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Boost Sales Success with Effective Sales Onboarding

Posted in: Sales and Marketing Management, Sales Playbooks and Plays, Sales Training, Coaching, and Onboarding

What does a successful sales onboarding programme look like? In this guide, discover how to develop a sales onboarding programme with clear goals, important metrics, and the right software.

We’ve all experienced the challenge of learning a new skill or creating new, more productive habits. Now, think of a seller who just joined a new organisation and is expected to learn new products, sales processes, and adopt new behaviours virtually. For new sellers to become effective as soon as possible, they will need an effective onboarding programme that gives them the knowledge and guidance necessary to succeed.

Onboarding is one of the single most important factors contributing to sales organisations’ success. But, what does a successful sales onboarding programme look like? In this guide, discover how to develop a sales onboarding programme with clear goals, important metrics, and the right software. Set your sales reps up for success with a practical sales onboarding checklist to guide you through the entire process.

We’ll walk you through:

What Is Sales Onboarding?

Sales onboarding is the process of training and integrating new sales reps into an organisation’s team. New sales hires gain the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to be successful in their new role.

Throughout the sales onboarding process, salespeople receive training on the organisation’s products, services, sales techniques, frameworks, methodologies, processes, and any tools, including software and hardware they will need to do their job.

Why Is Sales Onboarding Important?

A robust sales onboarding programme ensures sales reps are set up for success and can become productive team members. New hires will increase their confidence and develop the skills necessary to succeed. As knowledge and skills are transferred, sellers can start contributing to the organisation quickly.

What are the Benefits of Sales Onboarding?

Well-designed sales onboarding programmes offer several tangible benefits. These include at a minimum, reduced ramp time, increased quota attainment, and better relationships.

Here are some of the specific benefits of a seller onboarding programme:

  • Decrease ramp time – Significantly reduce the time it takes for sellers to become fully productive.
  • Accelerate quota and revenue attainment – New hires can start meeting their sales quotas quickly with the right skills such as objection handling, prospect nurturing, and closing deals.
  • Improve employee and customer relationships – Sellers will build strong relationships when they have a clear understanding of the company culture and values.
  • Improve customer satisfaction – When sellers are well-trained, they provide a better customer experience.
  • Increase seller retention – Sales people that feel more confident and can connect with their customer community will experience higher job satisfaction

Key Elements of a Successful Sales Onboarding Programme

Although onboarding style may vary by organisation, the programme must set reps up for sales success. To achieve this, the onboarding team will define goals, provide comprehensive training sessions, offer coaching and feedback, and equip them with valuable resources.

Onboarding programmes are often divided into the passive vs. active categories. Active employee onboarding incorporates hands-on sales training programmes and interactive activities, while passive onboarding includes basic ‘hands-off’ instructions or explanations of products or policies. Active onboarding is typically more engaging and effective in the long run, as it allows new sales reps to experience the job in real time and engage in feedback and sales coaching exercises.

The key elements of an effective onboarding programme include:

  • Defining clear objectives that align with company goals
  • Involve stakeholders early on
  • Defining ‘what good looks like and equipping sellers with certifications to achieve
  • Implementing techniques that engage new sales reps
  • Training sessions that enable sellers with the sales techniques, competency, and product knowledge they need to start selling
  • Coaching sellers as they master new skills and build confidence
  • Assessing programme effectiveness

Sales Onboarding Checklist

The sales onboarding checklist emphasises the importance of designing a systematic and effective onboarding programme to properly welcome and train new sales reps. By utilising this tool, you will easily develop a comprehensive onboarding programme.

Define clear outcomes: What should the seller be able to do when the onboarding programme is complete? Sellers require knowledge and skills from the enablement team to achieve the results that sales leaders define. Outcomes should be:

  • Observable
  • Measurable

Standardise success: Sellers and sales leaders need to clearly understand what ‘good’ looks like to provide clear guidance and examples to new sellers.

