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September 20, 2018

Continuous and Bite-sized Learning Alleviates Sales Onboarding Stress

Bite_sized_learningIn the modern-day classic movie, “The Devil Wears Prada,” the main character’s first day on the job is a great example of how not to conduct sales onboarding.  

Her first exposure to the company from which she excitedly accepted a recent offer, consists of an all-day onslaught of random demands from her boss:

“Get me Isaac!”

“Where’s my breakfast?”

“Where’s that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday morning!?”

While most new hires’ sales onboarding experience isn’t this extreme, it’s easy to overwhelm them with a firehose of expectations and new information that they can’t get their arms around.

And sales trainers only get a short period of time during in-person boot camp to shepherd these folks through everything they’ll need to do to prepare for success in the field.

All-day training sessions during boot camp often provide important and memorable social experiences, so eliminating them is a bad idea.  

But replacing a portion of these with bite-sized, easy-to-digest content alleviates stress for new hires and drives more effective learning.

‘Prime’ new sales reps with preboarding

“Preboarding” is the phase of the onboarding process leading up to live boot camp.  Preboarding engages new reps from the moment of offer acceptance. Exposure to candid videos of senior leaders, influential managers and peers talking about the company tends to win hearts and minds. Nothing makes new reps feel better about the career decision they just made than experiencing the “buy-in” of a senior leader speaking directly to them on video.

Good preboarding also gives new hires fundamentals to hit the ground running on day one. It covers everything from logistical matters–like filling out HR forms and getting the email client set up–to giving new hires an overview of the company mission and culture.  It might include a tour of the office, introductions to people they’ll work with, or call observations and activity shadowing of more experienced reps.

Capture moments in this process that don’t require in-person interactions on video, and spread the delivery of this content over time. Use short videos to walk new hires through administrative paperwork or gaining access to key software programs. Create a bite-sized virtual tour of the office broken out into short videos for each department and deliver them alongside other learning content related to that department.

Supplement ‘live’ sales onboarding boot camp with bite-sized learning content

The in-person sales coaching program, skills practice, and role playing your new reps undergo during ‘live’ training sessions strengthen sales onboarding. This format gives reps the intensity and instant feedback they need to ramp up quickly.

However, supplementing in-person training with bite-sized learning content that reps access during off hours helps backfill information gaps without overloading people.

Core competencies that might make for helpful review videos include:

  1. High level overviews of your sales process
  2. Quick prospecting tactics and recaps of key buyer personas
  3. Intros to your competitors with key differentiators
  4. Best examples of elevator pitches

Consider creating a series of short, interactive videos of customers’ frequently asked questions followed by best responses, and deliver them in a sequence spaced over time throughout boot camp.

Use sales onboarding milestones to spread learning over time

After boot camp, give reps a set of milestones to hit by 30, 60 and 90 days and then only deliver learning relevant to those goals. After all, there’s no sense in training reps on best practices for negotiation before they’ve even got deals in the pipe. Track the amount of time it takes them to close their first deal, reach a full monthly quota, and then get to full pipeline coverage in order to benchmark against peers in your industry.

From there, give new hires access to a library of video sales coaching clips of sales managers or great salespeople demonstrating or providing commentary on things like key presentations or common objections. Encourage them to access these on their own during off hours or between meetings.

Finally, solicit reps to submit certification videos remotely for each milestone for scoring and critique by a sales manager or trainer. Whoever gives feedback should post comments that first reinforce successes and then identify problem areas for the rep to work on. Too much constructive criticism without accompanying positive reinforcement can discourage new reps and produce stress.

Onboarding can be a challenging and overwhelming time for new reps, but it doesn’t have to be. In-person training and sales coaching provides the foundation to learning, but bite-sized mobile learning content delivered before, during and after in-person boot camp engages reps with the company and reinforces key concepts necessary for a smooth transition into their new jobs.

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