How to Train and Onboard New Salespeople

Written by
Josh Jordan
June 2, 2021

Five stacks of resumes and thirty interviews later, you’ve carefully selected the best new candidates to hire for your sales team. But what’s the next step? Prior experience and knowledge of the industry are great. But they aren’t enough to put your new hires out on the sales floor immediately. 

One of the worst mistakes you can make when bringing on new employees is throwing them to the wolves. While real-world experience in your company is a must, you need to integrate your new hires into your team in a way that doesn’t end up costing you money or lowering morale.

That said, it can be difficult to set up an effective onboarding and training process that makes for a solid sales team. Training can also be expensive, so you want to do it right the first time. 

While training great SaaS salespeople isn’t an exact science, we think we get pretty close with our method of Science-Based Sales®. We believe that software sales can be distilled into a process of quality inputs that produces reliable results, every time.

Here’s how we think SaaS sales is best taught:

Science-Based Sales®: What is it?

Before creating our training, we studied some of the most well-known training methodologies and interviewed thousands of sales reps about their positions. We also interviewed hundreds of sales managers and other upper management sales professionals about who they would hire for their sales teams. 

Over time, this developed into a clear methodology and series of workflows we call Science-Based Sales® - a clear formula to take someone with no prior background in tech and turn them into an excellent software sales representative.

A Unique Environment

Every company is different, and this means that the method for training your new hires will be unique to your organization. Consider everything from your basic orientation to the way you introduce the rest of the team - it is all new terrain for them. 

Although you might have hired this new salesperson for their sales experience at other companies, yours is sure to have important differences. Keep in mind that part of the onboarding process is getting your new hires used to how you do things at your company. 

To maintain consistency, it’s best to develop a standardized training program for all new hires. This way, everyone goes through the same process to get started as a sales rep at your company. 

Basic Orientation

Start with a basic orientation. This means getting your salespeople acquainted with the office, the rest of the sales team, the managers, and the tools they will use on the job. 

The Training Environment

Training is most effective in an environment where your new hires can meaningfully participate and be supported by those around them. Before getting into the meat of training, you want them to know that they are part of an important and motivated team. Help them understand that your team is ready to help them succeed as they move through the training process.

Ideally, you want your salespeople to believe in your mission and your company culture as much as you do. Having confidence in the company is an important part of earning the trust of your prospects, especially in sales.

Mentors

It’s also a good idea to partner each new sales rep with a more experienced mentor. This way, they can have a 1-on-1 relationship with someone who exhibits great performance at the company and can ask them questions. These relationships can also help reinforce the philosophy of the sales process by making it personal to them.

Team Expectations

Communicate the expectations you have for your sales team early on in the training process. Brief your reps on what the expectations of the job will be, once they are fully ramped up. Cover any expected quotas and KPIs, and set the goal for how your salespeople should conduct themselves by the end of training.

Tools and Resources

In addition to helping your salespeople connect with the rest of the team, it’s important to get them acquainted with the way things run in a practical way. 

Be sure to train and equip each team member with the necessary software and resources they will be using from day to day. Depending on your company’s sales process, some software may be required as part of the job.

For instance, your company likely has a specific CRM software that your team uses to manage pipeline data. Train your employees in how you use the program and your standards for logging data and creating profiles. Teach them the features of this software that will be important for understanding your customer base and the process for qualifying leads. 

Consider what types of optional software your reps might use to automate certain parts of their workflow. You will also want to check for understanding of other important tools like GSuite, Slack, Hubspot, Salesforce, Zendesk, or LeadIQ. 

Training with Direction

Since you have a unique product to sell with a unique customer base, it’s important to train your new hires for the process you already have in place. Get them acquainted with your sales strategy, the product you sell, and the market you serve.

Your Sales Playbook

Each company will have a different sales process depending on their needs. Explain your process and teach your new salespeople to respect how you do things. While some sales techniques will be required for anyone to succeed in the role, all reps should grasp your playbook of strategies for selling your product. This means exposing them to cold call scripts and any proven tactics you use in your process with all reps.

Your Product

Sending salespeople out onto the floor without first giving them experience with your software is a quick way to ruin a prospect’s confidence in what you offer. Sales reps should have an intimate understanding of both the practical features of the product and strategy you implement when proposing it as a solution. 