  • Teach repeatable behaviours and actions
  • Provide basic, product, and skills knowledge
  • Provide real-world examples of top performers performing the action
  • Create sales plays to capture best practices

Implement active learning strategies: Actively engaging new hires through experiences that involve students doing things and thinking about what they are doing helps new knowledge stick. Basic, product, and skills knowledge are essential, but integrate the following techniques to take onboarding to the next level:

  • Role-playing: Practise a scenario where the new hire is selling to a customer and provide coaching and feedback along the way.
  • Knowledge Checks: Assess seller’s understanding of each onboarding concept measure progress.
  • Teach-back moments: Ask sellers to explain a concept in their own words to demonstrate understanding.
  • Breakout discussions: Divide new sellers into small groups to discuss a key topic or question.
  • Small projects: Reinforce learning with hands-on experience, such as developing a prospecting plan.
  • Peer review: Task new sellers with constructively evaluating each other’s projects or tasks based on defined expectations

Incorporate coaching: Managers must take an active role in the onboarding process to help sellers master new skills. Include sales managers in the onboarding process to:

  • Coach sellers at specific points
  • Assess seller proficiency
  • Understand seller strengths and weaknesses
  • Build a strategy for ongoing coaching

Measure onboarding effectiveness: It is important to regularly assess and adjust the sales onboarding programme to ensure sellers are equipped with the skills necessary for their new role.

  • Monitor new seller performance metrics
  • Gather feedback from sales managers
  • Administer tests throughout the onboarding programme
  • Collect surveys and feedback from new sellers

What are the Best Sales Onboarding Techniques and Strategies?

To create an engaging sales onboarding experience, it is important to incorporate techniques that promote active learning. Conducting a needs assessment and developing a tailored onboarding plan will help identify the most appropriate engagement techniques for new salespeople.

Monotonous Powerpoint presentations and quizzes are not the most effective for long-term knowledge retention. New sales reps crave immersive, interactive learning experiences. Gamification, role-playing, and ongoing sales coaching yield optimal results when applied to real-world scenarios. By integrating these dynamic onboarding strategies, new sellers can gain the competency and confidence to interact with customers and generate revenue more quickly.

Three Phases of Sales Onboarding

As you develop your onboarding programme, you’ll likely host it in phases. These typically include orientation, training, and integration phases, which serve to establish a clear beginning, middle, and end as new sellers progress from being novices to achieving success.

Let’s take a look at each phase of onboarding with examples of activities that occur in each phase.

  • Orientation – Orientation takes place on the first day, following job acceptance. This phase involves introducing new sellers to the company’s culture, values, and mission. The new employee may receive a tour of the office, a policy overview, and a meet-and-greet with team members, sales managers, and stakeholders.
  • Training – The sales training phase is the most time-intensive, but it’s worth it. For every dollar a company invests in training, they receive about $4.53 in return. That is a 353% ROI. Training involves developing sellers on new sales skills, methodologies, ideal customer profiles, and product messaging necessary to start selling. This may also include training software and other sales tools.
  • Integration – Integration into the sales team and larger organisation is a lengthier process that helps new team members build relationships with colleagues in the sales department and customers, become acclimated to their role, and adapt to the company’s culture and workflow.

Ongoing communication, frequent check-ins, and coaching are essential throughout all phases of sales onboarding. According to Lisa Duncan, Director of Sales Enablement at Survey Monkey, “Constant communication with new sellers and their managers is one of the best ways to ensure a seller is successful after onboarding is complete.”

A study that asked survey respondents to choose between two onboarding methods – a programme delivered in a centralised location (corporate headquarters) by designated personnel or a programme delivered in a new sales reps’ workplace (home office) by his/her sales manager – found that 56% of respondents prefer the centralized option, emphasising the importance of sales leader involvement in the onboarding programmes.

Ongoing employee–manager feedback, sales coaching, and mentorship help sellers pinpoint improvement areas, adjust behaviours, and build confidence in a structured and supportive environment.

How Long Should Sales Onboarding Take?

