What is Sales Onboarding?

Sales onboarding is a systematic process designed to welcome, train, and engage new sellers into an organization. Sales onboarding covers the essential topics a salesperson needs to understand to do their job effectively. Skills covered in sales onboarding training can include company and product knowledge, industry insight, compliance and regulatory information, and selling skills. When done well, sales onboarding engages sellers and puts them on a faster track to meet sales targets and, ultimately, ensure success for the organization.

Why Does Sales Onboarding Matter?

The goal of every sales leader is to drive their team’s performance so that it positively impacts the bottom line. Sales onboarding puts both leaders and sellers on a faster track to meeting that goal. By taking an early and thoughtful approach to sales onboarding, sales leaders can better prepare their sellers for success. Onboarding increases how quickly sellers can be productive, speeds up the time it takes to close their first deal, and, ultimately, improves a seller’s satisfaction with their job. Sales onboarding also provides the sales leader with vital information on the seller’s strengths and weaknesses that can be used to speed up their development and success.

What Does Sales Onboarding Look Like

As communication has evolved, so too has the way people learn. That’s why sales onboarding programs today look very different from onboarding programs from years past. Modern sales onboarding builds on what we have learned about training. It combines that knowledge with the new systems and technology people are very comfortable using, incorporating mobile devices, video, and peer-to-peer networking to deliver a more personalized approach to learning. Giving new reps, sales managers, and sales leaders the ability to create and share video content from their mobile device opens new collaboration points throughout a sales organization, speeding up the sales onboarding process and its impact on the bottom line.

Benefits of Sales Onboarding

Sales Onboarding Builds Employee Engagement

Fostering a strong connection between the employee and the organization starts with a modern onboarding program. When an organization invests in a rep’s training, they are providing them with the information they need to do their work more successfully. Onboarding shows the seller their work matters and that the organization wants to ensure their success. In addition to connecting with the company, onboarding gives sellers the chance to communicate with each other. This shared onboarding experience establishes a connection between sellers, one which will continue to be an essential source of information and ideas as sellers grow in their roles.

Sales Onboarding Improves Seller Confidence

Like any new employee, a new seller starts their role with a lot to learn. But because sellers work in front of prospects, they face unique challenges. Selling requires a rep to have the answers and to be able to provide alternative solutions when faced with buyer’s objections. With a modern onboarding process, employees not only learn the ins and outs of the business, the product, and the market, they can also gain the confidence and credibility they need to face even the most daunting prospect.

Sales Onboarding Boosts a Company’s Reputation

As companies vie to attract—and keep—the best salespeople, one of the critical benefits they can offer is a solid onboarding program. Providing salespeople with a comprehensive onboarding program helps them feel supported in their learning and the way they sell. And when employees feel supported, not only are they more likely to succeed, they are also more likely to share that positive feedback in their social channels, networking with their peers, customers, and prospects

Sales Onboarding Decreases Ramp-Up Time

Training Industry Magazine reports that it takes 381 days to get a new hire to the same performance level as a tenured sales rep. But that statistic includes onboarding programs that are one-time events. In these one-off sessions, a new hire sits through training content for a couple of weeks, then gets put out in the field to sell. But when sellers receive daily or weekly small bites of training in an ongoing onboarding program, reps become proficient in less time.

Sales Onboarding Gives Sales Leaders Vital Information

Not all salespeople start at the organization with the same experience and expertise. Some may have a wealth of industry knowledge but do not know the ins and outs of selling. Conversely, some experienced sellers need more market knowledge to succeed. A modern onboarding program can showcase the individual needs of each employee and enable the manager to provide a specific training and management plan for that salesperson

Initial Sales Onboarding Best Practices

About the Company

Your sales onboarding should start with an overview of your company. This process may sound simple, but a lot of thought should go into deciding what details you include in the company overview. Think about what makes your company unique—leadership, innovation, products, history—whatever differentiation a seller can use to support the selling process. Ensuring your new sales hires understand the value your organization brings to the market will help them sell better and feel more engaged with their new company.

