Sales onboarding best practices have to be considered if you want to make the most of your team. You’ve recruited a great new candidate, you’ve asked them all the right questions, and you even have the thumbs-up from their future colleagues. The hard part is over, right? Along with recruiting and screening top talent, onboarding new sales employees is one of the most important ways for organizations to maximize the success of their salesforce. In fact, according to research from the Sales Management Organization, companies that get onboarding right and follow best practices for onboarding sales people enjoy 10 percent greater sales growth rates than organizations without effective programs.
If you’re looking to make improvements to your onboarding program, it comes down to developing a set of sustainable, strategic sales onboarding best practices. Successful onboarding programs master three key elements: content, structure, and measurement. You can think of content as the “what” of onboarding and structure as the “how,” while measurement tracks the overall effectiveness of your program.
This all sounds great on paper, but what does effective onboarding look like in action? Let’s take a look at practical examples of sales onboarding best practices at organizations around the country.
Sales onboarding best practices: content
What are the goals of your onboarding program? For most, the objective is for new hires to walk away feeling prepared for their jobs and like they’re part of the team. That means you need to stock your program with the right content to help new team members understand your culture, your customers, and how you do business. It’s a tall order, but the ROI of onboarding sales people well is well worth the investment.
“Day in the life” training
Set new salespeople up for success by starting orientation before they even walk through your doors. At Hubspot, new hires are invited to experience a day in the life at the company before their official first day. The idea is to start giving them context and information before the onslaught of tasks that come with a new role. Take a page from their playbook and bring new reps in for a day of observation, shadowing, and meet-and-greets before the real work kicks in.
Informal learning opportunities
Your new hires will have plenty of formal assignments on their onboarding to-do list, but leave some room for self-guided learning opportunities. This is the kind of content that new hires will seek out on their own to supplement their interests and address pain points.
For one of our medical device partners, their approach to sales training and enablement is a mix of ongoing and regional training events, plus podcasts, marketing videos and mobile-friendly learning modules that reps can use on their own. Another idea? Make internal and external coaching available to new hires. Especially for more experienced or executive-level hires, a personal touch and experiential learning is critical for long-term success.
Sales onboarding best practices: structure
Want to retain new hires for at least three years? According the Wynhurst Group, new employees who go through a structured onboarding process are 58 percent more likely to stay with the company for more than three years. But how do you structure your training for both productivity and retention? Here are a few examples from high-performing organizations.
A 60 to 90 day training period
It’s easy to want new hires to be productive right away—and some organizations, like Facebook and Google, take that approach successfully. But for most, it’s more effective to think of an employee’s first 30, 60, or 90 days as a training period. Research shows that when employees are prepared and trained properly, they’re more productive and engaged long-term, all of which means they’re more likely to stick with your organization.
Take AccountingDepartment.com, a virtual company that provides outsourced accounting services to small businesses and entrepreneurs. The company views a new employee’s first day as the first step, not the last. In fact, new hires don’t interact with a client at all for at least thirty days. Instead, that time is entirely devoted to learning company processes, getting to know colleagues, and learning the methodology through a mock client account. Everyone has time to thoroughly learn the ropes before they dive into the daily mix.
One of the most common emotions that pops up during onboarding is a feeling of overwhelm: too much to do, not enough time to do it. That’s why structure and organization is key to effective onboarding. At Fog Creek, they use Trello to build a step-by-step process that breaks down onboarding into a series of manageable tasks.
Likewise, Quora sends all new hires through the same 10 onboarding talks to ensure everyone has the same foundation for success. At LinkedIn, onboarding sales people is organized into weekly guides that ramp up new hires over the course of 90 days. Across the board, organization is the name of the game.
Sales onboarding best practices: measurement
Measurement is a critical part of successful onboarding. How much should a new salesperson learn, and by when? And how do you measure success? Milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are great staples to help you track your goals and identify issues before they become a problem. But top organizations are also getting creative with how they use their people to measure success, too. Here’s how it works.
What’s the first thing that you do when you notice performance issues with new hires or a spike in turnover? Most companies run to the boardroom to run diagnostics with the executive team. In reality, your first move should be to ask frontline employees for feedback.
At Sibson Consulting, gathering feedback is one of their top best practices. Whether you’re noticing red flags or not, make it routine to ask for feedback when new hires complete onboarding. Ask them what was most useful and what they wish they had learned. Sibson conducts anonymous surveys as well as focus groups to gather a diverse range of feedback on how onboarding is going.
Pay employees to quit
When retention is your top priority, the idea of paying a new hire to quit sounds totally counterproductive. But consider this statistic: a BambooHR survey found that 31 percent of new hires had quit their job before their six-month anniversary. And the longer that someone who’s not a good fit stays on board, the more it costs you.
At Zappos, onboarding focuses on culture so that new team members know exactly what to expect moving forward. After one month, any new employee who doesn’t feel aligned with the culture and values is offered $2,000 to quit. The quicker you transition out employees who aren’t a good fit, the sooner you can get the right person through the doors instead.
Now that you’ve seen how other companies add their own creative twists to the fundamentals of good onboarding, take a look at your own program through the lens of these sales onboarding best practices. There’s a science to effectively onboarding new sales employees, but it’s up to you to master the art of it by finding the right tools and strategies for your salesforce.