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Sales training, Sales recruitment

Five tips for Effective Onboarding of Sales Staff

Written by

Miles Valentine

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Sourcing and recruiting sales staff who are superstars is just half of the puzzle. If you don’t have a robust and effective onboarding process for your sales staff, you might never get them to perform to their full potential. Worse still, you might not retain them for the long term. We’re going to share five tips with you today that will see you ramp up your new sales staff, and get them performing to the best of their ability, faster and more effectively.


Let’s assume you’ve done the recruitment piece correctly and you hope you’ve got a future sales star on your hands. That’s hard enough in itself! The last thing you now want for them is to fail or not realise the full potential of their sales skills because you’re actually staking your reputation as an effective recruiter as well. You’ve also probably told everyone “they’re gonna be good”, so make sure you give them every chance to show it!

Your own reputation aside, it costs your company a small fortune if they don’t work out. Research from CIPD, GenuisHR, and Chandler McLeod shows the visible cost of a failed starter to be 110-137% of their package, and up to 250% for the invisible costs. Think about what that adds up to for your last hire. It’s a lot!

But it’s not just about avoiding the negatives – there is a significant positive effect to getting this right. If you can cut your ‘ramp-up’ period for sales people from six to four (or even three) months, that has a direct impact on increasing your bottom line.

An effective induction process is a key piece of getting them invested in their future within the company and in a position to perform. In fact, after finding the right person, it’s the next most important piece.

So, what are our top five tips that are going to see you ramp up your sales staff faster, get them performing better, and see them stick around for longer?

1. Get them engaged and ready BEFORE they start

Hopefully, as a self-starter, they have reached out to you before they actually start to get information to help them be prepared from day one. They might ask for Industry information, product or service info, non-confidential company material (or similar) and more. So you better be prepared and have it to hand! Even if they haven’t asked, this is your chance to show them you’re onto it, get a standard pack to them, and ensure they’re ready to hit the ground running. People like to be prepared for unknowns in a new job, and a that type of information which just gives them a good more knowledge base to help get them on the right track right away.


2. You need to be as ready for their first day as they are

Mondays aren’t necessarily the best days to have a new hire arrive. Yours are probably stacked with meetings and you just won’t be able to give them the best of your time and attention. And if you normally come in to a pile of tasks every morning, don’t have them start at 9am either! A 10am start on day one, for example, means you can block out that first two hours to greet them and show them around. This is also a critical time to set expectations around what’s going to happen over next few weeks/months, meet other members of the team. Oh, and be sure to have their business cards and security passes ready, their computer and other tools set up, their passwords to hand, and the like. All done and waiting so you set the right impression, and they can get to grips with things right away.


3. This is the big one!.. Have a training plan

Typically, your sales training for new starters might mean ensuring they are up to speed on the product, the process, and the systems and tools they’ll need to do their job. And this is all vital, of course. It needs to be organised and structured into your onboarding process. 

However, the missing piece I most often see – or rather don’t see – is ‘this is HOW we sell’. Often it’s assumed that, because they are sales people, they just know how to sell. Right? Well, not really!

Every industry is different, every company is different, and every product is different (and if yours isn’t you might have another problem). So it’s not only unwise to assume that they can sell because they know the industry, or have sold a similar product, they can just go out and start selling – it’s putting them and you at a disadvantage.

Most often, we see companies use a ‘buddy system’ for inducting new sales staff, and team them up with one of the better team members in the hope that osmosis will do the rest. But there are a lot of problems with this … First, that buddy has a job to do, and it’s not training newbies. Secondly, just because they are high performing salespeople doesn’t mean that they are the best person to offer training. It’s unlikely they have an all-round ‘best practice’ skillset. What if they are a relationship seller and you’re matching a SPIN training seller? You might combine a ‘creative’ with a ‘task’ and create a complete mismatch and overall frustration. Net, net, this isn’t an effective way to train.

So a training plan that covers the HOW of ‘how we sell’ and the WHY of ‘why this product/service/company’ is absolutely critical.

Ideally, you’ve got your sales process modelled and documented. What are the stages of the model and what are the best conversations/interactions to have? Hint – while this can be a big job and is therefore quite daunting, it’s incredibly useful for all aspects of sales management.


Questions to consider when designing your sales training plan:

Depending upon the nature of the sales function (hunting/farming), 
what conversations do you expect your team to have?

How do they qualify? What pain points/needs are you seeking to identify?
And what specific questions identify those needs best?

What does an Account management call look like? 
And how do you want your team to upsell/cross sell?)

How do you pitch or propose? What is the format of this interaction? 
(Is it all “telling”, or how do you get the customer/prospect to interact?)

What are the most likely objections? 
And what are your best answers for each?



The best example of well documented sales model is from HRV systems. National Sales Director, Jeremy Foster, built out a program of step by step videos covering every stage and conversation of the sales process – designed to achieve the best results for both the customer and the salesperson. This content (and the requirement Jeremy had for every salesperson to be trained and ‘certified’ in the content) ensured every newbie knew what was expected of them, ‘how to do it’ and also formed the basis for ongoing training.

Follow our guidelines and key questions above, to come up with a thorough sales induction program of your own that covers HOW and WHY we sell.

Remember, you put an average person into a well documented process and your chnaces of success are much higher and more consistent than putting an average (or even above average) salesperson into a poorly (or not at all) designed process. Process and structure matter – and increase your chances of success.


Phew! I told you it was the big one, but it’s just so important.


The next two are relatively quick and easy…



4. Stick to them like glue (in a good way)


Sit beside them and listen in on their sales calls while they are still ramping up. Especially so during their early ones obviously – and ideally, over time, a mix of call types – where you can teach, observe and coach. Not just once or twice, but at least a dozen conversations over the first six weeks or so. It’s an opportunity to accelerate their onboarding and get them up to speed faster, and in the right way.



5. Stay sticky

But don’t just get them up to speed and leave them to it. Circle back. Stay in touch with the newbie. Don’t assume no news (and no questions or comments) is good news. Actively solicit their feedback via structured times and conversations. Find out how they think they are going, what they are finding hard, and what are they finding easy? As a fresh pair of eyes, what have they observed and what can they suggest for how things could be done better or smarter?

And talk to their accounts or prospects. How are they being perceived?


So, what do you want your salespeople to say about you?


Envisage this Situation: At the end of their first week or month, your new hire is sitting with friends or family, and someone asks “So, how is it going at <insert your Company Name here>?


How they answer is up to you.


Option One: 
Really good, they were all ready for me, really organised and on to it. They are a good bunch and I’ve learnt a lot so far. I’ve even got a couple of deals on the go already.

Option Two:
Yeah, well, they seem like good guys, but they weren’t really ready for me. I didn’t have a PC when I got there, and had to clear out the desk properly from the last guy. I’ve got a couple of appointments set for next week so we will see how we go. I’m not exactly sure what about the product or what I’m going to say about it yet, but I guess I’ll figure it out.

You Choose.

Employ the five tips above to get your induction up to speed and have your new hires ready and raring to go. Once you get your new hires answering with Option One, your Induction program is working exactly as you’ve designed it!


Still stuck on how to get your inductions and onboarding performing? It’s a topic we regularly discuss and at our Sales Syndicate - where NZ’s Sales Leaders come together to share and educate each other the latest and greatest thinking from across industries.

Does that sound useful to you? The new intake is open now – Find out more here.

About Indicator

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We bring together like-minded people and industry leaders through consultation, training courses and the Sales Syndicate – the monthly programme designed specifically for sales managers and sales leaders.