Sales onboarding is an education program that provides newly hired sales reps with the necessary knowledge, instills the company values, and shows them how to leverage the provided tools of a company in an easy-to-absorb and timely format. This process ensures all sales reps have what they need for success within the company, with the team, and in the field.
A well-defined onboarding program, in particular, allows sales reps to learn in consumable chunks, with defined learning objectives and onboarding materials that are readily available and updated with the latest competitive, corporate, and product information.
Sales reps that go through standardized onboarding processes become productive 3.4 months sooner, on average, than those who are at organizations with less formal onboarding. And those new hires are 50% more likely to stay with the organization.
To be successful, sales reps need an intimate knowledge of the products they are selling, as well as the specific procedures and behaviors that will help them succeed. To be clear, a strong sales onboarding program gives reps more credibility and confidence in their new role, boosting the success of the entire sales department. In this post, we’ll cover the the following topics so you’re ready to build an onboarding plan that sets every rep up to be a top performer:
Sales onboarding is an essential component of an effective sales enablement program. It’s the first step in ensuring sellers have the tools, resources, and support they need to be successful.
The numbers are in, and reports confirm the importance of a solid sales onboarding program for every organization:
- 77% of employees who had a formal onboarding process hit their performance goals. (UrbanBound)
- Organizations that effectively use a sales onboarding tool experience win rates seven percentage points higher than those who don’t use a tool effectively or at all. (Sales Enablement PRO)
- An ineffective sales onboarding program leads to a number of negative sales outcomes.
- Companies that go beyond the “new hire checklist” and build a truly meaningful onboarding program benefit in many ways.
Sales onboarding sets sellers up for success
Creating an onboarding program that is aligned with the specific needs of your sales reps as well as the organization leads to greater success in the field, as your reps will know the products they’re selling and have the knowledge and skills to back them up. Knowledge gained through onboarding also helps reps get to know their customers, both existing and potential. It provides information about current users and enhances creative thinking around new business opportunities.
Even further, reps enter the field with the comfort of knowing the values and standards of the company, so they can sell with confidence. If onboarding at your company is too general, you may miss out on opportunities to improve key sales skills aligned with your organization.
Sales onboarding improves retention and recruitment
Setting new hires up for success in their role is a huge part of attracting and retaining top talent. In today’s competitive job market, job seekers are more knowledgeable and discerning of their prospective employers than ever before. If a talented sales rep is considering joining your team, the onboarding and training programs may play a significant role in their success. A strong onboarding and training curriculum sets you apart as an employer that values and invests in its employees.
A strong onboarding program also helps you retain the top talent you have recruited.
Companies with ineffective onboarding lose 17% of new hires in the first three months.
With a great onboarding program, you can keep employees for months and years to come by giving them the knowledge and consistent onboarding experience they need to succeed in your sales department.
Sales onboarding increases rep engagement
Sales reps who are highly engaged in their work do everything they can to satisfy their clients, grow their client base, help other sales reps succeed, and contribute ideas to improve the overall sales department. These highly engaged employees are advocates for your company and an integral part of your sales department.
Building employee engagement starts with onboarding. When new reps get the tools and information they need right from the start, they are more likely to buy into the company’s goals, bond with the sales team through shared experiences, and contribute in a positive way every day.
A job done poorly gets poor results—and sales onboarding is no exception. An onboarding process that is effectively built from the start can lead to improved sales opportunities, more closed deals, and great salespeople who stay for the long haul.
Here are a few best practices to help you build your own sales onboarding program:
- Build a company story: Come to the table with a clear vision of your goals. What is your company’s mission and vision? What are your company values? What do you bring to the table? How is it different from your competitors?
- Provide clear, concise messaging: With a clear understanding of your company values, new sales reps need a guide for how to convey your message. Your onboarding program should provide key messaging tips for a variety of different sales situations and opportunities.
- Target the right customers: Develop sample profiles of customers that are a good fit for your products, including personalities and relevant industries. Learning how to pick and choose potential customers is a great way to help new hires understand your ideal customers and sell to them effectively.