At the end of the day, your reps are selling the value of the product. Practical features can be presented in different ways to reflect that value, so help them understand what makes your product valuable to your customer base. 

Your Customer Base and Market

Proposing your product as a solution will also require an intimate understanding of the problems your customers face. To help your team understand this, you will want to acquaint them with your customer base. Give them personas to review and profiles of your most qualified leads. Your top salespeople will have a deep understanding and respect for the market you serve. 

Basic Sales Skills

While your training program will be unique in many ways, there are a lot of basic skills that every sales rep will need to know. At Prehired, our Science-Based Sales® training program gives people the tools they will need to succeed and do their very best in a software sales position. 

We break down everything from the sales mindset, the psychological goals of making contact, and best practices for outreach and sales meetings. When training your new reps, you will want to make sure they develop these skills into their playbook. 

The Psychology of Sales

Some outdated sales methodologies are about pressuring the buyer to spend money. More and more, people are starting to mistrust this kind of sales pitch. During training, it’s important to put your salespeople in the right mindset and goals for the sales process. Especially when selling a product to another business, you want to focus on building relationships that are built on trust.

The Prospect’s Journey

In any sales situation, there is a gap between where the prospect currently stands and where you want them to be (closing a deal). Understanding and clarifying that gap is our main goal for the sales process. 

The sales rep then acts as a guide or an advisor on the journey across this gap. To do this, your reps have to establish trust with the prospect. While some of this relies on the tactics of sales calls and cold emails (we’ll cover that later), the overall goal is not persuasion or coercion. Instead, your reps should strive to clarify the situation and create an environment for the prospect to make a purchase on their own. 

The Mindset of the Prospect

It all starts with knowing the goals of the prospect and any obstacles or problems they might face. You will want to identify these attributes by creating company profiles, detailed personas, and teaching your reps to do plenty of research.

Since your sales reps will be contacting a large volume of leads, using CRM software is incredibly important. A CRM acts as a shortcut to understanding what these prospects might need or value. It can help your reps identify the path toward a close by visualizing the existing gap from many angles. 

The Mindset of a Sales Rep

The ideal sales rep will strive to build a good trustworthy relationship with the prospect. You want the prospect to see your sales rep as someone who cares about their needs and their company as a whole. 

Salespeople also need to be courageous when qualifying leads. Even if they seem promising, clarity is also about saying “no” to a prospect that doesn’t seem like a good fit. If your product will not actually help the situation, your salespeople need to be honest about that. Even if this prospect doesn’t close, they might refer you to other connections who might be a better fit.

Making Contact: Best Practices

Your sales team will then enact this mindset by making contact with prospects, cold calling, cold emailing, and being active in sales meetings and social media. Training your reps with the best standardized practices for each method of contacting is a large practical part of establishing trust. Get your salespeople to focus on the process itself and putting in the work consistently rather than the outcomes of the work itself.

That said, each medium has its own unique format. Teaching your reps to utilize these tools effectively will make sure their effort isn’t full of wasted attempts. 

Cold Calls

Cold calling can be difficult even for the most experienced sales rep. At your company, you probably already have scripts that work for what you’re selling. That’s great! Expose your sales reps to these scripts and help them understand your thoughts behind them. Be sure they practice these scripts enough to read them like actors, not robots. 

When making calls, sales reps have to be quick on their feet. A variety of objections to your sales pitch are sure to come, and they should be welcome challenges to qualifying leads and closing deals. Prospects who don’t bring up any hesitations are probably not serious buyers anyway. However, you will have to help your team overcome these objections to make any sales. 

We train our salespeople not to crumble or be defeated in the face of objections by giving them a playbook for moving past common obstacles. Some of them will be entirely unexpected, but many common objections are things you can prepare for by giving your team a script. Help them understand the validity of these objections and create avenues to move around them quickly. 

Cold Emails

Sometimes, an email is the easiest form of outreach for a prospect to completely disregard. While a lot of your salespeople will also be great writers, you will have a few people on your team that struggle with this. Either way, even the best writers may not know how to write an email that engages and sticks with your leads. During training, give your salespeople practice with templates and the structure of an effective cold email. 

The goal of an email should be to start a conversation and make a connection toward building a relationship. Cold emails should create a reason for contacting your prospect (other than selling the product) and identify the relevance of their connection to that particular person. A good email should both request an action from the prospect (such as scheduling a meeting) and let them know that their connection is important whether they choose to move forward or not. 

