How to Create Better Sales Onboarding Content

August 08, 2016 | Mike Kunkle
How to Create Better Sales Onboarding Content

Sales onboarding is a hot topic. Everyone wants to do it better and faster. A lot of people talk about it. Yet, over the past few years, various industry surveys indicate that onboarding ramp-ups, on average, have not improved.

Obviously, we need to start to think differently about the sales onboarding dilemma.

In a recent webinar on sales onboarding that was hosted by Sales & Marketing Management, we received a question from a viewer about the keys to creating exceptional training and onboarding content. This is the first of a series of things that sales enablement leaders must do differently, to drive different results.

The truth is this: the keys to creating great onboarding have been the same in the sales training field for years. First, figure out what reps need to know and do. Then engage, educate, practice, reinforce, coach, inspire, and measure.

But in order to do that, the content needs to produce results. For that reason, the focus of sales onboarding content shouldn’t necessarily be “How Do I Use My CRM” or “Who Are My Buyer Personas” – although these things are important, and must be taught.

A deeper emphasis, however, must be focused on skills and competencies. The goal here should be teaching reps the things that will differentiate them, through their sales process and sales methodology. The approach that allows for average reps to be far more successful, is best fueled by top producer analysis.

View the full Sales & Marketing Management onboarding webinar here.

What is top producer analysis?

Top-producer analysis is the epitome of talent development. In short, this methodology studies the exemplary performers who have gotten their results through their own efforts. They didn’t inherit a great territory or get lucky with a big account. These are the producers who, if you were to put them in the middle of a completely different territory, would be able to rebuild, start anew and still be very successful. This is someone with a pattern of success. Someone who does the right thing time and time again.

You need to focus on the right top producers. The top 4% often do things that aren’t replicable by the average person. They sell based on the force of their personality, raw cognitive horsepower and intellect, and/or highly-honed interpersonal and communication skills. You will often get the most transferrable, replicable content, by focusing on the remaining 16% of the top 20%, rather than the very top 4% of sales producers. 

Top producer analysis takes best practices to a new level, by using your own, internal top sales talent to help others improve, which accounts for the context and nuances that best practices do not. When you study those types of top producers, and then compare them to what people in the middle of the organization are doing, you’ll be able to find differentiating factors.

  • Sometimes, they’ll be doing some of the same things. They should continue those. (Or perhaps do them slightly differently, adjusting for what top reps do.)
  • In some cases, the middle will be doing a bunch of things the top performers aren’t doing. They should stop.
  • In other cases, the top people are doing something radically different, or that the middle are not. The middle reps should start doing those.

Doing a top producer analysis – finding the differentiating behaviors between your top and middle performers – and then creating your content around that is the best way to develop really powerful training and sales onboarding content.

Here’s what the process will look like, in 4 steps:

  1. Identify the true exemplary performers who have earned their results, whom you should attempt to replicate. 
  2. Isolate the mindsets, knowledge, and especially the skills, competencies, and behaviors that drive results for the selected top producers. 
  3. Identify the differentiating behaviors and other elements between your researched top producers and your middle producers. 
  4. Construct a curriculum to teach the differentiating behaviors and implement it within the framework of an effective learning system.

When it comes to creating content that then “makes a difference,” it’s all part of creating an effective learning system. No matter how good your learning system is, if the content isn’t applicable to real world activities, you’re not going to get a result.

Once sales onboarding content has been created, you can start to focus on the other important aspects of onboarding: setting milestones, chunking sequencing and laying, and teaching only the “need to know” content to get to each milestone.

To put it simply: Start with the content you know is going to get results, and you’re on your way to building a powerful sales onboarding program.

For more on successful onboarding, download this free whitepaper: Amp Up Your Ramp Up: 4 Keys to Getting Sales Reps Onboarded and Selling Faster

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