A good sales onboarding process prepares new hires for the expectations and workload of a successful career in sales with your organization. It’s during this program that they’ll learn how to work within the system you’ve created. New employees will discover how to use your sales software, connect with ideal customer profiles, and deliver an impactful sales pitch.
But sales managers beware: The consequences of your sales onboarding are large. An incomplete or ineffective training program will either leave new employees ill-prepared to complete their work or force them to invent processes which may conflict with the structure you’ve set up. On the other hand, too rigorous an onboarding experience could leave you (and your new hire) feeling burnt out.
These tips are designed to accelerate sales onboarding while ensuring key lessons “stick.”
Tips to Accelerate Sales Onboarding
- Ways to Retain Information
- Tips for Engaging and Successful Presentation
- Assigning Mentors to New Sales Professionals
- Hands-on Sales Training
- Meeting the Whole Team
Best Ways to Retain Information During Onboarding
Part and parcel of a fast but successful sales training program is the ability to retain the information which, at times, can seem like it’s being launched at you from every direction.
Sales training requires smarter learning
Management should encourage consistent note taking and studying best practices during the first few weeks of training.
This includes employing tricks and common sense measures, such as:
A dedicated study area. A new job is an exciting and stimulating time. New sales reps will learn best if this excitement is reduced to manageable levels by the surroundings. If possible, onboarding activities should be scheduled in a conference room or apart from the sales floor.
Taking regular breaks. Mental fatigue will build. There’s a reason the first week on a new job is often described as “good, but exhausting.” Breaking learning activities up into 20-30 minute sessions with brief breaks will give your new hires time to process new information and stay eager to learn more.
Healthy lifestyle habits. Productivity and mental focus are strongly connected to your employees’ mental and physical health. If you provide lunch during onboarding, consider healthier options. Piles of pizza might leave everyone feeling sluggish ahead of the afternoon sessions. Furthermore, encourage new sales professionals to get a full 8 hours of sleep. (In fact, tell everyone in your organization as well.)
Studying with peers. Encouraging your new hires to study new material together not only promotes stronger retention but camaraderie as well. Selling is a competitive job, but a cohesive team performs better than isolated agents. Build these bonds during the training phases.
Remove unwanted distractions. Studies have repeatedly confirmed that multitasking isn’t really a thing. What we’re actually doing, when we try to do multiple things at the same time, is task switching. This process of alternating between two different mindsets only leads to decreased efficiency and difficulty recalling details. When your new sales professionals are in learning mode, make sure their distractions are limited.
The importance of teaching what you’ve learned
Why is teaching a new subject so effective? For one, it forces recollection and repetition of information. Secondly, it clearly exposes areas of confusion and misunderstanding.
There’s no need to force new hires to present their learnings to a large group since this can be unnecessarily stressful. At the end of a training session (or each of the first few weeks on the job), have them present what they’ve learned to an audience consisting of the sales manager and a couple of members of the sales team. It doesn’t need to be an award-winning performance — they just need to display expertise in the core areas.
Tips for engaging onboarding presentations
You want to provide your newest sales professionals with an exciting and memorable onboarding process. Conventional PowerPoint or Keynote presentations have a reputation for being unengaging, but if sales managers utilize the right tips and tricks, even these classic teaching tools can be effective.
Why should your audience care? Start onboarding presentations with a direct appeal to your new sales reps. Make it very clear why the topic you’ve chosen to speak about directly impacts their work and how it fits into the overall structure. Audiences don’t always feel connected to a particular subject. A good speaker lets them know what they stand to gain by listening.
Make it personal. Once your audience is captivated, keep them present by sharing personal stories of success (and failure) related to the subject. The goal is to learn processes related to job function, but humans are social by nature, and these lessons will have a far greater impact if they have a real experience to back it up.
Don’t delete your personality. Sure, you can fill your presentation slides with blocks of text that contain relevant information. You can also read those blocks of text verbatim to your audience, but this is really only effective if you’re trying to provide them with a 15-minute power nap. Use humor when appropriate and toss in unexpected elements to keep employees engaged the whole time.
Build “scaffolding” for better notes. You should, of course, encourage new sales reps to take detailed notes during their onboarding program, but when it comes to presentations, the scaffolding, or guided notes, model is proven to result in greater information retention. Essentially, the presenter hands out pre-structured notes to the new hires, with occasional information missing. The audience must listen carefully for the right cues in order to complete their notes accurately.
