5 Onboarding Best Practice for New Sales Hires

Sales Professionals are the Next Point of Differentiation

Sales First companies understand that today’s B2B sales landscape does not stop at product or solution differentiation, but extends to  differentiation between sales professionals. Hiring Customer Advocate Sales Professionals is the first of many investments a Sales First Company makes towards succeeding in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Developing and executing on a comprehensive Sales New Hire Onboarding strategy is the next critical step in a Sales First Company’s journey to differentiation and sustained growth.

A Culture of Sales Engagement, Revenue Growth and Reduced Attrition

Too many companies hire top sales talent only to leave them largely to their own devices once they finish orientation. I have heard many horror stories about highly successful sales reps joining new organizations to find that, “there really isn’t a formal onboarding process.”   The frequency with which I hear this complaint is neither a surprise nor a coincidence, though, given that much of my focus has been on helping sales leaders improve or transform their struggling sales organizations.  On the other hand, the organizations that devote the time and resources to developing and executing a formal Sales New Hire Onboarding program tend to enjoy a culture of sales engagement, revenue growth, and reduced risk of attrition.

Speaking of attrition, which is a major challenge given the improving economy and resulting “war for top talent,”  Aberdeen Group research shows that 90% of organizations believe that employees make their decision to stay with a company within their first year.  This gives employers a significant amount of time to create the positive impression required to retain top talent and to nurture engagement. However, the majority of the Aberdeen Group’s survey respondents had onboarding programs that lasted only between 1-3 months.  Even more disconcerting is that only 26% of the companies studied had programs that extended past 3 months. (“Onboarding: A New Look at New Hires” April 2013).  Companies that don’t leverage Onboarding as a way to drive key business objectives such as growth, engagement, and retention put themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage.

5 Best Practices for Successful New Hire Onboarding

Sales First companies don’t make the mistake of treating Sales Onboarding as a single event or, worse, a checklist of activities to be completed by a certain date.  Best Practice Sales Onboarding is a program aimed at educating and empowering a CASP to become productive as quickly and efficiently as possible. Here are 5 best practices that Sales First Companies deem to be table stakes in ensuring CASPs are positioned to drive revenue success for the organization as quickly as possible:

  1. The Sales New Hire Onboarding Program is governed by a cross-functional team of stakeholders including Sales, HR, Marketing and Learning/Development.  Input and support from this committee, including the development of program success metrics, encourages alignment and a commitment to sales from across the organization.  This team of stakeholders is ultimately accountable for a program that impacts growth, employee engagement and retention and this “skin in the game” tends to drive business results.
  2. The content, tools, and resources required for new hires to become assimilated into the organization and their new roles are housed in a central repository and are easily accessible when the CASPs need them.  The efficiency that is gained with the ability to quickly find what they need creates increased productivity, which, in the context of new hire onboarding, can mean reduced ramp time.
  3. A formal communication program is in place to allow new hires an awareness of what the Onboarding program entails, what the expectations of the CASP are at various intervals and how their success will be measured throughout the process.  Program communications are developed and disseminated to new hires via a variety of media and in accordance with the different activities they participate in through the onboarding process.
  4. The Onboarding program focuses on 4 key areas and content is delivered via a combination of online, instructor led, and field practical training:
    • Company and Product/Services Knowledge
    • Knowledge of the Sales Role including requisite activities, processes and resources
    • Customer/Buyer Knowledge
    • Tools and Systems related knowledge and capability
  5. Formal Mentoring and/or Coaching programs are incorporated into the Sales New Hire Onboarding process in order to provide ongoing support and guidance to the CASP. These programs allow for a deeper focus on developing key sales skills and competencies in a personal, non threatening manner. Mentoring programs will last through an employee’s first year creating an additional mechanism to reinforce formal training efforts and activities.  More often than not, the mentor/protégé relationship lasts well beyond what is “required”, fostering ongoing collaboration and engagement.

Sales First Organizations choose to invest in a holistic Sales New Hire Onboarding program with a focus on assimilating the CASP into the organization with a positive experience and positioning them with the knowledge, tools and resources required to be successful in their new role.  They are deliberate in adopting an approach that emphasizes the development of the individual through programs such as mentoring and coaching. In doing so, Sales First Companies maximize their chances for revenue growth, strong employee engagement and retention of top talent – three key business objectives that are proving to be a strategic advantage and competitive differentiator in the recovering economic climate.

Anita Nielsen is an independent sales effectiveness consultant, thought leader and freelance blogger. You can find her on LinkedIn, follower her @AnielsenLDK or reach her directly at anielsen@ldkadvisory.com.

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