The last quarter of the year is always an interesting time. Sales and marketing are getting ready to close up the quarter. Everyone is busy, and sometimes a little on edge (if they’re not hitting quota).
It’s also a great time to start reflecting over the year, and start planning for the next year.
I recently had the opportunity to connect with many sales enablement and operations practitioners at Experience Sales Enablement 2017 in Dallas and Dreamforce 2017 in San Fran, where we had many conversations about sales related challenges in 2018.
One theme kept coming up: Sales onboarding.
It makes sense that it’s top of mind, knowing that Q1 is fast approaching and there will be many new hires starting at your organizations.
Through various conversations and workshops, here are some of the top challenges that enablement practitioners mentioned:
- Reducing ramp of new hires
- The difficulty of onboarding new people when you run a dispersed sales model
- Understanding and defining when someone is officially ramped
- Lack of accountability of the hiree for completing onboarding
- Facilitating the flow and sequencing of content and information
- Managers actually coaching, and not just managing
- Keeping reps engaged
- Onboarding global teams/remote workers
- Measuring behaviour change while someone is ramping
I can see why a few of the people I chatted with were exasperated and a bit stressed out that there’s only a few weeks left in 2017. Those are some big challenges, and not so easy to solve!
What Are You Doing To Solve Onboarding Challenges
As I was listening to the conversations, and thinking about the challenges that were mentioned, I started asking how they’ll be tackling these next year.
And I received some really interesting answer.
One of the questions I frequently asked was “If I were a new rep starting at your company today, how would you onboard me?” Most people replied with an eye roll, then sighed, and said
“Well….. You’d go through bootcamp. Then there’s a spreadsheet with stuff you can read…”
And that’s it.
Then reps are off to the races. Expected to be able to sell. On Monday.
Here’s the problem: Many companies treat onboarding like it’s an orientation. Some of you might be saying “Dan, what do you mean - those are synonyms.”
They’re really not.
Orientation is an event. It’s a checklist of the basic stuff you need to know to work at your organization.
Onboarding is a period of time that requires mentorship and training for a rep to be productive.
Orientation is a part of onboarding, but not onboarding as a whole. And when you speak with some practitioners and ask what they’re doing for onboarding, they’re really describing orientation.
There’s a bit of a disconnect between the way they’re executing onboarding new sales reps and the reality of what’s required during onboarding, which is creating the challenges and gaps they brought up during our conversations.
These challenges are not going to be solved in bootcamp. These challenges are not going to be solved in spreadsheets.
If you’re reading this and thinking “Yup… that’s us,” then there’s a big opportunity for reimagining sales onboarding at your company in 2018.
You’re Not Alone
It’s been proven time and again that organizations with well-thought-out onboarding programs are much more effective at getting their reps productive.
Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity. On top of that, employees of companies that have the longest onboarding programs gain full proficiency 34% faster than those in the shortest programs.
However, only 37% of organizations extend their onboarding programs beyond the first month.
I was surprised at how many practitioners I spoke to measured onboarding success with a checklist, and not actual metrics and milestones! There’s research that supports this too.
77% of new hires who hit their first performance milestone had formal onboarding training. Of those who do not hit initial performance milestones, almost half had no formal onboarding training. Even worse, 60% of companies fail to set milestones or goals for new hires!
I think as enablers, we can do better than that.
What Will You Do To Close The Sales Onboarding Gap?
Imagine you could accelerate sales onboarding and reduce ramp at your company. Imagine you could automatically track the progress of your new reps, as they’re going through onboarding, and measure the financial impact of their progression. Imagine you could deploy your onboarding program globally, across teams, all within your CRM.
Wouldn’t that be great?
But you’re tasked with figuring all of this out by using spreadsheets and checklists. It’s tough, I get it.
So what can you do?
Keep it simple.
Make Your Onboarding Interactive
Great onboarding programs don’t need to be overcomplicated, but they need to be engaging.
People learn in different ways: Reading, watching, listening, and practicing. When you’re designing your onboarding programs, make sure that the exercises you’re prescribing are interactive, engaging , and valuable for your reps.
Consider adding these interactive exercises to your onboarding programs to make them more engaging:
- Watching videos of peers delivering a pitch or conducting a product demo
- Reading product marketing documentation and case studies
- Listening to discovery calls. One of our favourite tools at LevelJump is Gong.io. You can automate call intelligence across your team to understand what the top reps are doing differently, and listen to call recordings.
- Attend a kickoff with senior executives
- Do a peer review of your pitch or demo to get feedback and coaching from more experienced reps
- Set-up a buddy program, where coaching sessions happen with mentors
And don’t forget to track milestones and metrics while reps are onboarding:
- First confirmed discovery call
- First 200 activities logged in Salesforce
- Time to first identified opportunity
- First 5 qualified opportunities
- Time to first deal
- Time to second and third deals
Here’s an example of a simple onboarding program you could run with new BDRs
Simplify The Delivery of Your Onboarding Programs
The point is, onboarding is not the same as orientation. You need to provide mentorship, training, and the right content in a prescriptive manner to keep reps engaged.
Having interactive activities and leveraging technology will make reps want to complete their onboarding, so you don’t have to be worried about any accountability.
But there’s a lot more we need to do as enablers to solve the onboarding challenges you mentioned to me during our conversations.
And that’s why we’re taking onboarding very seriously at LevelJump.
We’ve been building onboarding and enablement software, native on the Salesforce platform.
Our customers are able to create prescriptive programs, sequencing interactive exercises and attaching them to CRM metrics and milestones, to keep track of a rep’s progression and prove ROI to executive teams. If you’re interested, check out this quick video of our program builder.
If you want more information on sales onboarding programs, join our webinar on December 6: “How To Create Sales Onboarding Programs For Your Q1 2018 Hires.”
What are some of the sales onboarding challenges you’re experiencing at your organization? How are you planning to solve these challenges in 2018? I’d love to know more in the comments below.