sales team. Successful onboarding improves retention, increases the pace at which new employees begin producing revenue, and ensures a seamless experience for your prospects and customers.
Onboarding new hires quickly and effectively is job number one when expanding your team. And the best way to do that is with a structured, proven approach that is trained, coached, and reinforced.
Sales onboarding is a structured approach to helping new salespeople become successful within your sales organization. It includes welcoming, training, coaching, and reinforcing your way of selling so that they can engage with your team, your prospects, and your customers in an effective and seamless manner, while meeting their own goals for their career.
I would like to say that the sales industry has come a long way with sales onboarding since my early days in the business, but the truth is that a lot of companies are still doing onboarding badly. And by “wrong” I mean that they aren’t doing it at all, or at least not in a structured way.
The practice of hiring “superstar” salespeople and then setting them loose is still common. Another common and ineffective practice is to train salespeople in the product, without training them in HOW you sell. In other cases, salespeople are set loose with a “mentor” (who is often just a successful salesperson, with no training or experience in mentoring) and expected to figure it all out by shadowing them.
Even in those companies that train in a systematic way, there is a bad habit of “info dumping” all over salespeople and then expecting them to go out and apply their learning immediately.
You can’t onboard in a structured way if you don’t have a structured way of selling. You need a solid, executable sales strategy, a milestone-based process, a consistent sales methodology, technology that supports and reinforces your process, and a solid coaching and management system.
So your first step in improving your onboarding, is to take a step back and ensure your team actually knows and understands and executes on HOW you sell. Because how you sell is why you win. You need a platform like Membrain to guide salespeople through the process and provide you with the analytics and insights that will show you what’s working, what’s not working, and how well your team is executing in the field. The right tools will also help you to identify best practices and scale them to the rest of the team, so that your team is continuously improving.
Armed with that information and a process built into the workflow, you can onboard new salespeople to a process that you know for sure works. Using the same workflows that guide existing salespeople through the process, you can guide new salespeople in a far more effective way than any two-day or even six-week training program can do alone.
I recently spoke to one of our sales training partners, Adviser Partner, who wisely said that we’re making a mistake by front-loading all our onboarding in the first several weeks, or months, and waiting to release salespeople into the field only after they’ve completed all of their training. This approach “stuffs” salespeople full of “knowledge” but without the application that makes it stick.
Instead, chunk your training into units that enable salespeople to actually get to work as soon as possible. For instance, you could train new salespeople on how to book an initial meeting with a potential customer, and then set them to work actually booking calls while they complete the rest of their training.
This gets them to work producing results much faster, while simultaneously giving them an opportunity to practice and internalize the training. It also means you can see more quickly who is going to perform well and who isn’t.
Instead of waiting months to learn everything and then try to remember all of it, salespeople continue to learn while putting what they already know into practice. Next, you might train them on needs analysis. Again, they can put that into practice with the calls they’ve been booking. At first, they can sit in with a senior member, then a senior member of the team can sit in with them while they try it.
Coaching can and should be a critical part of the onboarding process. Salespeople should be in touch with a manager and coach early on who can help them learn and develop their skills. Coaches should be trained to coach, good at it, and supported with technology platforms that help them understand what each salesperson needs and when.
Membrain’s upcoming coaching cockpit, launching later this year, will provide powerful tools for both ongoing coaching and coaching during onboarding. The coaching cockpit will provide an easy and intuitive overview of everything the coach is working on with each salesperson within each of the three Membrain workflows.
This means you could “chunk” the training out into segments, and a coach can easily see which portion of the training each new salesperson has completed, and then help guide them through the practical application of each segment as they are ready for it.
Additionally, the coaching cockpit will make it easy for the coach to set up cadences and make it clear to each of their salespeople what is expected of them and what resources are available to them. It will also enable each salesperson to easily access self-serve resources and to reach out to their coach when they need extra support.
When executed effectively, a structured sales onboarding process can be a major differentiator for your company, reducing your costs and increasing the speed to productivity for new team members. It also ensures that even your new team members are delivering a consistent way of selling to your prospects and customers. We’d love to show you how we can help.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
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