Target Market & Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Providing new hires with insight into your target market and your ideal customer profile (ICP) is critical to their success. A target market is defined as an industry or group of customers your products and services best serve. Within that industry is your ideal customer profile, a description of an organization with the qualities and needs that would benefit most from your solution. Giving reps a solid understanding of both the target market and ICP helps them identify which leads entering their pipeline should get the most attention and have the greatest chance of closing.

Product Features & Benefits

Salespeople need to understand your products’ features and what makes them different from the competition. But those features mean nothing if the salesperson can’t articulate what those features mean to their prospects. That’s why a good sales onboarding program must go beyond just detailing product features and instill in the salesperson a solid understanding of why and how their prospect will benefit from buying the company’s product or service.

Messaging

Be sure that your onboarding program enrolls sales reps in the value and nuances of your company and product messages. A good deal of time and thought has gone into developing messaging that supports the sales process and moves the prospect through the pipeline. But for that message to work, it needs to be delivered accurately and at the right time. Enrolling your salespeople in the messaging process and delivery early on ensures the clarity of the message gets used throughout the selling process.

Customer Success Stories

Customer case studies go a long way toward educating and motivating new salespeople. These stories put concepts like target markets and ICP into real-world, concrete examples that are easy to understand and replicate. Customer success stories also show the impact a company’s product or service has on an organization. Learning about customer—and salesperson—success also inspires the salesperson to create similar opportunities.

Sales Tools

If a salesperson does not understand or value the range and capabilities of the sales tools that are available to them, they are not likely to adopt them into their sales process. Disregarding these tools can lead to a salesperson’s failure or inaccurate reporting of critical sales information. To ensure the rep has a complete understanding of how sales tools support both the sale and the organization, a sales onboarding program must include a thorough review of available sales tools. Be sure to cover critical resources such as your CRM, sales learning and enablement tools, analytics, sales content, and collaboration platforms.

Sales Readiness Measurements

Establishing sales readiness measurements is an often overlooked but critical part of sales onboarding. When done correctly, sales readiness measurement can provide sales leaders with valuable insight into their reps’ strengths and highlight where they need to improve. Sales readiness measurements also ensure the quality of the conversations sellers will have with a prospect. After each step in your sales onboarding process, set specific performance milestones and determine what the rep needs to achieve each milestone to be deemed ready for selling.

Ongoing Sales Onboarding Best Practices

Real-Life Practices

There are no do-overs in sales, so the rep needs to be sales-ready on their very first call. Give your new sales reps a way to practice their pitch and presentations before getting in front of the customer. Using asynchronous video, have the rep record how they would handle a specific sales situation—a pitch, objection handling, or close. The sales trainer or manager can review the video and provide comments that give the salesperson actionable feedback. Asynchronous video lets reps perfect their best real-life presentations without having to practice on your valuable prospects.

Call Coaching

Today’s virtual selling environment creates a benefit for training new sales reps. AI-driven call coaching automatically imports and analyzes all recordings of reps’ conversations with prospects and customers, giving managers visibility into real-world performance. They also gain the ability to act on those insights to drive targeted coaching and training. Sellers can record their virtual calls with prospects and share that video with a trainer or sales manager. The trainer or manager can review the call and annotate where things went well and what needs improvement. The rep gets actionable feedback that they can bring to their next sales call.

1 on 1 Peer-to-Peer Coaching

In most sales organizations, there are usually one to two reps that exceed expectations. These pros deploy best practices and insights into customer needs that set them apart from the rest. Tapping into the knowledge of those successful reps should be part of any sales onboarding process. Asynchronous video provides an effective way to capture the knowledge of these reps. New hires are much better equipped when they have access to recordings of other reps delivering the perfect pitch and handling any potential objections.

