If you’ve ever talked to a new hire during their first few weeks, you’ve probably had a conversation like this:
“Having a good first week?”
“It’s been crazy! There’s so much to learn! It’s like drinking from a fire hose.”
The early days at a company are often completely overwhelming and frantic. It’s exciting, and there’s too much information to learn. Meanwhile, the pressure to ramp up to full productivity looms in the background. But starting a new job doesn’t have to be a stressful experience that wears down employees.
One of the biggest issues that teams struggle with during onboarding is deciding what content to provide, and when. Often, managers simply throw all the information they have at a new employee. This method, however, creates stress and reduces retention rates for the information and skills needed to do the job effectively.
We believe that businesses can more quickly and effectively ramp employees to full productivity by strategically providing certain information at certain times. So let’s lay a foundation for a new salesperson and discuss the six concepts that are absolutely vital to learn in the first two weeks at a new job.
1. Business overview
Oftentimes, sales training focuses so much on sales skills that they forget to give the employee a larger look at their company. This business overview should include a few key ideas:
Type of business – Are you a SaaS company? Consulting and services company? Explain the type of business and go into detail about what that means for your sales team.
Business model – How does the business make money, and why is it structured that way? These concepts provide context for quarterly goals, product pricing, sales models, and how money from sales gets put to work in the business. Provide a general overview here—in-depth details can follow later in the process.
Don’t overwhelm new hires with too much information, but offer a foundational understanding of how the business is run—this fosters trust and ownership.
People in the organization – Give a brief overview of the different teams in the organization and what they’re responsible for (sales, cx, marketing, product, etc). This will help provide clarity about the entire company and will encourage cross-departmental collaboration. Also be sure to identify the leaders of each team, as well as their key responsibilities.
2. Products and services
What will the new employee be selling? Every company has a different opinion about just how much of a product expert that salespeople need to be. In general, those who demo the product probably need a thorough understanding, whereas a rep who focuses on prospecting and starting conversations might not. Either way, there is a foundational knowledge that all salespeople should know, and they should get it early on.
This information should include a basic walkthrough of the product’s features and capabilities, an understanding of what problems the product solves, and the value proposition for customers. For salespeople whose job requires product expertise, discuss the product more in-depth when teaching core job functions (more on that below).
3. Structure and process of the sales team
Clear structure and processes are essential to the operation of a great sales team, and are important topics to master quickly.
Structure includes the information about territories, business and product line separation, team hierarchy, and how different roles within the department work together.
The sales process is the way business gets done. What does the sales funnel look like? How do customers move through it? Is the sales team given leads, or do they need to find them? When should I pass on a lead, or how do I close a deal? Your new employees should understand each step of the sales process.
Once sales reps grasp the structure and process of their sales org, and why it’s set up that way—they can get up and running faster.
4. Core functions of the role and metrics of success
What are the key functions, goals, and skills that a new employee needs to succeed? It’s important to understand the day-to-day activities of the role, areas of responsibility, where they fit into the sales structure and process, and what skills correlate to those activities.
Measuring success is often easier in sales than in other roles. Common metrics include demos scheduled, quota attainment, opportunities generated, and opportunities closed. Sales is consistently one of the most difficult jobs in any organization, so these goals aren’t easy—but they are measurable.
Sales teams should communicate the goals and expectations to a new employee early and often.
It’s important to remember that sales is usually the fastest moving organization in a business. All this information will need to be continually updated for new employees joining the organization, as well as for veteran salespeople to understand new policies or strategies.
Salespeople should understand customers better than any other employee in an organization. An active salesperson speaks with multiple prospects every day, so a thorough understanding of, empathy for, and ability to communicate with potential customers is critical.
Buyer personas are the most common way to share this information, and the more detail the better. Some information that should be included in buyer personas include:
- Teams that use the product or service
- Use cases for the product within these teams
- Typical role/level of a buyer
- Problems that your product solves for these buyers/teams
- How buyers speak about these problems
- How the performance of the buyer is measured by their boss
- What the buyer really cares about
- Common objections and pitfalls
- Industries that target buyers work in, as well as the problems, jargon, and nuances of those industries
6. The market
Finally, there’s the market your team operates in. While this may have been touched on in a business overview or buyer persona, sales teams require more tactical and detailed knowledge of the market to be successful. This includes information like market trends, points of innovation or contention, the competitive landscape or intelligence on key competitors, typical sales cycle length and the reason for it, and any other economic information that affects the buying process.
Market knowledge allows salespeople to be informed and savvy in their dealings with prospects. It’s the difference between being seen as an expert or a rookie.
Consider this simple example—sales directors are often stressed at the end of a quarter as they try to meet their goals. If you sell to sales teams, this common ground creates relationships and sparks conversation. It also helps to know that you should try to close your deal outside those final weeks, because the prospect may go dark. It’s knowledge like this that creates both effectiveness and efficiency—and these little improvements compound in a big way over time.
A few nuances to keep in mind
This foundational training will propel a salesperson to success. Once they have a strong knowledge base, you can dive into more role-specific content, skills training, and practice before letting them loose upon the world.
However, training is about more than just great content. Here are a few nuances to keep in mind when preparing to onboard new employees:
1. Where will this information live? How will your employees access it during onboarding and in the future? Sales teams move fast—so is your information quick and easy to find?
2. Sales information constantly shifts and changes. New features, processes, tools, competitors, and ways to win are always cropping up. It’s a part of being a salesperson. So how will this information be updated? Is it easy to update and push out to your team?
3. How are you tracking engagement and performance? Do you know if your onboarding is working? How will you know which topics to coach struggling employees on?
Successful onboarding and enablement is about treating your salespeople like an internal customer—don’t forget the personalities, needs, and desires of your team.
People come first, and that’s why great training is absolutely essential. These six topics will start new reps down the right path, arm them with the knowledge to win, and give them a strong foundation to build upon. If you’re ready to get new sellers up to speed faster and more effectively check us out.