7 Effective Ways to Onboard New Sellers
Let’s start by admitting the enormity of the challenge - onboarding and getting sellers up to speed is a huge task.
On average, new sales hires spend 10 weeks in training and development and only become productive after nine months or longer.
And guess what? Even after you find and develop these new sales hires into great professionals, they are hard to keep. The annual sales force turnover rate is 20% according to CSO Insights.
If that wasn’t enough, turnover is exceedingly expensive. According to a study from DePaul University, it costs organizations $97,960 to replace the average sales rep.
That’s a lot of wasted time, money, and resources, which means developing an effective sales onboarding program is critical to the success and retention of your sales force.
Your new hire training and sales onboarding process shouldn’t be thought of as a one-time event. It should be thought of as an ongoing process and journey that will continually evolve and develop over time.
In each wave of new hires, you’ll deal with different personalities, experiences, preferences, and perspectives. Your onboarding and development process must be flexible and adapt to these factors.
Here are 7 ideas for every sales manager to get the training and development process started:
1. Ask New Hires about Their Goals and Values (Personally and Professionally)
A common reason for new hire turnover is being uncertain or unclear of what you want out of life. Oftentimes when an individual’s personal and professional goals don’t align with the company mission or values, it creates a conflict within that individual. They begin to question themselves.
If you help your new hires get clear on what’s important to them, what comes naturally and how they can excel at the things they like, even outside of the job, you’ll have a better chance at keeping them happy and engaged. Ultimately, resulting in a more productive and successful sales rep.
2. Assign New Hires A Mentor
Assign every new hire a mentor. Many companies try to do onboarding in an ad-hoc way, by having new hires meet and train with others. But the chaotic workplace of today does not assign and help new hires spend time with more experienced workers as true mentors.
Mentorship provides new hires with perspective, guidance, and advice from someone outside their management team. It gives mentees an opportunity to bounce questions, comments, and new hire growing pains off their mentors.
When you’re at a new company or in a new role, it’s reassuring to know there’s someone there to support you and help you grow.
3. Get Acquainted with Product & Process
This piece is mission critical. Each and every new sales hire must have a solid understanding of the: who, what, where, when, and how regarding your product, service, or solution.
That means getting their hands dirty, so to speak, with the people in the organization, the product/solution you’re selling, and the processes that make it all happen.
We certainly don’t want to minimize this step, but you must tailor the experience and process to your products, people, and company culture.
To help get you started, HubSpot offers this Onboarding Checklist for Sales New Hires.
4. Practice Qualifying Questions
Most sellers are not asking enough questions to properly understand the customer’s goals and might not even fully know what they’re listening for. They need to ask questions in order to learn their customer’s business and identify the right fit.
Try playing “The Press Conference” game. Begin by bringing in a member of the staff who has been with the company for a long time and can authentically and intelligently play the part of the client. The new sellers then get to pepper “the client” with 20 questions. When done, the individual playing the client should reveal their real goals, issues, business problems, and opportunities.
Most sellers will be surprised by how little their first 20 questions penetrated the customer’s world. They will also learn to listen, rather than simply rely on the same “tried and true” all-purpose questions for each sales meeting and gain more insight into your company’s specific clients.
Role-playing most closely resembles real life and serves as an important rehearsal for actual upcoming meetings where a lot may be riding on each moment.
Selling is performance art. Do you really want your sellers performing unrehearsed? How do you know what they may do in the field if you don’t even watch rehearsals?
The benefits extend beyond the person playing the seller. Observers can learn even more by analyzing the performance. The most experienced sellers can share their insights and the new hires will quickly learn to be prepared for the sales challenges presented in role plays, which will extend over into their actual sales conversations.
6. Create They Say – I Say Exercises
Challenge your sellers to write down their most challenging objections and then draft their best turnarounds. New hires can refer to this and experienced sellers can keep refining this document.
Sellers will begin to see their world as a series of easily-answered questions and objections that can be quickly turned around. In a sense, their sales conversations will begin to slow down and they’ll anticipate what is going to happen, as well as, recognize different variations of the same objections and questions.
Sellers need to have a story for every situation. By being armed with success stories that can add color to their sales presentations, they’ll be much better prepared to satisfy their prospects.
Elaborate case studies aren’t always required, but each seller on your team needs to at least have the talking point version of a success story that can help answer these common and challenging customer questions:
- What is the advantage of working with your company?
- What are the differences between your company and your competitors?
- What makes your company worth the money?
- What is the ROI of working together?
Setting aside time each week for your sellers to share their stories with each other will help your entire team be better prepared.
Establishing these training exercises early on will not only help to quickly onboard your new hires, but will also increase the entire team’s success. Creating an effective sales team requires consistent training and coaching to develop confidence and greater selling competence.
Done right, you’ll see huge ROI on the time and efforts you invest in new hires early on.
As a manager, you're not just responsible for onboarding new hires, you're also responsible for enhancing the performance of the team you already have in place. Do you know where the gaps are? Download our manager's guide to help you solve for 5 common problems.
*Originally published August 2015. Updated October 2018.
About Molly DePasquale
Molly DePasquale is the Manager of Operations and Sales Training Strategist for DMTraining. She manages the day-to-day business and training operations while helping research and develop new training programs as well as refreshing signature programs to reflect the newest sales trends, technology, and best practices. Molly utilizes her wide-range of skills to create sales and marketing assets focused on delivering value to DMT’s clients. Molly has a passion for learning and leveraging new knowledge and experiences. Outside of DMTraining, Molly is a hard core Pittsburgh sports fan, enjoys staying active by running and golfing, and unwinds by reading and playing the piano.