How to Onboard Sales Reps

Even if your hiring process is bringing in the right talent, you can’t expect your new rock-star sales reps to succeed without an equally effective onboarding plan.

Generally speaking, employee onboarding is the process of training new team members and integrating them into your organization.

Onboarding sales representatives can include typical best practices like having them review your employee handbook and attend orientation meetings, but it should also incorporate training and engagement elements to better acclimate new sellers to their surroundings and responsibilities.

Benefits of onboarding sales reps

Investing in onboarding sales reps offers numerous benefits in the long run in both employee and customer satisfaction. Taking the time to teach your sales reps this information leads to:

  • Improved customer service: Having an established training method for sales reps means every team member learns the same guidelines and best practices during onboarding, standardizing each customer’s experience every time they contact you.
  • Increased employee engagement: A well-educated employee feels more confident in their work and can take more initiative in unfamiliar situations. This lets them do better work more often and take pride in what they do and, by extension, your company.
  • Improved sales rep retention: The average turnover cost per sales rep is $97,690 when you add up recruiting costs, new hire training costs, and lost sales. Studies show that employees are significantly more likely to still be with an organization after one year when an extended onboarding process is used. Translation: It’s expensive to hire new sales reps, and it’s much more cost-effective to retain the ones you have.
  • Boosted productivity: Starting a new job is fraught with productivity pitfalls. “How do I perform this task?”, “How do I access that tool?”, and “Why do we do things this way?” are all common questions that new sales reps will ask. A successful onboarding process answers many of those queries.

What should sales onboarding accomplish?

A proper onboarding process should accomplish four main objectives:

1. Acclimation

Making a recent hire feel comfortable in their new position requires more than simply handing them a parking pass and pointing out the location of the restrooms. They need to understand your company’s mission, what’s expected of them, and what kind of support they can expect from the company.

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2. Familiarity

An essential part of welcoming any new employee is familiarizing them with the company and products, but this is especially critical for sales reps. Salespeople are on the front lines of explaining your company’s products and services to potential customers, and they need to be well-acquainted with those products and how they should be positioning them.

3. Engagement

A recent Gallup poll of U.S. employees shows that disengaged team members are more likely to seek employment elsewhere. The onboarding process is the perfect place to bolster employee engagement and help new sales reps establish relationships with other staff.

4. Retention

As we just mentioned, engaged employees are much more likely to stay with your company long enough to pay for themselves. A successful onboarding process greatly increases your organization’s chances of retaining its top talent.

How to onboard sales reps

What’s the best way to optimize the sales onboarding process? Here are some expert-approved tips for onboarding new sales reps. Implement these strategies and you’ll see new hire engagement, productivity, and retention rise in your sales department.

1. Pre-employment preparation

The first step to any employment opportunity may begin long before you find the perfect applicant. Your application is the first impression potential employees get of your processes, and it ultimately determines the type of people who will apply for your open positions.

Every part of your pre-employment operation should be well-defined and easy to navigate, including the:

  • Job opening post: Wherever you post about your job opening, it should be as detailed as possible, answering many of the most frequently asked questions. Make sure it clearly outlines time commitments, expected roles, required experience, and an estimated salary. 
  • Interview process: While everyone expects the interview process to take some time, it’s in your best interest to make it as short as it can be. The longer the interview process goes on, the more likely your best applicants will receive other offers or decide to pursue other paths.
  • Background check: Background checks are crucial to the integrity of your team, but requiring applicants to fill out excess paperwork or even pay more than necessary to show you their stellar record can weed out ideal applicants who may not understand the directions or have the funds to put forward.

2. Orientation

Once you have new additions to your sales team, it’s time to teach them the ropes. Though they probably have a basic understanding of your company by now, this is your time to go into detail, ensuring they have all the background information they need to become an informed sales rep. Within the first few weeks of their employment, make sure you:

  • Familiarize reps with services and products: As a sales representative, there’s nothing more important than understanding what your company has to offer. Make sure sales reps have access to any informational materials about your products and services so they can start studying them immediately.
  • Explain company policies and procedures: Just as your sales rep needs to be an expert in what you sell, they also have to understand your company’s ethos and values so they can work with them in mind. As one of the first faces many clients will meet when working with you, your sales reps need to embody everything your brand stands for.
  • Introduce reps to the team and colleagues: As your new employees work through orientation, having a helping hand is vital to them understanding their role within the company and ensuring they feel like they belong with you. Introduce them to everyone they’ll be working with as soon as you can.

3. Assessments and evaluations

When your sales reps near the end of their orientation and sales training, you have the perfect opportunity to evaluate your onboarding process and how people react to it. It’s also a chance for you to see how much your reps have learned and whether they’re ready to start work at full speed yet. Throughout onboarding, you should:

  • Monitor reps’ performance and progress: During the first few weeks of your sales rep’s employment, they’ll still be establishing their workflow and adjusting their performance to match company standards. Tracking this growth is an excellent way to show them their progress and keep them motivated to continue improving.
  • Provide feedback on successes and challenges: Feedback from experienced team members and sales reps is the only way your new employee will know where they’re excelling and where they can improve. It’s also a good time for you to check in with them and see what parts of your onboarding process are working and where you could offer more information and advice.
  • Offer helpful resources and training materials as needed: Throughout onboarding, you or the training manager should have an arsenal of resources on hand to help your new sales rep. You should be prepared to go more in-depth with any topic and talk it through until your rep understands it.