Meetings

Since the goal of outreach is often to schedule meetings with prospects, your sales team will also want to be adept at conducting effective meetings. Since this is often where the real money is made, we cover sales meetings in our training program extensively with real-world examples and scenarios.

During a sales meeting, the conversation is less about a pitch and more about discovering more about the potential of the relationship. To do this, at least 10-20 minutes of good thorough research is required. We teach our sales reps how to mine CRM data and best research practices for getting to know the company beforehand. 

It’s also good to help your sales reps learn interesting methods for building rapport at the start of the meeting. Sales reps should know how to move the meeting out of the small talk phase and into a place of common ground. While this does take some skill and experience, you can train your reps in tactics that will eventually become a natural part of the conversation. 

A good sales rep should also know how to ask questions that promote curiosity. Give your team frameworks for how to structure questions during a meeting. These questions should make the prospect feel like the sales rep is genuinely interested in their problem and how they can help. Provocative questions can help identify pain points and problems that your product can solve. All of this makes for productive conversations.

Social Media

Good sales reps will likely be very active on LinkedIn. During orientation, it's important to get them set up with a profile that is aligned with how your company presents itself. You will also want to teach your team how best to mine LinkedIn profiles for important data that will go into your CRM. 

In our research, we found that it's best to not make a direct sales contact over LinkedIn. Instead, it’s best to use social media as a way to make connections and identify prospects. Once your reps have a lead, have them reach out by email or phone call. You can use social media for a more informal connection that nurtures the relationship, but outreach for scheduling a meeting or promoting interest in the product is best done by other means.

You might also have your reps make regular posts on LinkedIn. For this, it’s important to teach them the mechanics of a good post and to have them post regularly (at least once a week). 

Ramping Up and Letting Go

While you can’t just release your new hires immediately, it’s important to not let the training process go on for too long. This will create anxiety with the idea of stepping out onto the sales floor (and it starts to be very expensive anyway). That’s why it’s important to have a process in place that helps your sales reps smoothly transition into doing the job you hired them for as quickly as possible. 

Mentors and Shadowing

If you have mentors in place for your sales team, you’re already on the right track. Have your new salespeople shadow more experienced reps. This part of the onboarding is less about teaching and more about allowing your new hires to form their own conclusions. 

Shadowing the position with a seasoned sales rep can act as an in-between position before the real work comes. Let them ask questions as they see the full scope of the job in action. 

Real Work

At some point, you will have to put them out on the floor and have your salespeople doing the real work of their position. Nothing teaches quite like hands-on experience. If you train them well for a period of time, allowing them to make real calls and emails will be the most effective part of the training process. 

However, training like this can always carry a form of risk. Inexperienced sales reps can do damage to good leads without proper supervision. Because of this, it’s a good idea to expose your new reps to certain aspects of the job in stages. 

Have them call one warm lead or email one real prospect rather than unloading the entire job on them at once. Let them try their hand with one piece at a time, and give feedback for each example. Mentors can also be present to help guide them through the process of ramping up to key metrics. 

Metrics that Define Success

In reality, ramping up to the desired performance will be slow. However, you want your new salespeople to be clear on what it means to succeed in their position and give them feedback along the way. Each aspect of the job should have a clear goal during the training and onboarding process. 

Create time-based goals for new reps to meet as they complete their training. You want them to know what stage of performance and what metrics they should meet by certain dates. To reinforce this, you can create certain benchmark goals and assessments during each week or stage of training. 

During all of this, you will want to provide consistent feedback. Reinforce the desired performance and good habits, and make sure they know what bad habits need to be corrected. Regular feedback meetings with mentors and sales managers are also good practice to be sure performance is solid. 

Conclusion

Training your salespeople to work effectively can be just as challenging as hiring them in the first place. While some practical techniques for using software and making contact are necessary, it’s also important for top-talent sales reps to understand the goal and philosophy behind an effective sales process.


At Prehired, we train our members to think about sales in a way that’s been proven to work across the tech industry. We make sure that our members have support for life and are equipped with the right tools they need to succeed in a six-figure sales role and beyond. If you’re interested in how we do things, or if you’re looking to hire one of our highly qualified members, feel free to reach out.

Josh Jordan

As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.

How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...

...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...

...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.

Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.

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