The duration of sales onboarding varies by business, industry, and product complexity. A lengthy programme can lead to frustration and disengagement. To avoid this, establish a structured plan that begins on day one, uses data-backed insights, and incorporates sales management from the start. This ensures consistency and scalability, enabling quick seller ramp time.

Planning Tips for Setting Up Sales Onboarding

Beyond defining clear goals, involving stakeholders and sales managers early on, ensuring employee engagement, and continually evaluating and improving your programme, it is important to establish a 30-60-90 day sales onboarding plan. This will transform vague initiatives into a course of action that sets clear expectations for sales performance.

Below is an example of a 30-60-90 day sales onboarding plan:

  • 30-day plan – In the first month of a new hire’s tenure, the new seller will complete orientation, basic training, sales rep shadowing, and weekly sales meetings to measure progress.
  • 60-day plan – By day 60, new sellers will have in-depth training on products, services, buyer personas, tools, sales methodologies and workflow processes. It’s important to incorporate hands-on experience with sales calls and presentations through role-play with feedback. Finally, be sure to establish sales milestones, goals, and quotas.
  • 90-day plan – When the seller hits the 90-day mark, all training should be complete. The seller should be leading client sales calls and developing forward-looking personal sales plans.

The 30-60-90 day plan provides a structured timeline for training and development, which incorporates continuous progress monitoring, coaching, and feedback.

Best Practices for Sales Onboarding Resources

We have discussed the important components of a successful sales onboarding programme and how to create a cohesive plan. However, to ensure sales onboarding success, it’s crucial to have well-crafted content and supporting resources, such as sales playbooks, manuals, and a sales enablement solution. These resources provide valuable information and help new sales representatives become productive team members.

Here are some tips for developing effective sales resources:

  • Content that connects – New sellers rely on a steady stream of compelling content and templates that connect with prospects and potential customers at all stages of the sales journey.
  • Sales playbooks – To move deals along, new sellers need a structured, repeatable tool that guides them through a series of know, say, show, do actions that will help the new seller move prospects through the sales funnel.
  • Sales enablement tool – Procure an all-in-one sales enablement solution that integrates content, training, coaching, and analysis to help teams save time instead of creating more work.“ Once sellers finish their online onboarding training and see the platform as their single source of truth, it makes the transition to ongoing content delivery and training post onboarding that much easier for them since they already know the platform,” shares Pam Dake, Senior Director of Global Sales Enablement at Accela.

Selecting the Right Sales Onboarding Software

Sales onboarding software will streamline and automate much of the sales onboarding process. When choosing the right software vendor, be sure to understand your company goals, define your needs, and identify features that will help meet those needs.

Look for solutions that offer interactive content, customisable training modules, coaching functionality, and progress-tracking features. These capabilities will help engage and guide new sales reps and monitor their productivity. Additionally, consider integrations with your learning management systems and CRM to ensure new sellers have access to all information in a single location.

Sales Onboarding Metrics

Measuring the success of the sales onboarding programme can be an ambiguous task with a variety of different approaches. Despite not a one-size-fits-all approach, having a balance of quantitative and qualitative measures will help interpret onboarding programme success.

Here are some key metrics to consider:

  • Time to first sale – A shorter time to first sale indicates onboarding programme effectiveness.
  • Ramp-up time – A shorter ramp-up time indicates a seller becoming fully productive faster.
  • Sales cycle time – A shorter sales cycle indicates success in preparing the sales rep for selling.
  • New hire feedback – One-on-one conversations or surveys provide qualitative data that indicates what works and what can improve.

By tracking these and other metrics, organisations can evaluate programme success and make improvements along the way.

Reinforce Learning with Training and Coaching

By using an all-in-one sales enablement platform, new salespeople can access the resources and tools they need to succeed, while enablement teams and sales managers can monitor progress and provide personalised coaching to help each new hire reach their full potential. With ongoing training and coaching, sales reps can continue to develop their skills and improve their performance, leading to increased productivity and success.

To deliver world-class, start with an enablement platform that gives you results-driven training and coaching: Highspot.