Far too often, we see onboarding look something like this: New sales reps get a quick tour of the office and team meet and greet, some product training, and then are largely left to self-initiate, leading to numerous questions to their manager – an inefficient process that translates into a much slower ramp up to full productivity – sometimes a long as year or more.
If there was only a way to shorten the time. There is. It’s called a formal onboarding process – the new hire acclimation’s counterpart to your formal sales process. We recently conducted research in collaboration with Selling Power and two of the key takeaways were the following: 1) A formal onboarding process results in quicker ramp to full productivity (among other benefits), and 2) Fewer organizations than you might expect have a formal onboarding process.
So how do you create a formal onboarding process? Much like the sales process design, it’s a step-by-step process. We’ve provided a general guide below.
- Design, implement, and execute a formal sales process.
That’s right. Before you can even think about an onboarding strategy, you need to have already formalized and instituted a sales process. The reason why is because your sales process informs everything about your onboarding and the two programs need to be in alignment. Otherwise, there’s a risk they could operate at cross-purposes. Consult our post on designing a formal sales process for more details.
- Establish onboarding objectives.
What are the objectives you want to achieve with onboarding? And no, full productivity isn’t an objective – it’s an expected endpoint. Instead, look at your sales process for help – what things do you expect your sales force to be able to do? How do you want them to do those things? What do they need to know to be productive? And so on.
- Set milestones to indicate sales rep progress.
Once you have the objectives, think about the milestones that indicate a sales rep has mastered a necessary skillset or knowledge base. Whether it’s their opening, number of prospects converted to opportunities, phone skills, knowledge of company messaging, or any of the other seemingly infinitely possibilities, they should be clear, tangible indicators that new hires have mastered the relevant skills and knowledge to become effective and balance sheet-positive.
- Lay out a timeline and set milestones at intervals.
Now it’s time to come up with a timeline for how long the onboarding process should take (this will largely depend on your company, complexity of sales, industry specifics, length of sales cycle, etc.). Then, plot out the objectives and milestones you’ve identified in Steps 2 and 3 on the timeline to create a final map.
Important note: This timeline and map represent the average sales rep’s progress and expectations. The ideal rarely happens, however – some reps will pick things up more quickly, some grasp things more slowly. Or they might hit certain milestones/objectives ahead of the curve but fall behind in others. Variance will be a thing and that’s perfectly okay. The key idea is that formalizing the onboarding process will provide transparency and, in aggregate, lead to faster and more efficient ramping.
- Proactively conduct periodic checks and coaching sessions.
To ensure that things are running smoothly, periodically check in with new hires and coach them. How often this occurs depends on your selling situation (similar to the timeline) *and* on the individual rep – some might require more frequent contact; others may not need as much oversight. Address any concerns or issues that come up by using your best coaching practices.
- Assess the overall success of the onboarding process and adjust as needed.
Once you’ve run the program for a while, check your results and make adjustments as needed, depending on what isn’t working – or perhaps a change in your sales process necessitates a corresponding tweak to your onboarding. If a more extensive overhaul is needed (you might have made some major errors in the initial design process), consider bringing in an expert outside vendor for assistance.
Onboarding is one of the most important parts of managing a sales force. Too often, its potential for realizing revenue and productivity on shorter timelines goes unrealized. Following this guide will help you to remedy that issue. For more information about the current state of onboarding, check out our research report conducted in conjunction with Selling Power.