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Effective Sales Onboarding: Your Secret to Increasing Retention + Engagement

Daniel WeissLast updated on February 22, 2023
16 min

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Employee engagement is more than just getting things done—it’s identifying with what you do. As a business owner, you need to create an environment where there is meaning behind the tasks your employees do.

Why is this important? Well, engaged employees are more likely to perform consistently well, advocate for your business, and help their colleagues do better. Additionally, employees who feel connected to their jobs are happier and work harder. In a series of experiments, researchers even found that happier workers were 17% more productive.

One of the best strategies for increasing engagement and retention is to refine your sales onboarding process. In this article, we’ll look at effective sales onboarding and how it can fundamentally improve the new hire experience for your sales professionals.

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Defining Effective Sales Onboarding

Many business owners think of sales onboarding as just an introductory meeting, but it’s far more than that. Effective sales onboarding is the process of getting new hires up to speed with company operations by providing the necessary knowledge, values, and tools.

This process involves many crucial aspects, such as learning about your company’s history and culture, turning a new hire into an expert in your product or service, and teaching them how to use their tools and equipment. Ensuring that all employees have a clear understanding of your business and their role helps boost productivity and customer satisfaction. By improving these, you’ll ultimately boost your company’s profits, too.

Effective sales onboarding should be a cohesive, strategic process, rather than a disconnected series of stages. That’s why taking a comprehensive sales-focused onboarding approach can help you create a positive environment for your sales hires.

What Is an Effective Sale Onboarding Approach?

For most staff, the onboarding process includes standard introductions and regular check-ins as they adjust to their role. However, for sales reps, the onboarding process is far more in-depth and sales-focused.

First, the sales team needs to understand your sales process—the steps in which prospects are guided through the buyer journey. Second, they need to know your customers and market positioning more than anyone else. That knowledge helps them improve their sales and do their job to the best of their ability. Other roles in the organization won’t necessarily need that kind of training to do their job well, so training a sales rep can be more intensive than other positions.

The Benefits of Effective Sales Onboarding

A new hire’s first impressions of your company culture will affect the way they see their future with you. This is why it’s essential you create a positive experience for your new hires during their onboarding process. A sales-focused approach to onboarding, as discussed above, helps new employees thrive in their position from the get-go.

The following are some of the benefits that come from effective sales onboarding.

Improves Retention + Recruitment

A proper onboarding process decreases employee turnover because you’re acclimating your employees to company practices and rules. This helps make them feel like part of the team, rather than just another number on a spreadsheet. Another benefit of this is that you’ll retain your current employees longer because they know you invested enough time, resources, and training in them to succeed.

You should also see improvements in your recruitment efforts as well. In the current job market, potential candidates will scrutinize a business before sending in their application. When comparing options, a talented sales rep is sure to take note of your onboarding process before they join your team. As such, being transparent and accurate about your onboarding process will help your company stand out against the competition.

Boosts Productivity

The less time new team members waste trying to accomplish their job, the better they’ll perform. By training them correctly from the start, you’ll see less floundering and confusion. Give your sales reps all the proper training, and you’ll see their confidence—and your profits—skyrocket.

Increases Rep Engagement

A sales rep who is highly engaged in their work is invested in client success and will do whatever it takes to get there. Furthermore, an engaged employee also contributes ideas about how to improve the overall sales department. These stellar employees then become advocates for your company while being an integral part of its success.

After improving your sales onboarding process, you should also reorient your existing agents so they are up-to-date with your current practices and business goals.

Helps New Reps Understand Team Values and Objectives

Finally, the last benefit is that your agents understand company values and team objectives from day one. This makes them feel like they are a part of your team and shows them you care about their success. Even a simple compliment to show appreciation can go a long way. This helps them see that you genuinely want them to do well, which, in turn, will push them to work harder to meet team goals.

New hires will also be more confident when speaking to customers on the phone or leading sales presentations knowing that you’re there to support them. All of these will help boost their performance—and your profits—over time.

