May 27th, 2016

During the session “Assessing Execution and Impact of Sales Onboarding”, SiriusDecisions VP and Group Director Mark B. Levinson gave a compelling presentation about the state of sales onboarding and what companies can do to get in shape.

#sdsummit_sales_onboarding_frameworkThe current state of sales onboarding is worrisome. Two key stats shared by SiriusDecisions show that 26% of sales organizations have not yet implemented a formal onboarding process

and only 7%  of sales enablement leaders have indicated their onboarding program is robust and complete.

Sales onboarding as a first impression

Let’s start with the basics first, and why sales onboarding is such a critical component of sales productivity. The example Mark used in his presentation is excellent. Research done shows that you have one chance to make a good first impression and for that to happen there are several elements to take into consideration such as:

  • Know your audience

  • Exude confidence

  • Answer questions

  • Prepare and practice

  • Listen carefully

  • Dress to impress

In sales, the sales onboarding is typically the ‘first impression’ for new hires which sets the tone and expectations as well as serving as a welcoming program to the company. The problem is that it often consists of a week of ‘product dumps’ and reps are quickly pushed into the field. Sales enablement professionals must then balance driving sales competencies with the need to get sales reps productive quickly, often competing for priorities. On top of that, sales enablement leaders also need the ability to assess the onboarding process and understand if there are performance indicators that can tell whether reps are progressing as expected or if something needs to be done.

Evaluating the effectiveness of sales onboarding programs

According to SiriusDecisions, most onboarding programs are 60-90 days long, however, regardless of the length of the program the determination of whether a sales rep is “ready” is often done by the sales manager without any help of indicators or metrics to rely on. In fact, most organizations use “time to first deal” as the key productivity metric, with an alarming 23% of organizations not even measuring “time to productivity”

. It is clear that there is a lack of critical measurements to determine the ROI of sales onboarding. 

That’s where SiriusDecisions Sales Onboarding Effectiveness and Efficiency Model comes in. Their framework breaks down the onboarding process into certain competencies:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills

  • Processes

These are great foundations to think about as you review your own sales onboarding initiatives. What are the knowledge areas you need your reps to be proficient at? Which are the skills they need to master to be able to sell effectively? What are the processes they need to be aware of? For example:

Typical Knowledge Areas:

  • Company history

  • Buyer Personas

  • Corporate Pitch

  • Product knowledge

  • Competitive intelligence

  • Pricing

Typical Skills to Master:

  • Core selling skills

  • Negotiation

  • Social selling

  • Closing

  • Objection handling

  • Demos

  • Forecasting

Typical Processes to Learn:

  • Sales methodology

  • Prospecting

  • Sales process

  • SFA

  • Lead management

  • Quote/proposal generation

By thinking in those terms you can create a structured onboarding program that covers all the needs of a sales rep. 

In the next post, I’ll share additional details about the framework including how to think about sales certifications and how to measure the effectiveness of your program.