Sales onboarding is a sales productivity lever you can use to grow revenues fast. The faster and better you hire and onboard your new sales people, the better your bottom line will look. The cost to companies of hiring, onboarding and then losing a sales new hire can be millions of dollars per sales person. There is much discussion to be had on topics like certification, testing, video learning, bootcamps and gamification. The focus of this blog post is very foundational: Learning Pillars. As a guiding principle, the learning pillars that have proven successful for leading sales organization around the world off all sizes include:

  1. Culture
  2. Product
  3. Competition
  4. Customer Stories
  5. Sales Process
  6. Sales Skills
  7. Day-to-Day Tasks

Learning Pillar #1: Culture

Understanding your culture is key to helping your sales new hires represent your company and understand how to execute. This includes giving the corporate pitch and understanding “who is who” at your company. Teach your teams how to build internal networks so they can accelerate their success and drive customer success. Videos work great to capture and share the culture and values.

Learning Pillar #2: Product

Understanding your products and solutions is always a top priority. Even companies that don’t have a formal onboarding program, tend to have a pretty robust product training program. It’s important to balance product training with the other pillars to make sure that you’re not just training on products. Take into account the need to train your sales teams on product and the need to retrain and recertify them when products are updated.

Learning Pillar #4: Competition

Sharing your competitive positioning and being honest about competitive strengths and weaknesses will go a long way to onboard new sales people faster. Teach sales teams to handle objections by providing written objection handling aids and also running workshops. For competitive training, the best workshops are those that exercise the objection handling muscle in a team based learning environment.

Learning Pillar #4: Customer Stories

Storytelling is a productivity lever that is a very important to me. Early on in your sales people’s careers, share winning customer stories and references. Share customer interviews. Share videos of customer successes. I like the idea of having every new sales person know a story and be able to retell a story (or multiple stories) in their own words from day one.

Learning Pillar #5: Sales Process

Take the time to go deep on the sales process and understand winning plays. Your sales process is the playbook your sales teams need to hit the ground running. Spend the time to walk your sales teams through winning sales cycles and examples of how other sales people were able to close deals. Be specific and very prescriptive. Have actual sales people tell their stories directly.

Learning Pillar #6: Sales Skills

I believe sales teams can always benefit from refresher training on key skills like prospecting, discovery, objection handling, storytelling, negotiations and closing. The key is to find the right training curriculum and delivery making learning fun, social and even competitive. Prospecting training is interesting to highlight because many veteran sales people do benefit from a refresher given the rise of social media.

Learning Pillar #7: Day-to-Day Tasks

It is important that your sales teams have clear understanding of what they need to do every day in their jobs. Expectation setting explains to sales people and sales managers what they need to do to be successful. Consider topics like:

  • How and when to submit a forecast,
  • How to engage sales support teams,
  • How to build an account plan,
  • How to log activities,
  • How to find a partner
  • and more….

These learning categories are critical to building a curriculum that will yield accelerated ramping of your sales new hires and ongoing development of your sales teams. The relative weighting of each one varies by company, by maturity of your sales force and by go to market. Aligning with stakeholders from Marketing, Products, Sales Operations, Finance and other organizations is important work in getting the right curriculum developed mapped to the most impactful learning pillars. Partner with these organizations. Make them part of your process. A deeper conversation will be followed diving into the technology of managing, motivating and measuring sales teams to accelerate their sales onboarding. I’ve seen many different implementations of technology to support sales onboarding. What are your learning goals? Do you have your learning pillars documented? What is your new hire first 30 day experience? What tools do you use to manage, motivate and measure your sales onboarding?

About the Author

Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen is the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and the co-founder of SalesHood, a SaaS sales enablement platform and community for sales professionals. Elay is the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Salesforce. Recognized as the company's "2011 Top Executive", and credited for creating and executing all of Salesforce's sales productivity programs that accelerated its growth from $500M to $3B+ in revenue. The sales training and sales support innovations delivered over these years by Elay and his team to thousands of sales reps resulted in unprecedented hypergrowth. He also created the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) category.

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