We all know employee turnover hurts the bottom line, and that’s especially true when it comes to the sales organization. Quotas need to be hit. Revenue goals need to be met. But how can that happen if underprepared reps are manning the phones?
This reality has made shortening sales onboarding time the top priority of many B2B sales enablement programs. But for more than 60% of companies, sales onboarding success falls short of management’s expectations, according to the Sales Management Association.
What is Sales Onboarding?
Sales onboarding is the process of equipping new sales hires with the knowledge and skills they need to be competent and confident during every buyer interaction. It should get sellers up to speed as quickly as possible, while also making sure that they are truly conversation-ready.
Letting unprepared sellers "practice" on prospects is a recipe for lost business, which makes the onboarding process a delicate balancing act. Here are 3 tips that can help your newly-hired sales reps have effective buyer conversations faster, close their first deals sooner and keep the sales pipeline full.
[Related: The Blueprint for Better Sales Onboarding]
1) Role-Based Sales Onboarding
Your sales onboarding schedule does not need to be a one-size-fits-all setup where every rep follows the same learning path. Depending upon how an organization is structured, tailoring the onboarding program to specific sales roles can be a great way to improve efficiency.
At Brainshark, our sales force consists of three different teams – account development reps (ADRs), account executives and account managers – and each group has a 30/60/90-day onboarding plan aligned to its respective role. These plans feature specialized activity milestones – set by the sales enablement team in collaboration with sales managers – that compel reps to develop specific skills and knowledge that will help them succeed in their given roles.
For example, ADRs are expected to master a 1-minute elevator pitch, complete a product knowledge coaching assessment and start making sales calls within three weeks of their start date. By Day 60, they will have delivered a live product demo to our CEO, CSO and sales enablement team, and (ideally) passed 3 qualified opportunities on to the account executives.
The onboarding schedule for account executives aims to have them effectively performing discovery by Day 60, whereas their first 30 days are spent developing a deep understanding of the Brainshark value proposition.
Throughout the onboarding process, we assess sales rep readiness (across all roles) to determine if new hires grasp the concepts and skills needed to engage buyers and customers effectively. This is done through quizzes, in-person coaching sessions or video coaching activities, where reps might be asked to record themselves delivering an elevator pitch or a high-level product overview. These recordings are then submitted to sales managers for feedback.
Towards the end of their first 90 days, sales reps in each role will gradually take on more responsibilities and begin handling bigger tasks with limited guidance from their managers.
“We wanted to be sure we saw ROI quickly and gave the reps everything they need to be successful when we created the plan,” says Brainshark Director of Sales Enablement Jenn Haskell.
Does the sales onboarding schedule have to begin on a salesperson's start date? Not necessarily.
Obviously, you cannot legally compel employees to do any work before they’re officially in the door. But you can give them the option to jump-start the sales onboarding process.
Our sales enablement team makes “pre-learning” content readily available to reps once their paperwork clears. This content covers basics around our product, our value proposition, the industries and customers we serve, and our competitors. The key is to present this content in an easy-to-consume way, giving reps a foundation that they’ll build upon throughout their first 90 days.
Sales reps who take advantage of pre-learning opportunities – particularly those in roles with an accelerated ramp-up time, such as ADRs – ultimately put themselves on the fast track to productivity, says Haskell. Some Brainshark ADRs have seen their first qualified sales opportunities by Day 17 thanks in large part to pre-boarding, she says.
“They should already have a pretty good handle on who we are and what our product does [when they start],” Haskell says. “[Pre-boarding] makes it easier to go through what’s defined in [their] role-based onboarding plan. It’s not as overwhelming.”
3) Leverage Sales Readiness Technology
Having a sound sales enablement strategy in place and the right team to execute it is vital, but a sales readiness platform is the oil that can keep your sales onboarding engine running smoothly.
Within a sales readiness platform, content authoring capabilities allow sales enablement teams to create and deliver engaging training content, which can be tailored for each phase of the onboarding process. Content that's easy to distribute and easily customized is especially helpful for sales enablement teams employing a role-based onboarding strategy or creating “pre-boarding” content.
Analytics and dashboards provide sales managers and the sales enablement team insight into what onboarding content was viewed, how long it was viewed and whether formal assessments such as quizzes were passed or failed, as well as individual and team progress. The ability to see this data allows managers to keep reps on track during onboarding and make quicker, more informed decisions about whether certain reps need extra training or coaching.
Video-based coaching allows reps to practice product pitches and submit a recording for review by their sales manager or sales enablement team. And it’s worth emphasizing just how crucial sales coaching is when it comes to onboarding, because it allows the sales organization to better assess whether reps really are ready for buyer interactions.
“We can see what reps are delivering and see if people are struggling,” Haskell says. “If we see somebody struggling, it helps us do a deeper dive and recalibrate. Maybe we’ve missed something. Maybe we need to schedule a live training.”
At Brainshark, we’ve seen tangible improvements using our own platform. New ADRs are having meaningful buyer conversations as early as their second and third weeks on the job. Account managers are closing renewal deals with uptick during their first month in the organization.
Sales reps are creating these new opportunities because they can articulate the value of Brainshark more quickly and more effectively – and isn’t that the goal of any good sales onboarding program?
Looking for more sales enablement insight? Check out our latest eBook, “14 Hacks to Upgrade Your Sales Enablement Strategy,” for tips and tricks around sales coaching, readiness assessment and more!