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What can organizations do to make onboarding sales talent more effective so they get to full productivity fast?
This question has a lot to do with how your organization hires new sales talent, which involves precise knowledge of what sets your top performers apart from all others. It’s not an easy question to answer, and it usually involves a comprehensive approach to assessment.
Let’s assume that you’ve already assessed your sales talent and know the skills, behaviors and expertise they need to excel. Once you have taken this step you can start designing an onboarding program designed to equip new hires with the key elements they need for success in a sales role.
Effective onboarding programs for sales talent have a big impact on productivity and performance, according to results from the Korn Ferry Research 2020 Sales Talent Study.
Our key findings included these:
So, what are your next steps? Here are six design principles that will help you put together a stellar onboarding program.
Often, sales organizations skip this step. But it is easier to figure out where you want to go as an organization if you have already developed a roadmap to get there. Given the huge investments that you’ve already made in recruiting and hiring sales talent, it’s essential to define a clear goal.
Sales leaders should define what they want to achieve in terms of ramp-up time to full productivity, considering both your average sales cycles for existing and new business and your ambitions. You should then communicate this goal to your new hires upfront so they already know what you expect of them.
Their sales manager should make them familiar with the onboarding program’s goals, what their performance expectations are and what resources will be available to them, i.e.: “This is what we expect from you, and this is how we will help you to get there.”
It’s fine if sales enablement is responsible for the design, creation and implementation of your onboarding services. But enablement can only do so much.
Sales managers play the most important role for their new hires — the most essential role when it comes to successful onboarding. Without the sales manager’s regular coaching efforts, no onboarding program can create the expected results.
Managers should tailor their coaching approach to help their new hires get the best possible start. So, when you design an onboarding program, make sure that you also include a coaching approach for your sales managers so that they can support your onboarding efforts for sales talent.
Sellers need two types of knowledge: capability knowledge, or what is being sold, and situational knowledge, or what the buying and selling scenarios are.
You can transfer capability knowledge regarding your products and services to your sales talent, but this knowledge, on its own, is not substantial. You have to engage, equip and empower your new hires to connect this knowledge and situational knowledge, which is different for every opportunity.
Mapping capability knowledge to the specific selling situation is the key to success. This involves value messaging and tailored content, so you need to develop product value messaging behaviors and skills as fast as possible.
For your onboarding program, focus on how to sell (and help sellers make the connection between your products and services and the value messaging approaches for targeted buyer roles and their business challenges), not just on what to sell. That means you’ll need fewer product knowledge downloads and more interactive sessions on how to apply the knowledge and its business value in different buyer interactions.
Here again, sales coaching is the critical key to success.
New sales hires need a tailored onboarding program to meet onboarding goals. As an example, if the role focuses on a certain industry, product segment or business division, make sure that the seller gets onboarding services that are relevant to them.
In addition, tailor your approach to the individual seller. As an example, if the recruiting process or assessment shows that a seller already has the required knowledge and skills to implement your sales methodology, a refresher course is enough to teach them how it works in your organization. If a seller lacks certain skills, for instance negotiating or holding business-level conversations, focus on developing those.
You can integrate social selling skills and behaviors that are part of the overall selling processes into your onboarding program in two ways.
First, your sales talent needs to develop a professional profile on LinkedIn or whatever social network is most relevant for your business. Second, your new hires should learn the social selling steps that, ideally, you’ve already integrated into your selling processes.
Integrate what’s really essential to drive your onboarding goals, but not more than that. Often, onboarding programs are huge packages of eLearning courses, mostly around products, that skip over the necessary “how to sell” skills and behaviors.
Even if it is the sales manager’s job to guide their new sales talent hires through onboarding, they should only spend their time on what’s relevant now. It’s much better to reinforce the relevant parts of strategic selling instead of hammering home all of the knowledge you have about the company.
Effective enablement leaders understand the importance of their onboarding programs for their overall recruiting and hiring success. That’s why they focus on what’s relevant, differentiating and critical for success based on top performer assessments.
Developing your sales talent starts with an effective onboarding program. If you’re ready to take your employee onboarding program to the next level, our consultants can help.
We’ll work with you to build a formal program built on sound design principles with measurable goals that will help you close the productivity gap with your sellers. Contact us to discover how we can increase your salesforce effectiveness and enable your sales talent to be more productive more quickly.