Imagine if your teenager was taught to drive by spending only a week or two watching training videos and sitting in the passenger seat watching you and others drive. Would you want them driving you across the country? Or even just across town in a snow storm?
You can probably imagine the white-knuckled ride perfectly. Your teenager is in the driver's seat and you are screaming to slow down and watch out for that car, or saying hurry up, we are never going to get there!
Yet that is how most sales onboarding programs work. Typically, there are a few days of orientation to learn how the CRM and other internal systems work, followed by a week of product/feature/benefit training, memorizing the sales process, and perhaps even listening to live calls or shadowing top performers. After just a few weeks, they are then expected to drive the revenue for your company while under pressure to produce the numbers needed to keep their job. Not only is this not efficient or productive, you can’t predict the outcomes, or repeat the successes.
This isn’t even considering the fact that most onboarding programs don’t even exist in a lot of companies. New hires walk in and are sometimes left on their own for weeks, even months, before they get any kind of formal training or coaching. Just last week, I was talking with a coaching client who shared with me that after six months on the job, she was finally being sent to a training event. This is not the first time I have heard this. Many companies just wait for the next scheduled training event to put new sales hires through.
This is a recipe for disaster. If you look at any of the stats about how many salespeople meet quota, or how long they stay with companies, the aftermath of the disaster is clear. You have better odds of success at a Blackjack table in Vegas.
This is not only a common practice of sales onboarding and a recipe for disaster, your salespeople are probably frustrated with it as well. This video below says it all.
So, what does it take to set a salesperson up for success?
Sales Onboarding Program Basics
1- Buyer centric. Your program must put the salesperson into the buyer’s world and buying process. Mark Roberge, former CRO at HubSpot, describes in his book “The Sales Acceleration Formula” how he had new hires use the HubSpot product to do what their customers had to do. Create a website, write blogs, use social- all so they could experience firsthand what the world of their buyer was like.
If it’s not possible to do that with your team, Trish Bertuzzi shares in her book, “The Sales Development Playbook”, how some clients have interviews recorded with customers asking questions that capture; how they would describe their role, what life what like before they used the company’s solution, why they put up with it for so long, why they finally decided to do something about it, and how they would describe their experience to a peer.
Understanding the problem and world of the buyer is one part. Your onboarding program should also be able to teach salespeople how your buyer’s make decisions, otherwise known as the ‘buyer journey’. The introduction of the sales process should be in context of and in alignment with the buyer journey.
Check out the Layered Questions Framework for an example of what that could look like.
2- Small segments. Our brains cannot process large amounts of information at once. Science tells us that we learn best when information is broken up in chunks, otherwise our brains become overwhelmed. Think about the last 45 minute webinar you sat through. How much of it did you remember an hour later, a day later, or a week later?
Nearly 3/4 of new information is lost in a week without immediate application and reinforcement.
Online training programs that break up learning in short (15-20 minute) interactive modules with quizzes and certifications are a good first step to getting salespeople to acquire and apply new information. They are also an easy way to continuously iterate, scale, and measure learning.
Ideally, an onboarding program that breaks learning up into segment that start with the buyer, their business issue, and ties in the value proposition and solution you offer will put learning into the proper context.
3- Real world application. According to the Adult Learning model, 70% of learning happens in the application of knowledge. Practice, or role play simulations, will help your new salespeople gain confidence in executing the sales process.
Integrating sales coaching from managers, a dedicated internal coach, or an external one is a sure way to help salespeople apply knowledge in the real world with actual conversations with potential buyers.
4- Customized. Customizing the process to what the individual salesperson needs to be successful in their role is key. If you have followed a scientific process of selecting the right salespeople, you will already know what specific training and coaching they need. With a module-based online training program, you can match up which modules that salesperson needs based on their specific assessment and role.
5- Continuous. Onboarding new salespeople must be a process, not an event. If you use an online training program, it will always be available for salesperson to go back and refresh themselves on the material when they face obstacles during the execution of the sales process.
An online training program can also be available immediately to new hires, rather than waiting for the next scheduled training event.
Combined with a formal coaching cadence from leadership, your onboarding program will set your new sales hire up for success.