Onboarding Salespeople–Are You Doing It Right?

At some point, every top-performing salesperson was a new hire. For most, this means hours or days pouring over the orientation materials needed to be a good employee. Often, however, this has nothing to do with being productive sellers.

For that, sales organizations rely on onboarding. This is the lengthy process of developing raw sales talent into top performers within their respective organizations. In many cases, it can be the determining factor of long-range success.

Recently, Janek Performance Group partnered with Selling Power for a comprehensive white paper on hiring, onboarding, and retaining sales talent post COVID. There, we focused on how onboarding has changed. Here, we’ll discuss the best onboarding practices for the new sales environment:

Product Training

At the heart of every sale is a product or service. Without these, personable sellers might still form relationships. However, these would not be very profitable for either buyer or seller.

Mostly, today’s better-informed buyers already know what you and your competitors can offer. This means a rudimentary knowledge of your products and services will not cut it. Instead, sellers must differentiate their offerings from the competition. Therefore, an effective onboarding process in product training should include the following:

  • Understanding Your Customer: Before a product can prove useful, you must know the customer’s need. This starts with asking the right open- and closed-ended questions. Sellers must fully grasp the problem and its effect on the customer. Then, they can show how the product satisfies that need and solves their problem.
  • Personalizing the Product: Unless a product corners a specific market, most share similar functionality. Therefore, sellers must show what elevates yours above the others. An effective way to do this is through storytelling. Sellers who share how a product helped a customer with a similar problem gain a competitive advantage.
  • Presenting Options: Another key to differentiating your products is providing options. This shows a willingness to work with buyers to satisfy their needs. Remember, though their problems may be common, their experience is unique. Most of all, options inspire a buyer’s confidence—in the solutions they choose and the sellers who provide them.
  • Delivering Value: Of all the objections buyers may have to solutions, price tops the list. However, before price can be properly evaluated, sellers must demonstrate the value of their proposed solution. This is what makes price more than a number. Instead, it’s an investment in productivity and personal satisfaction.

Technology Training

Today, tech training is one of the most important functions of effective onboarding. In fact, our survey shows it’s a key component of employee satisfaction. Of course, as the sales landscape has changed, the ways organizations onboard must change as well. Today, effective onboarding should include:

  • CRM Maintenance and Use: More than just a login, today’s reps need guidance in maintaining and updating their CRM. Of course, organizations have their own standards and expectations for CRM maintenance.  Therefore, the sooner new reps are tech enabled in your specific practices, the sooner they can achieve full productivity.    
  • Virtual Engagement: One of the biggest changes to come out of COVID was the shift to virtual engagement. In an industry so dependent on relationships and trust, today’s sales reps must excel in a virtual environment. Now, with virtual engagement fully entrenched in our processes, it must be included in onboarding.
  • Virtual Selling: As important as relationships and trust are to engagement, they are also critical to selling. With the shift to remote and hybrid modalities, many sellers conduct their activities virtually. This makes virtual selling essential in onboarding. Today, this must include the best practices to present, demo, and sell your products and services in a virtual environment.

Sales Process

A sales process is a series of repeatable steps and actions that define how an organization sells. In many ways, it’s as identifiable to sales organizations as a fingerprint. While these vary by organization, key elements include:

  • Prospecting
  • Lead Qualification
  • Company Research
  • Pitching/Presenting
  • Objection Handling
  • Closing
  • Nurturing

With your sales process, it can be easy to assume reps will pick it up in time. And they will. However, sales success is always time sensitive. Today, with political, economic, and business uncertainty, organizations do not have the luxury of time. They cannot afford a wait-and-see approach with new hires. Too much time and money has already gone into finding and hiring talent. That’s why onboarding must emphasize getting the most from your sales process as quickly as possible.

Sales Methodology

Distinct from your sales process, an organization’s methodology is their overriding philosophy of selling. Of course, from this, your sales methodology should dictate your sales process. What you believe should inform what you do.

Also, with methodology, it’s tempting to think all sellers operate under the same principles. After all, most share the goal of selling more. However, within this are differing beliefs and practices. Plus, sellers are a diverse group, with varying personal and professional objectives. They are motivated by different things. To get the most from them, onboarding should properly integrate them into your sales methodology.

Company Culture

Another important consideration of onboarding should be your company culture. More than just knowing names, onboarding should give new reps the opportunity to meet and engage their co-workers. Of course, this includes their manager and sales team members. But don’t neglect other important people with whom they will interact, including the C-suite.

Remember, so much of selling is engaging people and building relationships. This doesn’t begin and end with customers. It also extends to a sales team and others in your company. The benefits of a positive company culture cannot be overstated. These include:

  • Increased communication
  • Greater collaboration
  • More efficient meetings and processes
  • Deeper investment in your company

Some important tips for cultural onboarding include:

  • Meeting in person, even if it’s virtual
  • Encourage communication
  • Share stories, including company history
  • Regular happy hours and other informal gatherings

Post COVID, many sellers still work remotely or in hybrid modalities. It can be difficult to integrate new hires into your company culture. However, like the shift into virtual selling, it is possible. It just requires a more deliberate process. You can’t rely on reps engaging co-workers in the breakroom over the coffeemaker or water cooler.

According to sogolytics.com, effective onboarding can increase retention by 25 percent and improve performance by 11 percent. Plus, they note how, in structured onboarding, 69 percent of employees are likely to stay three years.

In addition to products, technology, sales process, and methods, company culture should be included in onboarding. We all know that happy salespeople sell more and stay longer. And that’s a great ROI.

One significant find of our survey was how many reps feel their onboarding process was suboptimal. In fact, while almost one third (29 percent) felt neutrally about their onboarding, almost one fifth (18 percent) rated it slightly ineffective. Clearly, sales organizations can do more to onboard new reps. More than just getting them initiated faster, effective onboarding leads to greater productivity and retention. Therefore, the better your organization onboards, the better—and longer—your team will perform.

For more on our survey, check out our white paper Finding, Onboarding, and Retaining Top Sales Talent.