It’s said that Siddhartha Gautama meditated under a tree for 49 days before he became the Buddha. Tech sales reps can get really good at their jobs the same way. When it comes to onboarding new sales reps, it’s important to take as much time as possible to make sure they’re ready for that first phone call.
KIDDING! We all know that’s not true. Prospects aren’t waiting around for your sales team to reach enlightenment.
But think about it in terms of ROI. The sooner your reps ramp up to meeting their KPIs, the faster they create a positive return on investment. We need to make sure reps are ready to start qualifying leads and closing deals as soon as possible. So, how do we quickly onboard sales reps so that they are set up for success in the long run?
Creating your own training/onboarding process will take a lot of planning upfront. However, you can optimize that process for efficiency by using more powerful strategies in the early stages of onboarding.
Before diving into specific strategies, it’s important to take note of the typical onboarding structure for any good sales team.
According to The Bridge Group Sales Development Report for 2021, SDRs (Sales Development Reps) take 3.1 months on average to meet their KPIs. For this reason, most companies opt for a 30-60-90 Day ramp up structure. In this type of structure, each 30-day interval is used to gauge a rep’s performance in a series of benchmarks. The goals you care most about for your reps will depend on the needs of your company, but it’s important to define these expectations early on.
While the goal is to have your new reps up to speed well before the 90-day mark, you might consider your reps “ramping up” until that point. This means reviewing more calls, providing more feedback, and monitoring their performance closer than you will later on. Each rep should be well-supported on their journey to mastery. This includes setting realistic, achievable quotas as they ramp in order to create some early wins to build on.
However you choose to set up your training and onboarding, be sure that it’s a standard process for every new hire. While each rep will learn differently, a standard process ensures a homogenous training experience and helps achieve predictable performance outcomes across your entire sales team.
It’s also a good idea to provide a handbook full of resources for your reps to use both in training and on the job. Not only does this help reinforce important knowledge. It’s also an opportunity to provide other quick-reference guides. These are things like playbooks for overcoming objections, tips for using certain programs, call scripts and detailed customer personas that your reps can study on their own.
The goal here is to empower your new sales reps to develop on their own and take on their new careers with confidence. That said, let’s look at 5 things you can start doing to accelerate ramp-up time for your team.
Although any strong sales team will have an array of sales tools to make the process easier, none of that matters without a solid foundation.
Why? Because the way reps use sales tools like CRM platforms or lead gen software will be informed by their given sales goals and strategies. It’s important to start reps off with an understanding of how your company thinks about sales.
On most modern sales floors, the motto has changed from “Always be closing” to “Always be helping.” That’s because the world has changed, and dated sales techniques won’t speak to your customers anymore.
At Prehired, our philosophy of selling is Clarity > Closing®. We believe that more deals are closed when reps strive to be honest with prospects about how the product can benefit them. This works because it puts reps in a customer-first mindset. Instead of leading people by the hand to a close (or worse, pushing them toward it), reps should help their prospects understand the product’s true value and allow them to make their own decision.
While having the right mindset for sales will put a lot of people on the right track, it doesn’t mean that a solid process and a good set of sales tools aren’t necessary.
If you don’t have a documented sales process just yet, now’s the time to make one. During training, make sure your reps know the script well along with any proven sequences you may have for qualifying or following up with leads along with a guide for handling common objections. New reps should know the basic navigation skills for your chosen sales tools and best practices for making good use of each program before hitting the sales floor.
Along with your company mission and vision, one of the first things you should talk about with your new reps is the value/key features of your product or service. You should then discuss this at nearly every major point in your onboarding course from then on out.
Without a deep understanding of your product, your reps won’t be able to speak to it’s true value in a dynamic way. It’s hard to deliver a convincing pitch if reps are disconnected from the products they’re selling.
They should be able to not only explain the features of your product in their own words, but also know your value proposition by heart. As a member of your team, you want them to believe in your solution just as much as you do.
This might seem like a lofty ideal, but you can achieve this by immersing your team in product benefits, key features, and even UX design elements early on. By starting out with a deep dive into your product or service, you can help your reps get a jump start on learning the ins and outs of what they're selling.
The goal then is continuous exposure to the product. Every technique you teach should relate back to selling your product to your specific target market. This way, reps can shape their understanding of your sales process according to the unique value proposition you offer.
That’s also why studying customer personas is an essential part of this process. Your value prop is always directly related to what your customers want. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Value is in the eye of the prospect.
You might think your reps aren't ready to make calls just yet, but who is ever truly ready? In order for your reps to start nailing sales calls, you first have to help them overcome their fear of cold calling in general.
Let’s be honest, most people (aside from middle schoolers) never dial random numbers for fun. The average person doesn’t have prior experience with this kind of thing unless they come from a background in sales. By sitting your reps down at a desk with nothing but theoretical knowledge, you might still get a few of them that ramp up quickly. More likely, you will have many that struggle to put the things they learned during training into practice.