Using video assets accelerates sales onboarding
Live presentations are the classic means of training new hires, but as onboarding programs become more continuous, you’ll want to explore high-quality video resources.
Video has a few advantages:
- It can be widely distributed
- It’s easily repeated
- It’s not time-dependent
Sales teams will want to explore which option is best for them, but there are a few tools — new and old — to help sales managers create and distribute training materials.
Loom is an in-browser tool that lets you create videos and tutorials with the click of a button. Utilizing both the laptop’s front-facing camera and screen-grabs, each video is instantly accessible and shareable through a unique URL. (Alternatives include Recordit and Kap.
If permanence is the issue (and subscription services aren’t possible at the moment), many sales teams simply use QuickTime for similar, screen recording tasks.
No matter what tool or recording software you use, sales managers should begin creating a secure video library of training tools for their teams to reference at any time. Wistia is a popular platform for video hosting, but creating private playlists on YouTube also works well.
With an internal database of video assets, your onboarding process can begin even before new hires step foot in your office. Scheduling and notes become less of an issue since reps can repeat videos and rewind for clarity.
The role of sales mentors
Giving new employees consistent access to more experienced sales people will accelerate their learning curves for a few notable reasons.
Direct answers to questions. When each new hire has a dedicated mentor, they won’t have to delay training when questions arise. Furthermore, these mentors can act as a support system, encouraging new sales professionals if they become frustrated, and offering firsthand tips for stress management and helpful shortcuts.
Shadowing to learn sales best practices. New reps should receive formal training on selling techniques and phone skills, but their best learning resource will be to listen in on actual sales calls. This is especially useful when training to use advanced tactics like consultative selling or active listening.
Create a team mentality. The competitive nature of selling should be counterbalanced with a strong sense of team spirit. When more experienced reps are able to train and oversee onboarding for the new hires, they’re more likely to pass along a strong company culture and support one another in both the day-to-day and future careers. A close sales team is a happy (and successful) sales team.
Hands-on learning boots growth
Mentors have another important role to play in the sales onboarding process.
Second perhaps only to teaching a subject, the best way to learn a new skill or process is to do it, hands-on. Even if they don’t feel 100% comfortable with the team’s sales strategy, new reps should start working within the preferred CRM solution.
Mentors should remain available throughout this transitional phase, ready for offhand questions as well as regular peer reviews.
Furthermore, getting on the phones and speaking with prospects will always involve a small leap of faith. The sooner you can get new reps comfortable talking with potential clients about the product, the better. Your more experienced sales professionals can use call monitoring features to listen in on these calls and review them afterward using call recordings.
Supercharge onboarding by exploring the company
Selling is a unique role. On the surface your goal is simple: Persuasively attract and close new business.
However, the reality is sales experts must master several disciplines. They’re product specialists, support associates, and content creators. Being a utility player means new sales hires will need a well-rounded onboarding process.
Learning about other areas of the business is an ongoing task, but to start it off, newcomers should conduct informational interviews with managers from each of the other departments. Discovering these leaders’ pain points, success stories, and daily functions will provide a firm knowledge base when pitching to prospects.
Furthermore, objection handling is crucial, especially when selling B2B. New sales reps should be trained in recognizing these hesitations when they arise and steering conversations back on track. However, they’ll also need to know when workarounds can be implemented to achieve a prospect’s goals.
The fastest way to find these workarounds is to shadow a company’s customer support representatives. By studying their responses and common customer questions, sales reps can improve their selling processes. Two hours each week for the first four weeks of the onboarding phase is a recipe for a well-rounded product and customer knowledge base.
The bright future for sales managers
Accelerating the sales training and onboarding process relies on a combination of replicable processes and direct access to a sales mentor.
Sales managers can implement these tips using a variety of tools, available in both free and subscription models.
Furthermore, learning strategies that clearly expose new sales reps’ weaknesses are actually the best retention tools. Teach-to-learn and baptism-by-fire (or phone) are classic mechanisms.
If you accelerate onboardings and build a reputation for coaching competent newcomers, it won’t be long before your own career is accelerated as well.