Does Your Onboarding and Training Open Newly Hired Sales’ Minds or Crush Their Souls?

Sales Enablement expert Steven Wright provides a metaphor for onboarding by describing two completely different experiences of doing the same thing – boarding a plane.

Calling all cattle

At the airport, ticketing is crowded as usual. There’s no option to pull up a boarding pass on your phone – since this is an international long-haul, the agent needs to see your passport. The queue is about 50 people deep. Thirty minutes later, you finally get to see an agent. He looks askance at your carry-on and “suggests” you check it – for another $40. Boarding pass in hand and frown on face, it’s off to security now. The line there is at least 200 people. Another 45 minutes, and after all the TSA rigmarole, you’re through. At the gate is a teeming mass of people, and an hour until boarding. Maybe a coffee? The line at Starbucks is better than security, but not much. You give up the coffee idea and find a seat. Boarding is finally announced. Can boarding group numbers go that high? You realize they can – another 30 minutes in line in the jetway. You enter, turn right. And finally, you settle into your seat, crowded on either side by…well. It’s going to be a very long 14 hours.

Right this way, sir

The ticketing area is crazy, but the business class line is empty. The agent takes your passport and smiles. A few clicks and your boarding pass gets neatly and quickly tucked into your passport. With carry-on and backpack, time for TSA Pre-Check. Crazy on the other side, by the way. A TSA agent beckons you. Two minutes later, you’re heading for the lounge. Glass of wine, munchies, a look at the New York Times and boarding is called. At the gate, there’s another empty line, next to all the queued coach passengers. You board, turn left, stow your carry-on, and take your seat. The flight attendant greets you by name and offers you a glass of champagne. You try out the seat controls, look at the menu (nice wines on this flight) and settle back – almost looking forward to the next 14 hours.
So what does this have to do with sales onboarding and training? Hang on, we’re getting there next.

Five questions to ask when refocusing training investments for the future:

For Mindtickle’s November 13 Webinar we’ll be asking five key questions to help you get to the answers you need when it comes to finding the right way to optimize and balance your training investments:

  • What are the barriers to training? For all employees – whether freshly onboard or established veterans – increasing business complexity, new technologies, and new distractions have built a wall that companies need to break through in order to engage workers. Yet, some of those distractions – when’s the last time you checked your phone? – can help break down those walls.
  • Where are the challenges? When it comes to the effect of training, several factors are in play ranging from a lack of learner engagement, often because of a less than ideal experience along with weak content. Complicating things is the inability to effectively measure the impact. To make things even worse, many companies are still stuck in the technological past when it comes to training.
  • Which is it – and, or, versus? Legacy approaches highlight the need to understand where the value of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) is versus newer approaches especially or sales and training enablement. But it’s not an “and/or” situation. Nor is it one versus the other. By understanding what types of learning are needed, and which technologies can best address them, companies can start to find approaches that will help training take-off.
  • What works? While employee engagement and training is one thing, it’s important to consider sellers and their experience. Sellers, more than perhaps any other customer-facing employee, have demands and challenges of their own. For one thing, everyone wants to “help.” And many parts of the organization have a stake. But companies need to build a lens through which to view the seller experience and build training that, like the example I started with, optimize how and what sellers do.
  • Is technology enough? Even with a clear strategy for how to both leverage existing training investments and take advantage of new technologies, companies need to take a step back and recognize that technology, by itself, won’t fix things. Companies need to understand the strengths and limitations of the organization and technology and build a flight plan that takes both into account.

Which would you rather?

Take a moment and think about the experience your organization offers new sellers? Is it akin to the cattle call or “Right this way, sir” boarding experiences?
Those first experiences with your company set the tone, and define on a deep unconscious level, how sellers will regard your company, your brand, your solutions and how they will engage with buyers. For sellers, is your approach “round-em-up and brand ‘em” or is it “welcome aboard, we care about you as the key interface to our all-important customers”?
Even after they board the plane, what happens next? What’s their ongoing experience? Crowded, boring, too much time in class or staring at a screen? Or interactive, helpful, and even entertaining? Do your sellers arrive at their destination relaxed, refreshed and ready to sell? Or exhausted, tense and ready to quit? (And why do so many companies persist in calling it “Boot Camp”? What possible positive association can that have?)
When looking at the onboarding and training experience, consider how your organization, culture, and training and enablement technology can open the mind rather than crush the soul. Your company is probably investing a lot in improving the customer experience – and who often becomes the first human contact for your customers? The seller. What is their experience like? Does it enable them to provide your future customers with the experience they need to buy or develop brand affinity?
Oh, by the way, for my upcoming trip? Thanks to miles and lifetime status – strictly business class, thank-you.
Please join me at Mindtickle’s upcoming webinar on November 13, titled “Enabling Sales People for the Future by Refocusing Training Investments”, where we will discuss how you can refocus training!
About Steven Wright:
Steven looks for the intersection of technology and practice to better enable sellers to improve customer understanding and sales progression. With over 20 years of experience in sales enablement as a practitioner at companies such as IBM and as an analyst at Forrester, Steven focuses on improving sellers’ skills at all levels and has worked with hundreds of companies.
Working with Vendor Neutral, Steven is currently managing Vendor Neutral Certified Profiles, a program from that offers buyers detailed profiles of sales technology solutions to simplify finding the right tech for their needs.