Secrets To Effective Salesperson Onboarding

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It was a dog-fight, but you won! You fought off your competitors who were all pursuing the same sales candidate. The candidate accepted your offer. Time to wipe the sweat off your brow. Spike the ball! You are the winner! The hard work is over, at least until they arrive for their first day. Oh, that’s right. They’re going to show up and need to be taught stuff. Maybe you shouldn’t have spiked that ball yet. Perhaps, this is more like a boxing match and you won the round, but there are more rounds to go.

You may find my next statement shocking. There is no such thing as a great sales person. You read correctly. Don’t believe me? How many sales people have you hired with great pedigrees that have failed in your company? Five? Ten? Dozens? Assuming that the resume was an accurate representation of their skills and accomplishments, if they were truly a great sales person, how could they fail? Did they hit their head on a drawer and forget how to sell? Is it a flaw in your company?

They didn’t forget how to sell, nor is your company the issue. The issue is the word “great.” Greatness is an attribute of the relationship synergy between a company and a sales person. Assuming that you have done a great job in identifying the right sales talent for your company, the key to having a long-term, fruitful sales marriage is your process for assimilating the new sales person into your culture.

Some companies refer to the assimilation process as “new hire training.” New hire training typically comes in one of two forms. There is the “fire hose” program whereby the company throws everything they have at the neophyte sales person in their first week of employment. Retention is minimal. Frustration is high. The other new hire training program is the “osmosis” program. This approach includes letting the new sales person figure it out on their own. It’s usually developed with the theme, “If he is really a great sales person, he will figure it out on his own.” In both of those cases, companies are often unpleasantly surprised by high-turnover, underperformance, and a constant mantra of “I need a lower price.”

Once upon a time, major companies had wonderful sales training programs where new team members would undergo months of classroom training before they were ever allowed in front of a prospect. Economic pressures have squeezed many of those programs into non-existence. In most cases, the responsibility of getting new sales people up to speed falls on the sales leadership team. Assimilating new sales people is a critical skill that every sales leader must master.

Let’s put aside the term new hire training program. It’s blasé and usually lacks the necessary structure and metrics to be valuable to you. How about developing a RAP™ for your new hire assimilation… The Revenue Accelerator Program.

There is a window of time that begins on the sales person’s first day and ends at some point in the future. This window is their non-revenue producing time period. They aren’t generating one penny toward helping you achieve your corporate revenue goal. The basis of RAP™ is that you structure a program that allows you to minimize the size of that window so that sales people move into a revenue production mode more quickly. Easy to say, it is much more difficult to put into practice. There are three steps to developing your RAP™.

What do they need to know? The first step is to identify all of the things that a sales person needs to know to be successful in your company. Don’t worry about prioritizing this list. Write everything down including: completing new hire paperwork, learning your CRM, meeting key people, how the compensation plan works, discovering your product, etc. The list should also identify people the new sales person should meet and what they will learn from them.

The list is going to be huge. That’s to be expected. It should be a comprehensive list. No detail is too small. Keep thinking… What do they need to know to be successful in this company?

When do they need to know it? Now you have a comprehensive list. Resist the temptation to turn on the fire hose. The next step is to identify the prioritization of the new sales person learning this information. They don’t need to know everything today, nor can you effectively teach that way. With adult learning, it is important to chunk the information in such a way that allows them the opportunity to learn it. Hour after hour of lecture or reading will accomplish little. Each segment should be 60-90 minutes at most if you plan for the new hire to retain the information.

There should also be logic to the program flow. Each day and week, the new hire should be building their foundation. Solid foundations lead to long tenures and strong results. Plot each of the identified items in a weekly schedule. From there, you can break it down to a daily program.

You are probably wondering how long a RAP™ should be. There is no standard answer for that. It is based on the level of complexity of the sales environment. In some companies, it is a few days. In others, it is a few weeks. And in others, it lasts for months. The bottom-line goal is to help sales people move to revenue-generation mode as quickly as possible.

Do they know it? This is the area where the traditional new hire program falls down. You invest a ton of time and resources in the new sales reps, but how do you evaluate their assimilation? The key is to develop a testing process. At various intervals of RAP™, the sales person is tested on the teachings of the program. For example, at the end of teaching them about your product, provide a written test to see how well they know the information. Imagine the embarrassment of a sales person misrepresenting a product because they didn’t know how it worked and what it did. Of course, that never happens.

If one of their responsibilities as a sales person is to deliver the corporate presentation, develop a scored testing session where they deliver the presentation to a group. Have the participants and an observer score the session. Why lose a deal because your sales person was ineffective in delivering the corporate message.

Do they have a strong game plan for pursuing prospects? Have them submit a territory plan that includes their approach. It could save you three-months of the sales person going down the wrong path.

As mentioned before, the bottom-line goal of RAP™ is to minimize the time the sales person is on the bench. One of the added benefits of RAP™ is the ability to determine sink or swim early in the sales person’s tenure. How many times have you let a sales person go after an 18-month investment because they could not cut the mustard? Could you have gathered data in their first few months that would have allowed you to coach the person to success or counsel them out of your company? Either of those options is better than a failed 18-month investment. Build your RAP™ and enjoy the results.

Need help with your sales onboarding program, get my FREE Salesperson Onboarding Best Practices eBook.

Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including award-winning,  best-seller “Hire Right, Higher Profits.” He is a results-driven sales management consultant and a passionate, dynamic speaker . Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitects.net or 763.416.4321.