On Demand Sales Training

Most sales onboarding programs ask a new hire to sit in class for weeks and then put them into real-world selling situations to apply what they learned. The problem with this approach is that most salespeople immediately forget what they learned in those classes. Effective sales training needs to be ongoing, giving salespeople access to the information they need right when they need it. One way to achieve this is to provide sellers with regular, bite-sized videos that provide actionable reminders and best practices the seller can immediately incorporate into their work.

Sales Collateral

Today’s sales processes move quickly. Buyers come to selling situations armed with competitive information, market data, and product knowledge. A seller needs to be ready to respond, and sales collateral is a seller’s best weapon. Be sure the sales onboarding program covers your sales content management system. Show sellers how to immediately access the information and content they need to handle objections, educate their prospect, move the sale forward, and win the deal.

Methodology Training

Before a new hire can develop selling skills, they need to understand the appropriate method for approaching each phase of the sales process: lead generation, discovery and qualification, opportunity management, and overall strategic account management. As part of your sales onboarding, use video to tap into the sales methodologies of your top producers. Sharing bite-sized videos on how these leaders successfully manage each step in the sales process is a fast, effective way to share their successful methodology with new hires.

Milestone Check-ins

The objective for any sales onboarding program is to get new reps as productive as possible as quickly as possible so that they can meet revenue targets. It is critical, therefore, to ensure salespeople are on track to achieve success. Many sales onboarding programs provide 30-, 60-, and 90-day milestone check-ins to assess how salespeople perform and provide any additional training or resources the rep may need. Milestone metrics can include having a specific number of qualified opportunities in the pipeline, achieving first quarter (or other specified time) at quota, finishing at the expected percent-to-quota, and closing their first sale.

Sales Readiness Assessment

Onboarding programs ensure that reps are ready to maximize every revenue opportunity they encounter in a way that reflects the company’s positioning and values. Assessing reps’ readiness is critical to ensure the success of each new hire and to understand how onboarding can be improved at the individual and team level. When assessing new hires, don’t just look at lagging indicators (deals won or lost) but drill into the process to determine, for example, how quickly deals advance in sales cycles or how opportunity advancement maps to competency attainment (cold-calling, pitch delivery, objection handling, etc.)

Salesperson Training Best Practices

CRM Training

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is at the center of any sales organization. The solution touches all parts of sales: managing customer data, supporting sales management, delivering actionable insights and reports, and facilitating communication across the sales team and other parts of the organization. But a CRM system is only as good as the data that gets entered into it. Training new sales reps on the value of the CRM system and how to use it is critical to successful outcomes.

Sales Process Overviews

Companies develop sales processes based on what has worked in the past. Tapping into the knowledge of successful salespeople, the company develops best practices for approaching each step in the sales process. But people don’t always like to follow the rules, and over time, some salespeople diverge from these techniques, falsely believing taking shortcuts will close the sale faster. Be sure your onboarding program emphasizes the importance of following the sales process and how these processes ultimately lead to successful outcomes.

Prospecting Training

Prospecting is a critical part of the sales process. Yet, for most salespeople, it is often the part they dread the most. It usually takes close to twenty calls to connect with a buyer. And, after a series of rejections, it can be challenging for the salesperson to feel motivated to keep prospecting. But prospecting leads to relationships, and relationships lead to sales. So be sure your onboarding program provides new reps with the understanding and motivation needed to make prospecting part of their daily routine.

Buyer Persona Review

A good onboarding program will include target markets and ideal customer profiles. Buyer personas go one step further, providing the seller with a better understanding of buyers’ responsibilities, needs, challenges, goals, and KPIs. This well-researched understanding of the customer helps the salesperson more fully engage with their prospects using finely tuned messaging and content.

Competitive Analysis

To sell effectively, salespeople need access to a comprehensive analysis that details all the possible points of the competition. This analysis should outline who the competition is, their specific strengths and weaknesses, and how your product or service directly compares to these competitors. Teaching new salespeople about the competition not only lets them see what they are up against in a selling situation, it can also highlight your own company’s specific strengths and help identify new opportunities.

