This post is for sharing my personal experience as a former Sales Training Manager and how I changed the onboarding experience for my salespeople and improved productivity at the same time. I hope that my 5 tips for onboarding salespeople help you onboard your salespeople more efficiently and productively.
Typically, sales managers are reluctant to take their salespeople out of the field for training. This is understandable since time in front of prospects and customers is such a valuable commodity. As a result, onboarding often takes a “drinking from a firehose” approach in an effort to cram as much information into a limited amount of time. Just keep in mind the following wisdom.
1. Focus on Systems not Products
Educate salespeople about the systems and databases they will interact with most often such as a CRM, Proposal, Lead Generation, Order Entry, etc.
- Explain why the system exists and its value to your salespeople
- What information can be accessed in each system
- How to access each system
- List key contacts for each system and database for more information and Q&A
- Provide login credentials and test them during onboarding, not after
Regardless of how effective and comprehensive your onboarding process is salespeople can only remember so much. It’s better for them to leave onboarding knowing whom to contact and where to go for the information they need.
2. Set Know-Do-Feel Objectives
As a sales manager, you don’t have the time or inclination to hold a new sales person’s hand for their first month of employment. If you take the time and effort to work with your HR or Learning Team resources to set meaningful objectives and follow up processes, then you can relax knowing your onboarding objectives will yield their intended results.
Start by limiting onboarding objectives to things salespeople NEED upon completion of the onboarding experience. Consider the following questions as you prepare.
- What information is critical for your salespeople to KNOW immediately when they leave onboarding such as:
- Where to find important documents, contacts, and learning assets
- Who their key contacts are
- What your expectations are for their first 30 days of employment
- How and when your salesperson should contact you
- What tasks should they be able to DO upon completion of onboarding? Such as:
- Accessing databases independently
- Making sales prospecting calls
- Delivering an introductory level company overview presentation
- Articulating a 30 second “This is who I am and what I do” value proposition
- How do you want your new salesperson to FEEL upon completion of onboarding? I wanted my new salespeople to feel:
- Proud to be on the team
- Confident about their ability to represent our company
- Comfortable with their peers and key contacts
3. Add a Performance Element
Sales is a performance art so make them perform. Testing knowledge and attitudes with cognitive instruments and “smile” sheets is great, but performing an essential skill is what really facilitates learning and promotes confidence. Here are the tasks I required my new salespeople to perform before they left onboarding.
- Write and articulate your prospecting 30 second commercial/elevator pitch
- Deliver a 5 minute corporate overview presentation (I provided 9 slides for them to use if they desired so time was not wasted on PowerPoint)
- Articulate the top 3 features our customers appreciate about a product or service
You may have other important milestones to measure but be sure to include a performance element. Onboarding provides a safe environment for a performance experience. Just make performance requirements realistic given the time allowed. Also, make the critical elements you are looking for from their performance available in advance. For example, create a checklist that will guide observers feedback regarding the new salesperson’s performance.
4. Reduce Reliance on Products
In my experience, product managers were always excited about presenting to new sales people during onboarding. They loved the opportunity to brag about their product’s features, benefits, and capabilities.
I created a better learning experience for my new salespeople by developing a presentation template for product introduction training. The template focused on a high level view of each product including, but not limited to, what it is, what it does, and what customers love about it. But more important, a template approach added continuity to presentations and promoted learning.
I limited product training to the following:
- The top one or two products the salesperson will be responsible for selling
- Introductions for all other products and provided key contacts and locations for additional information
- If time allowed, I would require the salespeople to learn and perform a basic introductory demonstration of their most important product or service.
Participants can only remember so much so make good use of your time and agenda. When it came to products, I preferred to introduce the product managers and product marketing teams so that salespeople could connect a face to a name and know whom to contact for more information. It’s also helpful to introduce salespeople to the intranet location for each product’s information and marketing collateral.
5. Sales Manager’s Engagement and Follow-up is the Key to Success
Sales Managers, your participation in setting expectations and objectives is the key to successful onboarding. Things you can do to improve your engagement include:
- Request a summary from the onboarding facilitator regarding your salesperson’s participation and performance level
- Expect a summary from your salesperson that shares their top 5 lessons learned, thoughts on the onboarding experience, and things they may need help with in the next 30 days.
- Plan time to observe your salesperson demonstrate the skills they performed during onboarding
- Provide a “First 30 Days” checklist of items including knowledge and skills to acquire and demonstrate during their first 30 days of employment. Follow up with First 60 Days and First 90 Days checklists.
I have sample The First 30 Days, First 60 Days, and First 90 Days that I used during my tenure as a Sales Training Manager. If you would like copies, go to https://salesstrategyexecution.com/contact/ and provide your name and email and I will be happy to send you copies.