My leadership philosophy is a combination of my own experience and that of watching and being mentored by key contributors at MarketStar. What have I learned? A sales leader is an individual who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves to accomplish goals and lead their team to success. But we all know leadership takes more than barking orders! I try to lead my teams with empathy, performance, and transparency as my guideposts. I don’t want to scare new hires away after their first week on the job!
That’s where onboarding steps in. When inundating new hires with new processes and products, it’s important to provide them with internal support in order to create a successful sales culture. It’s equally essential to ensure that they are meeting an established set of expectations. To get the most from your salespeople, you must have an infrastructure that trains, manages, encourages, and educates individuals.
Here are my top five reasons why sales onboarding matters.
1. Sets expectations
It’s important to set high expectations and expect high performance from your reps. However, it’s also important to strive for transparency with your employees, because what you don’t know can hurt you and your business. Define incremental goals and present information in a way that’s accessible. Separating the sales experience into a series of logical steps helps reps digest new information.
To establish accountability, create a document that outlines what reps should accomplish in the first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. In doing so, you’re establishing expectations and time frames and creating a modeling technique. For example, striving to have your reps be productive by day 30 not only helps them see what they can do to improve, but also shows the effectiveness of your onboarding initiatives.
2. Establishes best practices
It’s easy for teams to generalize data and use blanket methods to drive strategies. Sales onboarding is only useful if you can measure and track its effectiveness. In addition to tracking KPIs such as pipeline, closes, and conversion rates per rep, it’s important to ask more far-reaching questions, including:
- What are the costs of hiring and onboarding a sales rep?
- What is the time to complete training?
- What is your average ramp to productivity time?
- What is the average time to break even?
- What is the average tenure of your reps?
- What training and certifications does each rep have?
Time to full productivity is a popular metric that shows how long it takes a new hire to complete every aspect of their job as measured by a manager. It can also refer to the time it takes a new hire to reach an established level of performance as a colleague. Benchmarking new hires against existing sales reps can help illustrate high-performing reps across an organization.
3. Ensures accurate revenue reporting
Revenue forecasting enables businesses to plan their expenses. Knowing the true costs of sales onboarding impacts your overall revenue forecasting. When companies have a better idea of the total amount of money they can budget each month, they can make informed predictions about how much revenue they’ll bring in over an established period of time.
In short, forecasting enables businesses to make important moves, like launching campaigns, cutting costs during specific seasons—or hiring new sales reps. Mentoring each rep on pipeline management and forecasting helps ensure accurate revenue reporting.
4. Introduces mentorship as a key component
Speaking of mentorship— mentorship during onboarding is essential for new sales teams. This is a topic I am fully supportive of as it yields trust while providing training. Mentorship covers a range of mediums and manifests in a variety of ways. From providing available resources—books, videos, and relevant collateral—to having reps attend seminars, and cross-train with more seasoned sales reps. It’s important to establish your mentors as strong, reliable resources.
For new hires, mentorship encourages professional development by teaching missing skills, knowledge, and expertise. Streamlining your onboarding processes enables new hires to get ramped up quickly with your products—which increases their overall sales acumen. For the mentor and the organization, mentorship inspires fresh ideas, increases staff loyalty and camaraderie, integrates new hires into the organizational threadwork, and improves speed to productivity.
5. Builds the next sales leaders
Strong onboarding programs set reps up for success before they even begin selling. Simplified, streamlined processes enable new hires to get ramped up quickly with an organization’s products (which change often). They establish communication parameters, provide prospects with the right information, and build loyalty—which primes them for future leadership.
When teams provide an opportunity for advancement at the onset, it shows that they’re investing in their careers. Showing empathy and investing in sales onboarding shows a commitment to your employees, which, in turn, provides you with a huge amount of buy-in from your team.
From setting expectations to creating best practices, sales teams need leaders who set established goals and track progress from the get-go. They need leaders who take things a step further by creating mentorship programs to provide new hires with resources and support (and continue to offer leadership development programs). And the best sales managers are those that synchronize these onboarding efforts with revenue forecasting so they can make informed decisions on how to best utilize new hires. Ultimately, by leading with empathy and transparency, strong leaders build their leadership pipeline and prime new hires for enduring success.