Imagine if a football coach brought a new player onto their team, handed them a playbook, and told them, “Read this and be ready to run all of these plays for our next game, and by the way, the game is tomorrow.” Is this new player set up for success?
Probably not. It’s crazy to expect any player could learn the entire playbook, along with the skills they need to execute the plays, without some solid practice. And yet, this is more or less the approach to onboarding new salespeople in many companies.
Most companies know what they want a new salesperson to learn, but unfortunately, they haven’t put any thought into how the learning will be structured to ensure success.
Companies Often Over-Complicate Onboarding
It seems like many sales teams expect new hires to learn too much too soon, leading to “drinking from a fire hose.” There’s no time allowed for the new person to learn and retain information. Learning science tells us that people can acquire, at most, one new skill a day. The fire hose approach overloads the brain with more concepts than can be learned at a time.
To make things worse, no reinforcement learning is offered, and soon enough, everything must be relearned.
Other teams have never thought through the proper learning sequence, so their form of onboarding results in random acts of training. New salespeople are left on their own to decide priorities and figure out how all the parts fit together coherently.
In both situations, the new salesperson is set up for the three F’s of poor onboarding: Fear, Frustration, and Failure. Which helps explain why over one-third of new hires will leave their job within the first six months and the average tenure for B2B salespeople is just two years.
What you and your new salespeople need is a way to “certify” or validate that each new sales rep has acquired skills, knowledge, and methods needed to create early wins while setting him or her up for long-term success.
What Onboarding Should Be
Onboarding is about getting in, getting started, and accelerating a new sales person’s ability to be productive. The best companies know that the learning sequence should be collaborative and scalable. And beyond a doubt, the new salesperson’s manager is the single most important person to mentor and evaluate progress through frequent and effective coaching.
To know how effective your onboarding process is, there’s really just three questions to answer at various points along the new salesperson’s learning pathway:
- Can I verify s/he adequately learned what s/he needed to?
- Is s/he able to apply what s/he learned at the desired level?
- Did the training make any difference in his/her performance?
Traditionally, the training during onboarding can only answer these questions at the end when it’s too late to make any course corrections or reteach a poorly understood concept.
Effective onboarding takes adult learning styles into account. The new hire moves through training at a pace that allows time for understanding, retention, and practical application of each skill. At any point in the training, you can stop and ask the three questions to make sure you’re both on the right track.
The good news is that it’s now possible to reengineer your sales onboarding process so you can answer these three critical questions without overcomplicating (or overspending).
You can create a prescribed series of learning assignments and training sequences to be done over a period of time. The most effective sales onboarding process applies the LPAE learning model for each learning assignment:
Each concept is learned, practiced, and applied in the same circumstances your new employee will face in the field. You can then evaluate how well the employee learned the skill and applied it.
If configured right, you can leverage your CRM to assign the right learning at the right time of the onboarding process and ensure an orderly presentation of skills at a pace that allows your new employees to succeed.
Use your CRM to schedule the desired learning into a calendar that presents each skill to be learned and applied over the course of days or weeks. Instead of making the poor newby drink from the fire hose or learn with trial by fire as situations arise, you provide a comprehensive, coherent pathway to success.
You can evaluate with the three questions anytime. The application will correlate the onboarding program training with the new employee’s performance.
To learn more about improving your onboarding process, register for our webinar, Transform Your Sales Onboarding to Drive Better Outcomes. During the session you will learn:
- How to develop a scalable, collaborative onboarding program that is effective for anything from two to 2,000 new sales people
- Strategies for securing broad support for your collaborative onboarding approach
- Strategies for leveraging your existing learning into the onboarding process
- And more
The size of your team doesn’t matter. What matters is providing training that increases sales productivity and performance.
It’s time to learn the answer to another question: Is your onboarding program making a difference?
Bob Sanders has more than 25 years experience in sales, sales management, and marketing. Bob has served as President and CEO of AXIOM Sales Force Development since 2006. His passion about sales behavior and coaching helps develop people into their best selves. Since Bob joined AXIOM as a partner in the fall of 1993, he's helped dozens of companies around the world generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue. Bob holds a degree in Marketing from Miami University. He has been a keynote speaker at numerous corporate events and industry conferences. He is a founding underwriter and frequent contributor to the Sales Management Association. He co-authored AXIOM's “Selling Sciences Program™” workbook and audio program, and is a contributor on "A Journey to Sales Transformation". When Bob is not advocating on behalf of buyers and sellers worldwide, he is an avid cyclist, father, and husband.