Demo Training

The ability to deliver impactful demonstrations—whether virtually or in-person—is critical for a salesperson who is representing technical products. Provide new hires with access to demo sites to practice the ins and outs of their demos before getting in front of prospects. Better yet, give new sellers the tools to record their demos on video and invite feedback from others in the organization.

Product Training

To effectively represent your product, salespeople need in-depth training on both the product and how to convey the value of your product to prospects. Be sure your sales onboarding includes the critical information needed to effectively communicate with prospects, including product features, benefits, pricing, and technical data. Introduce new reps to people in the organization to further their product knowledge such as product managers, technical support, and customer service.

Negotiation Training

Sales negotiations can be a daunting part of the sales process. A salesperson must balance their desire to close the sale with ensuring profitability for the company and supporting the customer’s best interest. But the proper training empowers reps to hold their ground and navigate these complex conversations, giving the employee an understanding of how to create a win-win solution for all parties involved in the sale.

Leadership & Management Training

Salespeople are motivated by different things, but for many, advancement into a leadership or management role motivates them to excel. Provide these sellers with information on the structure of your sales organization and what it takes to advance to the next level. While solid sales success is a vital asset, your training should highlight other qualities your organization looks for in its management team, including excellent communications, mentoring, and teamwork. Drive adoption of good management practices using self-paced courses and scenario simulations.

Techniques for Success In A Virtual Selling Environment

Create Sales Engagement in the Age of Zoom

We all recognize how draining it can be to sit through back-to-back calls, hour after hour, on Zoom. It is hard for anyone to process the blast of information that gets communicated in the web conference call format. Your prospect is no different, so in addition to your online calls, give them other ways to consume your message. For example, as a way of introduction, prepare a pre-recorded video with an engaging sales deck targeted at their needs. Your prospect can watch the video where and when they choose, increasing the likelihood they will engage and remember your message

Train Sellers for a Virtual Environment

Without the ability to train sellers on-site, many organizations are simply going without training or resorting to ad hoc, shortened training conversations. This lack of training has both short- and long-term consequences. In the short run, the salesperson may miss their target because their message is confusing. In the long run, sellers who are not succeeding will end up leaving the company. Video provides a way to give reps the critical feedback they need to succeed. Have sellers record themselves delivering their best pitch and share it with their manager or the broader sales team for input. Keep the cycle going until the rep masters the pitch and can close the deal.

Foster Sales Team Collaboration

Before the pandemic, accessing a colleague’s sales knowledge was as easy as listening over the cubicle wall or running into them in the break room. Many sales leaders are now using video to replicate that type of knowledge sharing in a remote environment. Reps record themselves sharing their best sales practices, including whiteboarding techniques, negotiating strategies, competitive intelligence—anything they think will help the team advance their sales. Sellers can watch these videos repeatedly, giving all sellers—particularly newer hires—the information they need to move the sale forward.

Create Personal Rapport in a Virtual World

In a virtual sales meeting, sellers can’t rely on the prompts they used to experience when meeting with prospects in person. Without cues like body language or subtle changes in behavior, it is much harder to create an emotional connection with the buyer. Using pre-recorded video and sharing content before and after meetings can add depth and engagement while building trust and personal rapport with buyers. For example, instead of sending a follow-up email with a PDF attached, have the rep send a personalized video explaining the content they’re sharing. This type of video puts a face to the seller’s name and further develops a connection with the buyer.

Reading a Virtual Sales Room

In addition to personal connections, virtual selling also makes it difficult to pick up on a company’s culture. Without spending time in the company’s lobby or the prospect’s office, it’s more difficult to gauge someone’s prestige or learn how they interact with others in their organization. These factors can be critical to understanding how an organization functions and how the buying cycle plays out. Train sellers on how to be more observant of what they can see on-screen during a virtual sales call, paying attention to the prospect’s background, home office details, and personal items in view. Also, have the rep practice active listening skills, paying attention to the buyer’s choice of words and the tone they use. All of these can be (virtual) clues to the buyer’s intent.