Building confidence is key to making a sale, and it starts at this level. Until your reps are comfortable with the most basic part of the position, even your best sales advice won’t take root.
Do your new team a favor and get them taking calls as soon as possible. The more times you allow your reps to fail (and the more times you correct them), the more they will be able to learn from those failures and form a unique understanding of the right way to do things.
Even if they aren’t ready to handle a high-priority account just yet, have them dial a low-tier lead instead. However you do it, try to make sure the contact is still on target for the type of customer you’re trying to reach. While any experience with cold-calling can be teachable, you don’t want reps wasting too much time working with the wrong use case.
Nothing teaches technique quite like learning from someone who does the job every day. You can do this by pairing your new reps with seasoned employees who can model and share their own expertise. This is one of the most effective ways to help them learn good practice at a more proficient pace.
Mentors can solidify learning from training sessions, provide tips for success and a unique perspective on the job. Learning like this is also a more individualized form of training than what you can give in a classroom setting with a single instructor.
Mentors can review the performance of their assigned reps and provide specific recommendations for improvement. Your new reps can then start to form supportive relationships with teammates early on. These are the people they will lean on to succeed once they take to the sales floor.
Overall, mentors are a great way to accelerate learning, which is why we assign one to each Prehired member at key stages of training.
Peer shadowing is a good practice for any onboarding process. However, even if you don’t have enough bandwidth or experienced reps to provide mentors, peer shadowing can accomplish some of the same things. By shadowing another SDR or AE on the job, reps can gain a more dynamic view of their position in action.
Watching another rep do the same job will fill in knowledge gaps by walking through daily operations in a live demonstration. Much like a tutorial or software demo, seeing how something performs is not only educational but motivating. It gives reps a composite image for the performance goals ahead as they plan for how to succeed in the role.
During the final phases of your training and onboarding process, you want to focus most on refining the techniques you’ve already introduced. At some point, you will have taught your reps all about your product, your sales process, how to use your CRM and qualify leads, etc. Now it’s time to continue sharpening those skills through practice and review.
During training, it’s best to monitor every call even if you only give minor feedback. Constant feedback will reinforce your standards for a good sales call and other best practices. Throughout the rep’s first 90 days, you should still review calls more often than you would with an experienced rep. But you can start to back off as each rep becomes more comfortable in their position.
While practice on the phones with real leads is ideal, it can take a while for some reps to overcome an aversion to selling over the phone. Sometimes it’s just nerves that stand in the way of an otherwise excellent performance. By practicing calls in a role-playing scenario, you allow reps to demonstrate and develop their skills without the same fear of failure they might have on a live call. It’s also much easier to train them in common scenarios through role-play than it is to engineer those experiences with live calls.
In all honesty, most new sales reps won’t know what they’re doing wrong unless you tell them. That’s why it’s important to give plenty of feedback during the onboarding session. The more your reps consciously think about their performance, the more opportunities they have to refine their technique.
Although it’s great if your reps are open to direct feedback, not everyone can receive it well. Be sure to give constructive feedback that provides both critique and clear direction to improve performance. Private one-on-one sessions with sales managers often work best for this type of coaching. This way, you can introduce the leader relationship and how that works toward a team-focused performance.
If not planned well, onboarding can drag on for months before reps ever reach their maximum potential.
When hiring people from all different backgrounds and levels of experience, it can be hard to help everyone meet the same goals in a timely manner. People learn at different paces, and different levels of training can create an imbalanced sales team.
However, onboarding is an essential step for employee success, and that means it's worth the effort to do it right. By focusing on your strategy and immersing your team in the mission of your company early on, you set up your team to hone the right skills much faster.
Onboarding new sales reps is often seen as a long and laborious process, but it doesn’t have to be. At Prehired, we’ve had reps meet their metrics within a single month after being hired.
How is that possible? We train our members in Science-Based Sales®, our proven sales curriculum that gives people the teachings and support they need to join the top 10% of effective software salespeople. As a Prehired partner, your curated list of SDR candidates comes with a 60-day guarantee for each rep you hire —if your if they don’t stay on for at least 60 days, we’ll help you replace them or give you a refund. Open your new sales rep pipeline by hiring a Prehired member for your next cycle.
As the Partnerships Team Lead at Prehired, Josh has built 150+ partnerships with companies like Drift, Gong, Sisense, Citrix, LeadIQ, Outplay, Wix and many more. He also built a network of LinkedIn influencers, including Collin Cadmus, Belal Batrawy, Morgan Ingram & Larry Long, Jr. In his free time, you’ll most likely find him reading sci-fi and fantasy novels and wrestling with his pre-teens and toddler.
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