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Sales Onboarding and Training Best Practices

by Ashley Wesley MA., CIM., CHRP., CHRL., on August 30, 2018

You can rest easy after you make it through the sales interview process, right? Your work is just getting started as you onboard top sales performers. Even the most talented employees in the world need to get up to speed on your specific processes, technologies, policies and everything else that goes into the position. These sales onboarding and training best practices will help you get off on the right foot with the talented salespeople you hired.

Onboarding Focus Areas

What are the most important things that a salesperson needs to know before they have a base level of tools required to do the job? Much like the concept of a minimum viable product, you need to define the minimum viable requirements before your new hire can successfully make sales. Make this your initial focus area, then branch out into specialized knowledge and skills after you create a foundation.

Ongoing Training Opportunities

Many organizations provide training at the beginning of the salesperson's tenure, then never touch it again. The top sales performers want to stay up to date on their skills and remain on a growth path in their career, so a lack of ongoing training opportunities is a major problem. Provide educational and training options to keep the sales team engaged and learning. An internal resource center, training on specialty sales techniques and trips to conferences are all valuable ways to incorporate long-term education opportunities.

Hands-on Training

What does your sales onboarding format look like? Are your new hires getting a bad impression of your company when they're stuck in a lecture-style training format? Let them get hands-on with the same systems and tasks they're expected to do on a day to day basis. You create performance expectations early on and speed up the process of getting new hires productive.

Sales Support

Adapting to a sales position at a new company can be intimidating, even for the top performers. Keep them confident and ready to smash past your quotas with sufficient sales support. Pair them up with an experienced member of the sales team, spend plenty of time going over the tools and technology solutions used in your organization, and make sure your resources are easily accessible.

A centralized sales support infrastructure works well for this purpose, as the salesperson goes through a single location to get help with any part of the job.

Customized Training

You went through great pains to find the best in the sales business. Why would you use training programs intended for someone who's never touched sales in their life? Customize your sales training for each candidate to decrease the time it takes before they become productive. Here are a few elements you can incorporate when you personalize this process:

  • Choose the most efficient training format for each candidate. Some people love learning through videos, while others need a well-documented step by step breakdown of a process.
  • Don't linger on universally understood sales tasks and techniques. Make sure that your new hires thoroughly grasp concepts that are common to all sales jobs, such as the difference between qualified and unqualified leads. You don't need to waste time on the basics when the understanding is already in place.
  • Adapt the length of the training sessions to the candidate. Some people can concentrate effectively for hours, while others absorb more when they have a short break to reset their brain.

Your 12 Month Onboarding Plan

The best way to approach onboarding is by breaking it into month-long segments. You gain several advantages with this approach:

  • You can create a plan to address the most important things in that 30 day period.
  • You can build upon prior training periods.
  • You can measure performance throughout the process.

The First Month

This is the acclimation period where you get the new sales recruit up to speed on the tools and systems you use within your organization.

They're also learning about what your company values look like on a day-to-day basis, so bot you and the new hire can determine whether they truly meet the cultural fit requirement. It's important to get the team used to the new hire and vice versa, so make sure to arrange for a lot of face time. Their time is also spent learning all about the customer base and your existing sales approaches. Expect limited sales to be made during this time, and focus more on shadowing opportunities.

The Second Month

Your sales person should have the basics down pat and can operate your tools without needing to ask a lot of questions for basic functionality. They're branching out into more advanced features and starting to gain their footing. They still have a long way to go before they're completely productive, but you should see solid, measureable progress and good integration into the team. Your candidate will start interacting with more customers and gaining insight on what makes them tick. They should be close to ready to start standing on their own in the next month or two.

The Third Month

All of the training they've gone through should come together around this time. Your new hire should feel empowered and confident enough to handle client meetings and other sales opportunities completely on their own. Make sure to have one of your experienced reps along for the ride still, as they can help you deliver targeted, one-on-one feedback to optimize their performance.

Six Months In

You're seeing steady growth in your hire and they're working well with the rest of the sales team. Their values are clearly aligned with the rest of the organization and their performance is within expectations. They may need some help here and there, but the one-on-one coaching has helped them adjust their behavior so they can succeed even more.

Ten Months In

Ten months is the magic number where most sales reps reach full productivity. If your sales recruit is not meeting the quota at this point, you need to sit down and find out exactly where the problem is. For example, if they were a top sales rep at a company with a complex sales cycle, they may have a bit of a struggle fully adjusting to one with a faster pace.

One Year and Beyond

Continually check for value alignment and identify additional training opportunities. Teaching the new sales rep how to prospect, social selling skills and continuing individual coaching is a necessary part in driving them to become a top sales performer.

These training and sales onboarding best practices reduce the time spent before salespeople become productive, establish performance expectations and set your talent up for long-term success.