Develop Agile Salespeople

On a virtual sales call, the prospect can often be distracted in ways that are not a problem in person. The prospect’s attention can be diverted by other people in their home or office, technology glitches, or their incoming stream of messages. These distractions can make it difficult for the seller to ensure they cover all their key points as thoroughly as they would like. In these cases, content can be a salesperson’s best weapon. Invest in a content platform that allows reps to create, access, and share the right content at the right moment.

Prepare Successful Virtual Sales Presentations

While everyone occasionally struggles with sound, video, or internet connectivity, these issues can make or break the momentum of a sales cycle—especially if you’re forced to reschedule the meeting. Before they get in front of a prospect, sellers must be thoroughly trained on the platform they are using and how to best present themselves on that platform. Have the seller prepare a practice video that tests their technical setup, shows how their office and lighting appear, and how they present on screen. Review the video and provide any adjustments needed to ensure the seller can deliver professional presentations that move the sale forward.

Prepare for A Quicker Sales Call

In a virtual sales world, sales meetings happen at a faster pace and in a shorter amount of time than in person meetings. Calls are often shortened due to scheduling or technical issues. In these quick sales calls, sellers have less time for demos and often have to rush to make all their key selling points. To ensure all relevant topics get covered, be sure to have sellers prepare their prospects ahead of time. Before the meeting, sellers can share engaging information in a pre-recorded video or provide sales collateral that details key points of the discussion. With this advanced preparation, both buyer and seller can come to the call prepared to make the most of every minute.

Create Personalized Follow-Up

When you cannot meet in person, it can be hard to gain insight into the seller’s thinking. What are their real objections? Are there any unspoken obstacles or competitive threats? How long will the sales process take? In this virtual sales world, getting insight into the buyer’s intent requires the seller to establish a personal rapport using other online tools and techniques. Instead of the usual email follow-up, have the seller create a personalized video that recaps the conversation, covers any missing points and extends the connection created at the meeting.

Learn from Every Interaction

Just as sellers could adapt to virtual selling quickly, they can now make the needed adjustments to their virtual selling techniques to ensure continued success. That means they must learn from everything – their successes and their failures. Ask sellers to record themselves in a selling situation and share that video with their sales leaders. Then have sales leaders review the interaction to highlight effective selling techniques and provide feedback on areas where the seller can improve. This type of feedback helps the seller to improve and the sales team to stay on track.

Sales Onboarding Software Features

Administrative Features

Your sales onboarding solution should include administrative features that help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of your sellers.  Look for features such as competency dashboards, performance predictions, and learning content analytics. Collectively, this data can help you understand individual and team test results so that you can fully understand the probability of each seller’s success.

Authoring Tools

An authoring tool is a software program for creating eLearning courses. When used to create an onboarding program, authoring tools can develop courses that provide a range of content. When used together, this content helps new hires learn about products, the company, and how to sell. Look for authoring tools that make the development of all kinds of content more efficient, including video capturing and editing, learning paths, and even microlearning—small, bite-size chunks of content.

Sales Content Management

Effective sales content management facilitates the creation, distribution, and management of customer-facing sales assets and internal sales training content. Creating a logical sales content management structure makes it easier to maintain, update, and retire pieces of content as markets and products change. All content needs to be readily discoverable, easy to consume, trackable, and reusable by sales and marketing teams. But it’s not enough to simply make assets available, sellers must know how and when to use these resources to deliver maximum impact to their prospects. This means powering up content with relevant talk tracks, best practices, win stories, and SME knowledge that sellers need to handle objections, nurture prospects, and close deals. With a good sales content management system in place, sellers can always find the content they need to move their prospects through the sales funnel.

