Your Guide to Onboarding a New Sales Rep

Effectively onboarding new salespeople can be a daunting task. Many companies tend to underestimate the importance of guidance, training, and support for their new hires, and that tends to be detrimental. Many sales professionals often don’t receive the crucial tools needed for success right away. This may end up contributing to a lack of direction and belonging many sales professionals experience, and ultimately may negatively impact performance.

You can avoid such a scenario by developing an onboarding strategy that effectively enables new employees to adjust faster. Many sales managers operate on the assumption that each new employee has the knowledge, expertise, and maturity level to hit the ground running and to bring immediate value to their organization. However, without the right strategy in place, it is difficult to tap into that, leading to disappointing outcomes.

In this post, we’ll delve into some of the components that go into an effective hiring and onboarding sales strategy.

Best Practices During The Hiring Process for Onboarding a New Sales Rep

1) Take the time while you have it

Take a step back and really define what it is you want your new sales rep to accomplish. What did his predecessor do right? And what did they do wrong? Take a look at the job description you just posted – how many times has the same old tired job description been used? Regurgitating the same spiel without taking the time to update or improve it will result in – you guessed it – the same old tired employee with the same old tired attitude.

While you’re at it, assess your other sales team members. In the time the position has been vacant, has a team member stepped up to fulfill some of the responsibilities? If so, how are they doing? Is their skillset better suited for the new position than the one they currently occupy? Before you hire new, take an honest look at your team and figure out where you current needs lie – a lot can shift in the span of a couple months.

2) Don’t Ignore the Candidate’s Red Flags

Perhaps your prospective sales rep has an impressive resume, one which lists a series of excellent sales positions with an exciting range of duties, goals, and accomplishments. However, if that same resume indicates he or she only stayed at each job for only short stints, you might want to unearth those reasons during the interview. It’s a definite red flag in an employee’s profile if she or he “job hops” regularly.

Don’t ignore the signs. It’s expensive and time-consuming to onboard a new employee. If they’re an amazing candidate in every other respect, at least take the time to uncover the reasons for the short-lived positions with other companies.

Avoid bringing bad hires on board. Make sure you carefully vet and evaluate each candidate applying for a sales position. Do they have the right skills, the appropriate background and the stamina for the job? Do you think they could fit well with your culture and hit it off with the rest of the team? Sales professionals not only need a stimulating job with a lot of room for growth, but also social interaction, a positive work environment and recognition and respect from sales executives.

3) Use Job Simulations

One thing you can do to combat Jekyll and Hyde syndrome is improve the hiring process by introducing job simulations right in the interview process. Ask questions like, “How would you handle a customer’s price objections?” or “How would you respond to a customer stating that they’ve used the same vendor for more than five years and are not looking for a new solution?” And don’t stop at testing them with sales-rep-to-customer interactions. Throw in a few colleague-to-colleague questions as well. This will give you a sense for whether or not Kelly or Brandon or Chris Whatever would end up being a true team player.

Simulations add some much-needed objectivity to the interview process. Will they be good at the job, or not? Simulations help fill in the knowledge gap for the hiring manager. You can make the process even more granular by setting up a practice sales call. Have the candidate “get on a call” with a few experienced sales managers. Record the interaction to get an even deeper sense of how honed the applicant’s questioning and listening skills are. In the process, you’ll be able to evaluate them on things like general demeanor, vocal inflections, and how much (or even if) he or she researched your business and services before coming in for the interview.

4) Request a Mock Sales Presentation

Another smart move for hiring managers is to task the applicant with building a sales presentation prior to their interview, and then having him or her deliver it to you and to a couple of key team members. That mock presentation will reveal how persuasive they are, how effective their delivery style is, and—again—how they counter objections.

A Formal Onboarding Process: The Key to Speedy New Sales Hire Productivity

Best Practices During the Official Onboarding Process for Your New Sales Rep

1) Invest time and effort into training
This is probably the most obvious aspect of onboarding, but also arguably the most important one. A common training strategy often involves the shadowing of existing reps, as it allows new hires to observe and absorb without being intimidated. Choosing the right mentor(s) is crucial for this to succeed. Tenure shouldn’t be the determining factor when pairing off a rookie with a more experi­enced sales professional. What matters is the potential mentor’s approach to sales and prospecting.

In addition to regular training sessions, coaching, and job shadowing, you should teach every salesperson how to leverage technology and use it as a tool to keep track of data and accelerate the sales process. Also, you may occasionally conduct quizzes and role play to evaluate their knowledge and observe their growth.

2) Consistently evaluate training
Collaborate with human resources and your training department to assess the current procedures offered to new hires. Identify what gaps need to be filled, or if there are better ways to impart knowledge rather than the current status quo. Prioritize what areas, topics and subjects must be addressed during the process, and develop a strategy accordingly in order to continually refine and improve the training process.

