If Your Sales Onboarding Doesn’t Have These Learning Outcomes, You’re Setting Your Reps Up For Failure
By: Ashley Artrip
Sales is notorious for being a high turnover field. With many teams basing success and failure on metrics, entry-level reps tend to be let go or move on fairly quickly if they’re not set up for success. That’s why sales onboarding is so important: reducing turnover and improving sales rep performance directly impacts your organization’s (and team’s) bottom line.
Over the past eight years, overall demand for SDRs has increased year over year, but the average amount of experience that hiring managers require for SDR roles has decreased. Research shows that there’s been a 45% fall in required experience since 2010. This means that successful sales onboarding can be a major competitive advantage.
Many of your sales representatives with little-to-no direct relevant experience have demonstrated an aptitude for the field through personality, tangential experience, or their ability to work in fast-paced, iterative environments. As the manager for these new sales representatives, it’s your job to figure out how to turn that aptitude into concrete sales skills. Here are three ways to optimize your new sales representatives for a future at your company.
1. Play to your new employees’ strengths
One of the most important things you can do as a manager is to help your entry-level employees identify their own strengths and use those strengths effectively. New employees often don’t yet know what they do best and worst in the workplace, or how to use their strengths and weaknesses for the good of the company (and their own careers).
One of the first things you should do after making a new hire is to determine the rep’s communication style, work pace, and organizational strengths. There are several methodologies for doing this. One, is to use self-reporting: ask the new sales hires during onboarding to complete a questionnaire about their strengths and preferred work styles. While this can yield results, though, be aware that many entry-level employees won’t yet have an accurate sense of what their own strengths and weaknesses are. Another strategy that many sales hiring managers use is to implement a buddy system wherein a more experienced SDR mentors new hires over a period of several months to help the new hire identify areas they should work on as well as areas they should leverage and play to.
Remember, it’s expensive to let an employee go for performance reasons. If you have a SDR who underwent sales onboarding but is not performing up to par, take a moment to consider whether or not you’ve helped your rep identify strengths and weaknesses and if you’ve allowed your rep to play to their strengths.
2. Teach productivity and organizational best practices, then let your SDRs do what they do best
Remember, entry level sales representatives are entry level. Even though they’re super smart and talented (after all, there’s a reason you picked them!) many will not be accustomed to 9-5 (or 8-6) lifestyles, and the demands that a traditional work environment comes with. Because of this, it’s important to teach new sales reps best practices for productivity, communication, and company-wide structures during the sales onboarding process.
For instance, help SDRs reverse engineer the number of calls and emails they need to do for them to hit their quota, and determine the best time of day that fits with your territory (east coast hours vs. west coast) for these targets to be hit. This shouldn’t be an opportunity for micromanagement; rather a structure for new employees to adopt. Once you’ve established paths to hitting metrics, keep in mind that there are numerous avenues employees can take to reach the same targets. Give your reps multiple options for productivity tools, philosophies, and frameworks, then let them select what works best for them. Remember, you chose these hires for a reason — once you’ve given them the tools to succeed, the best thing you can do is to get out of their way and let them play to their own strengths.
Many entry level sales representatives also won’t know how to take productive breaks or how to add fun interludes to the workday. Make sure to share tips for the best food around the office, any fun activities they can do during lunch hour (a yoga class, nail salon, etc.), and clarify expected work hours vs. social hours (e.g. weekly happy hours, hour-long lunch, PTO, etc.)
Finally, set up expectations for communication early on. Let your new reps know when they should Slack, set up a meeting, email, or just walk over and talk. Even if the appropriate communication method may seem obvious to you, it may not be to your new sales reps. When communication expectations are explicitly laid out from the start, everyone can be their most efficient selves.
3. Teach the behavioral psychology of customer personas
A key tactic for sales onboarding that you should use is to leverage the data you have on your current customers to help employees understand their prospects. Are your current customers high volume emailers or lower volume emailers? Do they care more about price or efficiency? Is their price sensitivity dependent on another factor? Why do they act in these different ways, and what is it that drives them?
By explaining the psychology of your current customers, you will help humanize the prospects. This encourages entry-level reps to empathize with their target customer, which in turn will help them sell more effectively.
Many sales managers make the mistake of teaching process over persona. While drip campaigns and triggered responses certainly are things every entry level sales reps need to know, they don’t show the whole picture. At the end of every email or cold call is a person with unique motivations, pain points, and goals. Make sure your sales reps don’t forget this in the deluge of new content they’re learning.
Set Your Reps And Yourself Up For Success With These Sales Onboarding Tactics
At the end of sales onboarding, your new employees should not only know how to use the sales tech tools your company offers, make decisions on how to optimize their outreach based on data such as a A/B testing, and craft stellar emails; they should also know the behavioral psychology of their customers backwards and forwards, be able to meet productivity and organizational standards, and be set up for success in the role that is best suited to their personality. Every company is only as good as its employees, so you want to make sure that yours are given every tool available to succeed.
Option 2: Skip the Onboarding and Partner With a Sales Training Academy
Training programs such as SV Academy partner with companies and sales teams to train and onboard SDRs so that they can provide immediate value-add. Through this partnership, companies gain access to fully trained, onboarded, and vetted sales representatives who have a proven track record of success. We take care of everything outlined in this article, and can vouch for our graduates’ sales skills and talents.
Every SV Academy graduate is the best of the best: students undergo a rigorous initial vetting process, and ultimately only 2-4% of applicants are accepted to the program. Training consists of 300 hours of instruction, an internship doing prospecting and cold outbound leads for a large SaaS company, and 12 months of SDR coaching and mentoring after joining your company. SV Academy makes recommendations about our graduates’ strengths and talents upfront to your team. After they join, they continue getting mentorship and coaching from our partners throughout their first year, to ensure they are giving the most value possible to your team.
The result is a group of ambitious, talented, diverse SDRs ready to hit the ground running. To learn how you can gain access to the top talent that SV Academy produces, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elaina Ransford contributed to this post