In a nutshell, effective sales onboarding results in a host of benefits for your business. That said, what works at one organization might not work at another. So here are the three key objectives you should keep in mind during your sales onboarding process.

3 Objectives of Sales Onboarding

Onboarding starts with careful planning and preparation by your HR department on how to introduce them to their team, what tasks are in store for them over the coming week/month, and getting familiarized with key company policies.

When everyone involved knows exactly what needs to happen from the beginning, confusion is reduced immensely. Help your new hires be successful from the start with the three objectives of sales onboarding:

1. Acclimate

From day one, companies should provide new hires with the opportunity to feel like they are a part of something. New employees also want reassurances about their future with your business. With this in mind, it’s your HR department’s job to inform them about what their job entails and the benefits they will receive during orientation.

The best way to help new employees to adapt is by understanding what you (as the business owner), their sales manager, and team members expect from them. Additionally, they should also know what kind of support they can expect to receive from their teammates and leadership. This is also a crucial time to introduce new hires to your company culture and processes, like the specific way you use certain tools.

2. Engage

Employee engagement helps measure how well your staff identifies with your business goals. Companies need to take advantage of this early on in an employee’s career and make them feel excited about their work, as well as committed and valued by management right away.

There are plenty of ways to boost engagement, but for starters, you can introduce new sales reps to everyone they need to know so they feel welcome. Another way to accomplish this is by supporting individual growth and development, such as through value-added training and advancement opportunities. Businesses with engaged employees see much better outcomes than those without.

3. Retain

It’s not always easy to find the right person for a job, but once you do, it’s important to make them feel valued so they stay. A strong onboarding curriculum sets you apart as an employer who respects your employees by providing them with training that makes them successful in their position. This helps employees see that their tasks directly impact the company, which raises their work engagement. And as mentioned earlier, an engaged employee is happier—meaning they’re more likely to stay with you in the long run.

To help you meet these objectives, we offer some best practices for a successful, sales-focused onboarding program in the following section.

6 Best Practices of Sales Onboarding

When it comes to onboarding new sales reps, you have a personal responsibility to ensure the success and engagement of your employees. You need to create an individualized experience for your company that keeps everyone on the same page while also taking into account what’s unique about where they work.

Here are the six best practices of sales onboarding to guide you as you bring on new team members and engage your existing employees:

1. Share Your Company Story

At the start of the onboarding process, you should share your company story so they can better identify with your business goals. If they know the “why” of their role, they’ll be able to sell your product more confidently, because they believe in your brand and mission, too.

2. Provide Clear Messaging

After conveying the company values, you will want to provide them with clear messaging for them to use with customers. Give plenty of tools and resources, like phone scripts and email templates, for a variety of different sales situations and opportunities. That way, they will be less likely to fumble or get stuck in certain scenarios. (However, they also shouldn’t rely too heavily on scripts).

It’s also important to make sure your new sales reps have all their resources and guides easily accessible for future reference. After all, no one can be expected to memorize everything right away. The sales onboarding process isn’t a one-day or even a one-week affair—it can last months or even up to a year. In fact, the average time for a new hire to achieve the same performance level as tenured sales reps is about 381 days.

3. Share Personas and Sample Customers

Another key aspect of sales onboarding is introducing your new team members to customer personas and sample customers.

What are customer personas? Well, they’re a depiction of who your ideal consumer is, based on the market research you’ve conducted and data you’ve gathered from your existing consumers.

Providing your sales reps with the different customer personas will make it easier for them to adapt their scripts and strategy on each call. Understanding the psychology of the consumer will give them a massive edge when communicating the benefits of your products or service.

4. Build a Standardized Process

To build a standardized process, ask your staff members about the best way a manager can welcome newcomers into the team culture when there are initial growing pains with training, expectations of workflow processes, and other aspects of day-to-day work life at your company. After you’ve compiled all their feedback into usable data, you can create a clear SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for them to follow in the future.

Once completed, share this document with all future and current staff members so everyone has access to the outlined procedures and knowledge base. Make sure to update this regularly with any changes so that everyone is on the same page.