Video Coaching

Modern training programs reach learners where they are, using the technology and communication channels trainees are familiar with. For many trainees, that means using video instruction. Sellers can use video in a variety of ways, including coaching. Sales reps can record themselves doing a pitch or in an actual sales conversation. That video is then shared with the sales coach, who can provide inline, actionable feedback the rep needs to improve.

Reinforcement Features

Effective onboarding doesn’t end after a few weeks of training. Salespeople need continuous reminders of the information they need to do their job effectively and to close deals. Be sure your sales onboarding software can capture and disseminate information that can facilitate that on-the-job learning, such as bite-sized videos that provide insights, best practices, and approaches from sales experts and peers.

Tracking & Reporting

With the time, money, and effort spent on onboarding, you want to be sure your sales onboarding software can track and report on the effectiveness of your salespeople – and your training program. That requires a solution with robust analytics that can be displayed, managed, and shared in a clear, easy-to-use way. Sales leaders can use individual and aggregate data to unlock the next level of actionable intelligence and smart recommendations for sellers—informing next best actions across training, content, and selling

Who Benefits From Sales Onboarding Software

Sales Reps

Sales reps are often just starting in a particular industry, in the profession of selling, or both. For this group of sellers, having immediate access to content and information in their “moment of need” is critical. This is what a sales onboarding software can do so well: give reps the content and information they need, in the format they need, throughout their learning process.

Sales Managers

Successful managers know that providing their sellers with actionable, relevant feedback is an integral part of the learning process. But these sales managers are often managing many different priorities and people. They don’t always have time to provide that level of relevant feedback. With access to data from sales onboarding software, including AI-driven Conversation Intelligence, sales managers can identify skill gaps, prescribe training to fix the specific behaviors that lose deals, and extract best practices for their entire team.

Sales Leaders

Sales leaders are focused on outcomes. They want to know that their investments in onboarding, training, and content are all being used successfully and are contributing to revenue. So whether sales leaders are assessing the impact of a specific training initiative or formulating content strategy, their sales onboarding platform should be able to provide a dashboard view of the results—and the story behind those results.

Sales Enablement Managers

Sales enablement managers onboard new hires and support them with continuous learning and reinforcement on product information, messaging, competitive positioning, and the skills needed to have valuable interactions throughout the virtual sales process. The most effective sales enablement programs use both instructor-led and self-directed modules to deliver formal company programs and share rep-centric, collaborative content. They foster engagement with company culture and reduce new hire attrition by exposing sellers early and often to peer learning and best practices, maintaining the human-to-human connection even in virtual environments.

Marketing Leaders

Marketing teams spend a lot of time and resources developing content that will advance the sale. Making that content available via sales onboarding software ensures not only will that content be used, but new hires will learn how to use it at the right point in the selling process. Quantitative and qualitative data from onboarding processes can also provide marketing with information to iterate and improve training content.

HR

Every salesperson has different strengths and abilities. Sales onboarding software can track new hire progress and competencies, helping to identify areas where an employee needs to improve or where there is an opportunity to upskill a seller. Tracking actual performance creates a customized improvement plan that clearly shows the employee what they need to do to reach the next level of success.

How to Select the Right Sales Onboarding Software

Today’s B2B selling environment moves quickly. Each day seems to bring changes to markets, products, and selling situations. Sales organizations need access to sales onboarding software that lets them—and the sellers they are training—keep pace with these evolving markets. Look for solutions that meet sellers where they are, using modern forms of communication such as video and mobile and new technologies such as AI. Ensure the software is accessible and that sellers can interact with content, learning, and reinforcement long after the formal onboarding process has concluded. Because content is such a critical part of the selling process, be sure that whatever sales onboarding software you choose integrates with your content management system so that sellers have immediate access to the content they need—when they need it. Finally, all of your onboarding efforts will be in vain if you cannot track their impact. Be sure that your sales onboarding software has robust reporting capabilities that can report on a wide range of results and provide suggestions for improvement.

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