May 27th, 2016

In my previous post, I gave you a glimpse at the SiriusDecisions framework for Sales Onboarding that was presented at their SiriusDecisions Summit 2016. Since there is so much to cover I broke it down into two separate posts.

After you structured your onboarding program in terms of Knowledge, Skills, and Processes is time to think about certifications. SiriusDecisions divides certifications into two categories:

Effectiveness and Efficiency.

#sdsummit_sales onboarding framework_p2.1For each of them, there are three levels of certification to consider:

  1. Content Mastery

  2. Simulation

  3. Actual Execution

Certification is important because it validates that the sales rep can actually apply the learnings they have received. The first level of certification ensures the rep knows the material. The second level looks at whether the rep can apply the material in a simulated, pre-set scenario and controlled environment. This can be accomplished in many ways including using video role-play technology that gives the sales rep a safe environment to train in with a structured approach and the ability to obtain feedback. The third level has the rep in an actual customer engagement giving sales managers the opportunity to see how the rep applies the learnings in a real situation and also provides a great opportunity for coaching.

Measuring sales onboarding

SiriusDecisions recommends combining leading and lagging indicators to help assess the success of your onboarding program. The goal is to understand if your reps are progressing through the program at an adequate pace and if they will be ready by the time the program is over.  The importance of the leading indicators is that they serve as a good early warning system that something might be amiss or that course-correction is needed. You don’t want to wait 6 months only to realize the sales rep is not yet fully ramped up because of something that could have been identified earlier during onboarding.

What to measure, is, of course, the key question, so here’s what the analysts suggest.

Examples of Leading Indicators:

  • Velocity by stage

  • Conversion rates

  • Pipeline to Quota

  • Overall pipeline flow

  • Forecast accuracy

Examples of Lagging Indicators:

  • Close rate

  • Average deal size

  • Client mix

  • Win/Loss ratio

Another way to look at the indicators is to consider what SiriusDecisions calls “programmatic” and “individual” indicators.

Programmatic indicators are:

  1. Activity-based (how much time are reps spending on core selling activities vs. non-core activities)

  2. Stakeholder feedback (sales managers, team leaders, etc. observations of the rep’s performance)

  3. Business impact (the rep’s pipeline, productivity and performance metrics)

Individual indicators are:

  1. Know it (test if the rep knows the material and can do certain key activities)

  2. Demonstrate it (use a structured certification process to ensure reps can demonstrate the ability)

  3. Execute it (can reps perform in front of a buyer, do they understand the buyer and can they drive the sale?)

Critical stakeholders for successful sales onboarding

The closing thoughts from the SiriusDecisions session on sales onboarding are that there is a functional interlock when it comes to sales onboarding involving sales enablement, sales operations, marketing, channel marketing, sales leadership.
The sales leadership has to communicate to sales managers the importance of onboarding and support a culture of measurement and accountability. Sales operations have to provide the analytics to help assess leading indicators of onboarding success and sales enablement has to develop an onboarding process that is consistent and programmatic, with rigorous certification processes that simulate what reps will experience in the field.

I hope this gives you some interesting ideas as you review your current sales onboarding plan and can apply some of the best practices described above.