5. Provide Support

Supporting your new sales reps can include options like a mentorship program, wherein you pair beginners with a more experienced agent. By shadowing a more experienced team member, your new agents can learn how your company does all things related to sales.

Mentorship also allows your existing staff to reevaluate their methods and allows for your new employees to pitch ideas that could improve the sales team’s overall performance.

Other forms of support can include integrating new technology to measure key performance indicators, so you know which areas are under- or over-performing. For example, you can use cloud phone technology with an integrated analytics dashboard to monitor KPIs.

6. Offer Sessions in Different Formats

A sales onboarding program is about getting reps up and running quickly, which means providing any necessary training materials in different formats to cater to your individual employee’s needs. This may include anything from instructional videos or software tutorials that teach new hires how best to interact with customers through omnichannel communications—all depending on your objectives.

The ultimate goal of your sales onboarding process is to ensure that all reps have the resources and knowledge they need to succeed on their employee journey.

6 Ways to Know If Your Sales Onboarding Is Effective

A great sales onboarding process will set clear expectations, build relationships, and teach new hires how to sell as quickly as possible. After implementing some of the strategies we’ve listed above, you will need to see that it’s actually working. And so, we’ve compiled six ways for you to use to confirm your onboarding is effective.

1. New Sales Representatives Are Fluent in Your Team’s Language

Autonomy is a great skill in sales candidates, but if they don’t receive a quality sales onboarding experience, this individualism could backfire. When everyone is following their own rules, team communication suffers. Notes will be misplaced, staff can miss meetings, and vital information will slip through the cracks.

Sales managers should clearly present new hires with the correct communication structure. This includes documentation they can reference when working independently.

New hires must learn how to operate within the system you’ve set up. You know this has happened when they’re fluently using sales terminology native to your sales software of choice.

In general, language is an important stamp of unique cultures and communities. Every sales team operates on a slightly different wavelength. When you notice new reps speaking the same as everyone else you know their training has been effective.

2. They’re Ramping-Up Ahead of Schedule

Unless a new hire has sales experience in a very similar environment, they’ll probably need a few months to learn good habits and company best practices. First-week nerves, learning product functionality, studying competitors, and interviewing other team members will naturally detract from selling-specific tasks.

This is why it’s a good idea to include ramp time for new team members. Reducing quotas by 75% for the first month and 50% in the second month—for example—gives them time to gather vital context without fear of low-performance marks.

All things considered, these goals are quite low. If your onboarding program has been highly effective, they could be achieving near-normal quota marks much earlier than expected. Particularly once all onboarding-related education has been completed (i.e., month 2). If your team is exceeding the expected quota, that is a great sign your onboarding process works.

3. Sales Efficiency is Improving

Quota attainment is arguably the most important indicator of sales success. However, the process by which you reach those targets also speaks volumes about your sales onboarding process.

Obviously, a sales development representative who brings 5 qualified leads into the pipeline has done a better job if those leads resulted from 100 emails rather than 500.

If possible, you should review call recordings from phone conversations and outreach emails weekly for effectiveness. When reviewing calls and improving sales efficiency, you should consider pairing new sales reps with more experienced mentors.

Look for what’s worked in the past, and don’t change it. Sales isn’t high art—each representative doesn’t need to completely reinvent the industry. Once they learn which sales strategies work best for them, they can repeat them until they’re comfortable making their own judgments.

4. Time Spent on Calls is Increasing

For those sales organizations using software-based phone systems, call metrics and analytics like on-call time should be readily accessible. This is useful for sales managers because of the direct correlation between time spent on a sales call and the likelihood of that call being a success. The longer the call lasts, the better.

If the time per call has been improving, it’s likely because your representatives are employing better active listening techniques and making more persuasive selling pitches.

A lack of improvement in this metric could merit more one-on-one training using sales tools like call shadowing and call whispering.

5. New Sales Reps Are Asking the Right Questions

This can mean two things for a sales rep.