- Standardize the process: Access to paperwork, manuals, onboarding materials, and centralized messaging can significantly improve the results of the process. Enlist the help of a dashboard-style system that keeps everything in one place. A simple, effective, repeatable system will help new reps feel confident when the process begins, and give a simple way to check back and review important information when needed.
- Provide continuous support: Using a sales readiness platform that standardizes your message is just the first step toward improved sales and retention. Provide opportunities for reps to check in, access sales coaching, and track their own readiness with assessments to cement the learning process with ongoing activities — a concept we call everboarding.
- Offer engaging, varied training formats: Onboarding used to mean all-day training sessions and shadowing experienced reps — long days, information overload, and minimal retention. With advances in sales training technology, you can offer a more engaging and interesting onboarding experience. With sales training techniques like micro-learning and gamification, you can present information in a variety of formats to keep new hires engaged and help them retain more information long-term.
While a consistent model of behavior and information makes the onboarding process run smoothly, creating one for your company is an individual, unique exercise. It must be consistently administered across new sales reps, but it must be customized for your industry, values, goals, team, and leadership.
A common onboarding strategy sales organizations take is the 30-60-90-day plan — a roadmap for where you want new reps to be after the first, second, and third months in their role. It can look something like this:
- 30 days: The new hire is familiar with the company mission, culture, history, products, buyers, sales processes, and tools. Offer some icebreaker activities and opportunities for collaboration and team building.
- 60 days: The new hire becomes more hands on, participating in team meetings, confident in talking to customers and prospects, and seems motivated to perform well.
- 90 days: The (not-so) new hire is actively reaching out to their accounts independently and fitting into the larger company culture. You are able to see a clear picture of their progress from day one.
There are different ways to approach a sales onboarding program, and where you start will depend on two things: your company objectives and what you already have in place. Using technology can help you customize the process for not only your company, but also for the many different learning styles that each rep brings to the table.
Average ramp time for new sales reps can be anywhere between six and 12 months. A strong onboarding program can use the following techniques to improve the onboarding process and decrease ramp time:
- A repeatable process: A well-defined, easily accessed, and standard process with clearly stated goals for the first and second week, first month, and so on, is a must-have. This process leaves the first impression with new reps, and can make or break the relationship between the new rep and the company.
- Written resources: Information must be easily accessed for learning and review, so make sure everything is properly recorded and easily accessible.
- Goal setting: Expectations should be clearly communicated and accountability tracked, but not rushed.
- Company experience: Give new sales reps the opportunity to experience other aspects of the company, like customer service and support, and inventory control.
- Mentorship and shadow opportunities: New hires get up to speed more quickly when there are ample opportunities for mentoring and shadowing. These activities allow reps to get guidance from more experienced members of the sales team in a less formal setting, giving them good opportunities to ask questions and learn in a real-world environment.
These techniques can be automated and/or streamlined with the help of sales readiness technology.
Sales onboarding platforms are typically part of enablement or readiness software. More sellers today are working remotely than ever before — and using technology is crucial for ensuring sales onboarding is accessible and adaptable for every individual rep.
These systems help to optimize the creation and execution of onboarding materials by:
- Storing, managing, and distributing training content
- Replicating in-person engagement through video conferencing tools and virtual instructor-led training (VILT)
- Providing practice opportunities through recorded role-plays
- Offering gamified learning and competitions
- Personalizing learning paths based on proven competencies and areas for improvement
- Tracking completion rates and scores
Successful sales onboarding with Mindtickle
The Mindtickle sales readiness platform offers onboarding and training features that improve time-to-productivity, sales rep effectiveness, and much more. Mindtickle offers user-friendly dashboards and analytics to track new reps’ progress through onboarding modules and identify reps who need additional training in certain areas.
Once onboarding is complete, Mindtickle offers a full suite of sales training, sales coaching, analytics, and micro-learning tools to reinforce concepts and continue building key skills. Schedule a demo today to see how Mindtickle can improve your sales onboarding program.
This post was originally published in January 2020 and was updated in September 2022.