Sales managers can discover recipes for a well-rounded sales onboarding program pretty easily, but knowing if those efforts have truly been effective is harder.
On one hand, you can look at metrics. Are new sales representatives hitting their targets? But even if they’re reaching monthly quotas, is their approach efficient and sustainable?
And then there’s the qualitative side of an effective onboarding program. Have new hires adapted to your team structure and culture? Are they satisfied with their work environment? Do they feel comfortable working autonomously?
Being a successful sales leader requires a combination of a results-driven mentality with the personal touch of a compassionate motivator. Using those skills, managers can look for the following signs to see if their new sales representatives are properly onboarded.
1. New Sales Representatives Are Fluent in Your Team’s Language
Autonomy is a key skill desired 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, meeting times won’t be communicated properly, and vital details 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, so when you notice new reps speaking the same as everyone else (or rather, when you don’t notice them sounding unsure and different), 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. This is why it’s a good idea to include ramp time for new team members.
Fully onboarding new employees into your organization requires time to adjust. First-week nerves, learning product functionality, studying competitors, and interviewing other team members will naturally detract from selling-specific tasks. 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.
However, these goals are artificially 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), exceeding the expected quota is a great sign.
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, call recordings from phone conversations and outreach emails should be reviewed weekly for effectiveness.
When reviewing calls and improving sales efficiency, new sales reps can be paired 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 iterate until they’re comfortable.
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 consultative 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.
But second — and more impactful for determining onboarding effectiveness — is that they’re directing quality questions toward managers and experienced team members.
Quality questions are ones that 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. But they’re really just there to provide basic scaffolding.
Eventually, your new sales reps are going to become comfortable with the scripted message. It’ll come out naturally and hesitation-free. Without even thinking about it, they’ll put their own personal flair on it.
Ideally, this extra bit of personality is adjusted according to a perceived buyer persona on the other end of the call. 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.
But 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 on a regular basis. If they don’t, they risk losing the pulse of what’s going on from an interpersonal perspective.
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 small questions or uncertainties arise, and also communicate shortcomings in your sales training via weekly one-on-ones.
Any criticisms shouldn’t be taken 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 off-schedule.
It’s important to let your newest sales professionals know they have an open line of communication with their managers. As such, the 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, retaining happy and productive employees take more than a quantitative process. Listening to employee feedback and looking beyond the numbers can tell you great things when evaluating and revising training for current and future sales professionals.