3) Clearly communicate benefits and compensation
New hires should have a clear understanding of commission plans and other important benefits and compensation from the start. A well-developed and communicated compensation package will provide the right level of motivation, as well as ensuring everyone is on the same page in terms of expectations.

4) Set Clear Expectations
Lay the groundwork for new reps by being upfront about company goals and expected outcomes. Acquaint them with the sales cycle and equip them with the following:

  • A roadmap of the company’s sales strategy
  • Documentation of the sales process
  • Expected procedures for lead and opportunity management
  • All sales tools and content that will help move them through the sales cycle

Be sure as well to get your new hire’s buy-in on the development process by laying out the plan and clearly defining her or his role in it. The company and the newbie need to be in alignment regarding this process, so ask them for agreement when it comes to their role.

5) Develop realistic goals
Assess their sales territory and lay out the best course of action for each district or demographic. Every domain will come with a different set of challenges and opportunities, so it is imperative to account for that by carefully reviewing and evaluating the market potential for each territory and devise a customized approach to sales prospecting and lead generation.

6) Leading indicators need to be a focus
Often, sales managers find themselves laser-focused on outputs and results (lagging indicators), while disregarding predictive measures (leading indicators) that are vital to long-term sales success. But leading indicators are essential, because they can offer deeper insight on activities and where improvements are needed. Some examples of leading indicators include the number of calls made, number of successfully completed demos, number of submitted proposals, or follow-up encounters with prospects.

7) Give every new hire a chance to succeed
Savvy and tough sales managers should not only champion sales reps through challenges and tough times, but also have the courage to stick up for them even if there is discontent brewing regarding sales figures. When push comes to shove, they must ensure that all options have been exhausted before letting an employee go. Some sales professionals need more guidance than others through no fault of their own, but their talent needs to be cultivated a little before it really shines.

8) Take a holistic approach

Take a holistic approach to training your new hires. Get input from different departments: Sales, HR, IT and Marketing. In addition to the learning curve around product knowledge, new hires will also need to master the CRM, company workflows and the most effective ways to articulate the value propositions of your products and services.

How to Onboard New Remote Sales Reps

Best Practices After You Complete The Onboarding Process for Your New Sales Rep

1) Keep on Trackin’

Don’t just hire someone, wait for them to get up to speed, and then declare yourself done. The work ahead involves benchmarking the successes and measuring the key metrics that over time will show areas of strength and weakness. Focus on those. Share them with your new hires and with key stakeholders. Don’t limit tracking to lagging indicators that measure the actual results, in other words, reports that show the final scores and figures of your efforts. While easy to measure, they can be difficult to interpret and improve upon. Also track leading indicators that measure the activities necessary to achieve goals and provide a better picture how effective your coaching and reinforcement efforts have been, such as “sales volume” or “lead-to-opportunity conversation rate.”

2) Call for Reinforcements
You may have the greatest training tools in the “salesverse,” but you’ll still need to face the reality that not everything has staying power for your new hires, who are only going to mentally digest some of what’s served up to them. Reinforce the training. This can be accomplished in a myriad of ways:

3) Reexamine Your Compensation Package

Money is on the mind of top-performing sales reps. They’re not coming to work for the free instant cocoa in the breakroom (with or without mini marshmallows). Casual Friday isn’t tooting their horn. If not properly compensated, they’re likely to shop their résumé around to more generous companies. Reexamine your compensation package on an annual basis, taking into account what’s being offered at competing organizations. Tiered plans with rewards for top performers can attract stronger candidates, as can additional compensation for lower-performing but still valuable reps. Put this question through the thought mill: How much are you saving with your slim-pickings compensation compared to how much you’re losing in attrition costs each year?

4) Engage in Incentivizing
Developing fun and creative ways to show your appreciation for your valuable staff will further motivate them to stay with you. Incentives such as gym memberships, flex time, additional time off, even an in-house concierge will build loyalty; they also promote a more stress-free work environment. Holding weekly, monthly, or quarterly sales contests will additionally motivate your naturally competitive sales staff to do their best.

5) Exit Interview: What Went Wrong?

Sometimes despite a company doing everything right for their employees, they lose top people. That’s just a difficult reality you face in business. But these days too many companies fail to take advantage of a relatively painless datamining tool: the exit interview. If you want to know why Jane or John Doe is “breaking up with you,” sit them down one on one and ask why they’re resigning. And don’t have their direct supervisor be the one doing the asking—you don’t want those on the way out to hold back anything. Ideally, the exit interview should be conducted by a member of the HR team.

Ultimately, the onboarding process requires a great deal of patience, and understanding the sales process from different angles in order to create a holistic process that gives each of your new sales reps a chance to shine in a new environment.

Last updated 3/12/2024