I could start this off with an outlandish statistic about how many sales people don’t make it past Year 1 at a company. But no need to. You have probably witnessed the high turnover and missed quotas that result from ineffective onboarding firsthand.
So – who’s at fault? Sure, there are plenty of factors – bad hiring, wrong fit, bad manager, etc. Here’s a thought: the party that puts the least amount of effort into making it work is to blame. If that’s the case, I’ll side with the rep (even though those salespeople are a fickle group).
Many companies, from the Fortune 500 to start-ups, don’t have the time, energy, expertise or (sadly) the inclination to acclimate sales properly.
Smaller companies are not ready for a full-time sales manager, so it’s left to the owner. You guessed it…yep – they’re busy. They toss them a product guide, offer some shoot-from-the-hip wisdom, release them into the wild, and expect them to sell just like they once did. Go! Sell!
Well, sales don’t just ‘happen’. Just because a new rep sold you in the interview that they can produce, doesn’t mean they will. Whether you are that rep, a sales manager/VP, or the owner of the company, there are different areas you can own to make on-boarding a healthy process. It should be a time of excitement, momentum, and engaged learning.
Here are a some sales onboarding tips to help make your reps more successful:
1. Share the company vision
This should come directly from the horse’s mouth – CEO/President on day one (or at least within the first week). They will sell better, faster, if they understand and buy into the purpose. What is your company’s, “WHY?” (watch Simon Sinek video) What are your company’s values? What is the vision over the next 3-5-10 years?
2. Have new reps visit current clients
Why did they buy? Why did they switch to your company? What do they like/dislike? What is important to them? By understanding current customers, sales reps will learn to better identify future buyers. (And if they’re super happy, ask for a referral!)
3. Include actual sales training
Train your new sales reps on more than your products. Don’t just assume your new reps know anything about selling in general. Basics such as relationship building, profiling, presenting, closing, networking, etc. need to be covered. Within each of these areas there is going to be industry specifics that need to be peppered in throughout the sales process. Ensure they feel confident about the elements of a strong sales foundation.
4. No quota for the first 60-90 days
While the old adage of ‘Trial by Fire’ tends to be the leading mantra in a new sales role, it can lead to beat-up morale and make the company look bad. For now – correlate activities to rewards. When agreed upon metrics are hit, such as sales topics covered, clients visited, dials made, etc. – predetermine a bonus/spiff that excites them. Could be money, could be a trip to the ballpark. After that, establish a ramp-up quota that makes sense for your business.
5. Promote continuous learning by encouraging the use of external resources
As I said earlier, companies don’t always have the time to invest in their people; so outsource it. Join mastermind/networking groups. Read sales books (perhaps a work ‘sales book’ club?). Listen to sales/business podcasts. There is this amazing, vast place called the World Wide Web (oh, and the LIBRARY!). The options are too many to count, but take it upon yourself to curate these resources – they’re everywhere if you just look. Promote and encourage continuous learning and development to your sales rep, both new and experienced.
High Engagement = Better Sales Onboarding = Happier Sales Reps = Lower Turnover
This article from Forbes contains more ideas about onboarding in general. When it’s all said and done, you can’t control all the factors that affect sales turnover, but the first few months are so critical. If reps feel unloved and unwelcome from the start, they will flounder. A floundering sales rep is quickly followed by poor sales and a quick exit. Don’t let this wasted investment happen to you or at your company. Take action and create a sales onboarding process that demonstrates an investment in the reps, yourself and the company.
Again, high engagement leads to low turnover. So engage your new sales reps from day one, provide with the resources to start strong and watch sales GROW.