First, it indicates they’re asking prospects the right type of questions. They’re determining buyer intent, need, purchasing timeline, and use case—the characteristics that smart sales teams use to qualify leads.

Second, it shows that they’re directing quality questions toward managers and experienced team members.

Quality questions challenge or improve the current sales system you have. But moreover, new sales reps who ask these questions already have recommendations and insights to help answer them.

Analysis, evaluation, and synthesis (creation) are the highest levels of knowledge. If sales managers have done an impactful job of onboarding new employees, then these advanced stages will present themselves as new and innovative ideas.

6. New Hires Are Going Off-Script—For Good Reason

Sales scripts are a great way to communicate vital information when making sales calls, sending prospecting emails, and communicating your company’s message. However, they’re really just there to provide basic scaffolding.

Eventually, your new sales reps are going to become comfortable with the script. It’ll come out naturally and hesitation-free. Without even thinking about it, they’ll add a personal touch to every call.

Ideally, your sales reps should adjust this extra bit of personality according to a perceived buyer persona on the other end of the call. By synthesizing everything they’ve learned about the prospect through the research phases, they can make an informed judgment on how the prospect can best be pitched.

While the sales process should always be top-of-mind for new agents, the best way to build authority and establish trust with prospects is to display humility and “realness.” You’ll know your reps are ready to take off on their own when they feel comfortable adding a little humor to their voicemails or bantering with prospects after setting up the next meeting.

What to Do When the Signs Aren’t There

Sales managers need to talk with their team regularly. If they don’t, they risk losing the pulse of what’s going on from an interpersonal perspective. Use these 3 tips to keep tabs on your team and their performance.

Talk to Team Leaders

Experienced sales professionals are an important asset when onboarding your new hires. They should act as mentors to new reps, helping out when any questions or uncertainties arise, and also communicate shortcomings in your sales training via weekly one-on-ones.

Ideally, your sales reps shouldn’t take any criticism personally. The ones who have been through your onboarding plan before know potential pain points, and can see when new reps are at risk of running behind schedule.

Schedule Individual 1-on-1s

It’s important to let your newest sales professionals know they have an open line of communication with their managers. This means that your sales onboarding program should include multiple checkpoints where the reps have a chance to talk about their progression and confidence levels.

These meetings are an opportunity to discuss metrics and quantitative feedback, but also to evaluate the new employees’ overall sentiments. Are they bored? Nervous? Confident? Sales leaders can tweak the onboarding process to adjust for gaps in knowledge.

In sales, you are what your numbers say you are. Effective sales onboarding can easily be thought of as: “Whatever it takes to meet quota.” However, listening to employee feedback and looking beyond the numbers can tell you much more when evaluating and revising training for current and future sales professionals.

Ask for Team Feedback

Most employees aspire to work in an organization that values trust, accountability, transparency, and empowerment. Creating a workplace centered around honesty where communication flows freely between leadership and the workforce takes time and significant effort, but it isn’t impossible.

Get feedback from current employees to help you create an onboarding plan. By asking current employees about their experiences, you’ll have plenty of direction on what needs improvement. It will also clear up any preconceived notions or misconceptions some may have brought into the job.

An Effective Sales Onboarding Process Increases Retention + Engagement

The importance of an engaging sales onboarding program cannot be understated. The cost and time it takes to train a new employee can, in the long term, have significant consequences for not only your company’s bottom line—but also its customer retention rate as well.

A strong onboarding experience will help reps get up-to-speed more quickly which is great news if any challenges come with transitioning from one industry or role to another. And more importantly, your sales reps will retain high levels of interest and confidence over the duration of their career.

At Aircall, we can help you set up and streamline your sales onboarding processes. Our platform offers a robust solution to improving your company’s workforce management. We integrate onboarding and training features, boosting time-to-productivity levels across the board! Plus, we offer user-friendly dashboards and analytics that help you identify reps who need additional productivity boosters in certain areas of their sales process. Contact us now to schedule a live demo.

This article was originally published on March 4, 2019, and has since been updated.

Published on October 6, 2021.

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