How to Use “Onboarding” to Boost Sales Success

It’s exciting when your new salesperson comes on board. Expectations are high because you’re sure you’ve made the best hire from the sales candidates. And then it happens: your new “rainmaker” is a washout. Sales remain stagnant, and you have to start the recruiting and hiring process all over again. What happened? Did you simply hire the wrong person? Maybe not. Here’s what probably happened (and how you can keep it from happening again):

Why Your Sales Firecracker Fizzled

Apparently, there is an affliction that causes newly hired sales people to mutate from superstar to bumbling fool. The disease has a 90-day incubation period before becoming fatal (to the salesperson’s employment and your revenue production, that is). The primary cause for this affliction lies in the “great sales person” perception lurking in the hearts of most sales executives. This is the flawed belief that if you hire great sales people, you can put your feet up on the desk and watch the revenue roll in. Wrong!

Highly profitable companies recognize the real work is only beginning… for the new sales person and the company. So, just what is this often-overlooked-but-always-essential real work?

The Answer is Onboarding

Onboarding is commonly seen as completing required paperwork and getting the new salesperson set up with the office essentials. While this type of administrative setup work must be done, it does nothing to protect your new investment (and yes, your new salesperson is indeed an investment) or ensure a good return on that investment.

What are the essential components of sales onboarding that can help your new salesperson succeed?

Vision

Begin with the end in mind. By first envisioning what success in the sales position looks like, you can establish sales objectives, as well as the training, strategies and tactics necessary to achieve them.

Of course, you’ll be better able to mentally and emotionally invest in onboarding if you first understand how a well-crafted onboarding program benefits your company. For example, onboarding can:

  • Reduce the upfront investment required to receive a return.
  • Reduce the amount of time it takes for the salesperson to generate revenue.
  • Increase sales proficiency resulting in optimal sales performance.
  • Reduce sales department turnover.
  • Provide a recruitment tool to attract top sales talent (particularly those rock star candidates from outside your industry).
  • Increase sales tenure as a foundation for the relationship between the sales people and the company.

Yes, vision helps, but you’ll also need buy-in from your staff, because onboarding will require their help in the “Preparation” phase.

Preparation

Too often, the hiring of a new salesperson comes as a complete surprise to other staffers. Why is this? Surely there was a period of recruitment, candidate interviewing, and selection, followed by a week or two between when the offer was accepted and the salesperson’s start date. Is there really any excuse for it when the new hire shows up and no one seems prepared? Unfortunately, this is more often the rule than the exception. Even more unfortunate is the fact that this lack of preparation can damage – or doom – the relationship on day one!

Keep your staff informed. Give everyone plenty of notice about when your new salesperson will start. Let them assist you in having everything in place when that day arrives.

Orientation

Keep in mind that every minute your salesperson is on the bench and not yet ready to sell for the company, he or she is merely a cost on the books. Your new salesperson brings high expectations and potential, but still lacks company and, perhaps, market information possessed by others in your organization. You have two choices during this critical phase: 1) let the salesperson learn the hard way, making mistakes in the marketplace that could damage your company reputation, or 2) take advantage of your in-house wisdom to educate your salesperson with essential baseline information. The better path may be obvious, but it will take the assistance of others on your team to make this happen.

To help ensure sales success, make sure your team educates your new salesperson about:

  • Your products and services
  • Your Unique Selling Proposition
  • Unique characteristics of your market, including what your market values
  • What your competitors offer and promote (and how your company stands apart)
  • Available tools
  • Internal resources to go to when prospects or clients have questions your salesperson can’t immediately answer

Continuing Support

Sales success requires not only focused onboarding as described above, but also continuing support for constant learning. Just as you shouldn’t bring your salesperson on board and immediately cast them adrift, neither should you assume that they will know everything after 90 days. Offer continuing support and you will make their success – and your company’s success – more likely.

Bottom Line:

While everyone else in your organization could be considered overhead, a salesperson’s performance is directly linked to revenue. That’s why a carefully designed and implemented onboarding program is so critical. It can help you protect your investment, ensure a high return, and keep a solid sales performer in your organization for years to come.

Need help crafting an effective onboarding program for your sales organization? Contact a Sales Xceleration Advisor today.