7 tips to onboard new sales reps more effectively

Effective sales onboarding requires planning and preparation. Here are seven helpful tips that can help you create the best sales onboarding process for your new hires:

1. Have a standardized process

The first thing you need to understand about onboarding new sales reps is that it isn’t a one-day event; it’s a process that can last six months to a year. (Really.)

With that in mind, you need to define and standardize an onboarding process that’s designed for the long term. What specific actions does each new hire need to complete in the first week? Which training courses do they need to complete in the first month? What should they hope to accomplish within the first quarter?

Whatever process your organization creates, here are a few things to prioritize when a new team member starts:

  • The early days of orientation should emphasize company culture and include meetings with leaders from each team or division in the company. Provide foundational information about your brand, service offerings, company history, and additional context to help them understand the company.
  • The next phase moves into products and services education. Review product descriptions, sales playbooks, and scopes of work for standard projects.
  • Once they understand the company and its solutions, move into a deep dive into your markets, client segments, and buyer personas so that reps can understand how those buyers will relate to each offering from their unique perches.

In short, identify specific events every new sales rep can be taken through for the best results, then make them the standard for all hires.

2. Put it all in writing

A new sales rep can’t be expected to retain 100% of the knowledge that they’re presented with during onboarding. It always helps to have some resources and reference guides that they can use to refresh their memory on the fly.

Before a new rep comes on board, it’s helpful to build resources with FAQs about the company and the role. Good sources for this information include seasoned sales reps on your team, other team members, common sales objections prospects provide, and answers to questions customers have asked in the past.

Developing these documents will save your new reps from lots of wasted trial-and-error during their initial period on the job.

Also be sure to provide all the phone scripts and email templates that they can start using right away as they become familiar with your products. 

3. Set clear expectations

In order for new hires to be successful, they have to know what’s expected of them. The onboarding process is the best setting to deliver these essential details and get new employees acclimated to their work environment.

Start with your organization’s overarching mission. What are the corporate goals that the entire team is working towards and how will the new sales rep help achieve them? The better they understand this, the better equipped they’ll be to have a positive impact on the company sooner.

After company goals, move on to setting realistic individual milestones you expect them to reach by specific dates, whether that’s an amount of new revenue or a number of new clients. Creating 30, 60, and 90-day plans will keep new hires on track and ensure they don’t get overwhelmed by all the information being delivered to them.

Related: How to set quotas that don’t sink your sales team

Setting clear expectations is essential, but don’t forget to share what new recruits can expect from your organization as well. Let them know who is there to help them and answer their questions. This will alleviate feelings of anxiety and make sure they engage in their new position without feeling overwhelmed.

4. Take your time with training

You’ve worked hard to hire highly skilled people, and your newest sales rep has a history of success and valuable experience. But that doesn’t mean you can simply throw them into the deep end on their first day and hope they start making sales.

New sales reps, no matter how talented or experienced, need to receive proper, personalized training when they’re first hired. They need to learn how your company’s products work, the sales process your team follows, who the major players in the industry are, etc.

Taking the time to have thorough conversations about the most important issues early in the onboarding process will produce better long-term results. Consider how complex your products are and adjust your type of training to help reps understand them better.

5. Partner new reps with veteran team members

Allowing new hires to shadow veteran salespeople as they interact with customers, give demos, and close deals is a great idea. Pairing them with specific mentors within the sales department is an even better one.

This process must be handled with care, though. Your top sellers might not have the time or the patience to mentor new recruits, and matching a new hire with the wrong mentor can actually have negative effects. Look for experienced sales reps who have the necessary skills and insights, but also a natural ability and desire to teach and develop new hires.

After you’ve identified a suitable mentor for your new rep, involve them in the onboarding process as soon as possible. The earlier they can begin building relationships with your new sales reps and training them on the inner workings of your company’s sales processes, the better.

For new reps, the mentorship process should include not just watching experienced sellers, but also having those mentors present when they’re ready to set off on their own. 

You may also want to have your new sales reps shadow team members in other customer-facing departments, like customer service. This experience gives reps valuable insights into many of the issues and challenges that crop up with customers after the sale is made, which can help them sell with more savvy.

6. Optimize your onboarding process

Properly onboarding new sales reps is a process that will need to be optimized over time. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll adopt the perfect approach right out of the gate. That’s okay, as long as you’re willing to continually analyze your sales onboarding efforts and optimize them for greater future success.

Ask yourself questions like: 

  • Is our current onboarding process helping us achieve our company goals?
  • What processes can we automate for greater productivity?
  • Is the sales mentorship program we’ve implemented working as it’s supposed to, or is it not worth the lost productivity of our veteran sellers?

You should also look at the impact on leading metrics that your new hires are having, from sales calls booked to deals closed. And don’t be afraid to ask your new sales reps for their feedback on how the onboarding process is going. This will provide you with valuable information and make your employees feel valued and more engaged.

7. Use tools that help reps every step of the way

Finally, invest in tools that will support your sales reps wherever they are in their career. Automating certain tasks with tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software can take some of the pressure off your new hires, allowing them to focus on getting to know your products and actually selling. 

For example, Nutshell’s sales automation features allow you to create automated tasks and reminders to provide constant guidance on your company’s sales process and the exact actions that a rep needs to take on a daily basis. Having step-by-step directions like this makes it easy for new hires to get up to speed.

Follow these steps to sales onboarding success!

There you have it—what onboarding is, why it’s important, and how to do it successfully. Implement these tips and your company will be much more successful when onboarding sales reps. Good luck!

This article is part of our Playbook for Managing a Sales Team.

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