The Sales Onboarding Challenge: 6 Ways Technology Enables Sales Onboarding Success

The Sales Onboarding Challenge: 6 Ways Technology Enables Sales Onboarding Success
March 19, 2021

Sales onboarding is one of the most critical initiatives facing sales enablement and readiness leaders. Get it right, and you shorten ramp-up times, increase new-hire production, reduce costs associated with new-hire turnover, and contribute to revenue growth for your company. Get it wrong, and to put it bluntly, you fail.

Properly implemented technology can provide efficiency and effectiveness gains unachievable on your own. Here’s the problem though, with so many tools and options, each doing different things, how do you know what is best for your specific sales technology stack and onboarding efforts? The best starting point is to identify the components of your program currently lacking support.

First, The Fundamentals

There are several fundamental components to create an effective sales onboarding program and gain the efficiency and effectiveness of properly implemented technology. The program should:

  • Establish results new reps must achieve using a timeline of performance milestones.
  • Identify the content and competencies required to achieve those results.
  • Use instructional design principles to teach and validate those competencies – focusing on only the “need-to-know” content to reach each milestone, in a phased approach.
  • Create an environment to support learning and performance for new reps.
  • Include support from front-line sales managers for knowledge reinforcement, skills transfer, and coaching to mastery.
  • Track, analyze, and report progress of the learning and milestone achievements.

As you evaluate technology solutions, look for those you can use to create an effective process and support these major components of your onboarding program. Doing this will ensure your success and the return from your technology investments.

Now, let’s get into the 6 ways technology can power your sales onboarding program and support both reps’ and your success.

1. Identify Your Sales Competencies

Sales competencies – identified by role and established through top-producer analysis – are key to hiring your next class of sales reps and designing your training to get results. But in order to do this successfully, it is critical to survey and assess for sales competencies.

  • Build your program around the competencies each role requires for success.
  • Ask reps to rate their own competencies (a Likert scale of 1-5 can be used here).
  • Survey managers to rate their reps for the same competencies.
  • Compare survey results and engage in discussions between reps and managers to address gaps and then use training and coaching to close them.
  • Build custom programs based on specific competency strengths and developmental areas.
  • If possible, provide competency to allow reps to “test out” of courses based on high scores. This allows them to focus on the competencies they really need to learn and improve.

2. Gather Training Insights

For onboarding, it’s important to have analytics to track learning progress and retention to ensure sales reps are getting things done on time, are learning and understanding the content, and retaining it (which also allows you to know when they’re not and address it).

You may want to consider both leading indicators (such as course start date, quiz scores) and lagging indicators (such as course completion, time to complete, final assessment scores). The goal would be to:

  • Capture course assignments and completions, to keep reps on track.
  • Capture and analyze quizzes and test scores to identify where course design adjustments are needed or where some learners may need individual support.

3. Measure Knowledge Retention

Your sales reps can’t use what they can’t remember. By using video and text-based coaching assessments you can validate your reps are learning and remembering key content. Sellers need to feel confident and prepared as revenue goals rise. Sales leaders need confidence every rep is ready to hit those targets. Save time and simplify the coaching process even further by using machine analysis and scoring. Brainshark’s AI-powered engine auto-scores and analyzes your rep’s video submissions, making it even easier to identify who is truly ready to sell and see 'what was the gap.'

With these types of tools, you can:

  • Simplify and streamline video scoring and assessments.
  • Track test scores to check comprehension and retention.
  • Reinforce content to keep it top-of-mind and ensure retention.
  • Use score data to identify areas for remediation or coaching.

4. Apply Skill Practice and Coaching

Unfortunately, even if your sales reps remember what they learned, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can do it. It's not just about coaching. It's about confidence. Sales coaching solutions can help. They make it easy to create coaching and practice activities for any selling scenario encouraging practice and validating skill usage (i.e., competencies).

With video coaching, sellers have a comfortable environment to practice key messages and get feedback from peers – before their videos are submitted for review. Additionally, you can capture and share your best video examples to foster peer learning and improve team-wide performance. 

Leverage virtual coaching to:

  • Test and develop judgment in sales situations.
  • Validate skill usage and skill levels (it’s an excellent “excuse remover” for non-performance, if you can validate that the rep can use the skills, after training).
  • Encourage additional skill practice to develop comfort and foster fluency.
  • Sharpen skills in a safe setting, and to begin the process of coaching to mastery, over time.

5. Transfer Training to the Job

Just because your sales reps remember what they learned and can demonstrate skills during practice sessions, it doesn’t really mean they’ll be able to use those skills on the job. There is a term commonly used in the training field, “training transfer”.  This term refers to the act of applying the knowledge and skills acquired during training to the job, in their normal workflow. This transfer can occur naturally, but typically only with the most motivated learners.

It is possible though to purposefully orchestrate the transfer of training and ultimately maximize your training investments resulting in the best possible impact on performance. This is especially true for sales onboarding.

Here’s one example of how you can use technology to support transfer:

  • Use a tool (preferably integrated to your CRM and/or the reps’ workflow) to serve up performance support to reps in context of opportunities they are managing. The performance support can include job aids, forms, sales playbooks, training reinforcement, insights to share with clients, or other things to remind the trainee to use what they learned or provides them a tool to do so.

6. Analyze Training and Performance Metrics

Basic training and assessment data is useful and necessary, but you have the opportunity to go even further. The use of CRM, business intelligence (BI) tools, and Readiness Scorecards analyze the correlation between learning and post-training performance and assess the impact of the training. It is important to keep in mind that while CRM, BI and Scorecards share some of the same functionality in their ability to capture and report on data each is built with a specific purpose in mind. They are most effective when used for that specific purpose. Together, they can each play a role in providing a holistic picture of how your business is doing. Scorecards automatically put readiness data into a coachable context and enhance it with CRM performance data. This ensures sales managers have everything they need to diagnose problems, motivate reps and hold reps accountable for results.

Using these tools, you can:

  • Determine leading and lagging indicators for both learning and sales performance.
  • Analyze for patterns and correlate different pieces of the training to real-world performance.
  • Compare training progress to benchmarks to correlated to on-the-job performance.
  • Use this analysis to continue what’s working and pivot appropriately to improve the program and results

Conclusion

Sales onboarding is a critical task for any organization. It is important for sales enablement and readiness leaders to research and then implement the right technology for the job. When they do, it can be a key ingredient to success.