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Retaining the ‘One’: Onboarding New Sales Reps for Lasting Success

5 min read
Updated Aug. 25, 2021
Published Apr. 4, 2019

Guest post by Peter Kazanjy, founder of Modern Sales Pros and of Atrium, makers of totally amazing continuously monitored sales performance analytics.

New hires are an investment, especially in sales. How can you make sure your new salespeople are up to speed in the least amount of time possible? Establish a formal Onboarding process.

Sales organizations invest a lot in finding the right people to bring onboard. They establish referral programs, conduct multiple rounds of interviews, and complete a mountain of paperwork (everyone’s favorite part). Everyone involved in the process hopes it leads to a successful outcome for all parties.

How do you set your new hires up success (and yourself for that ROI)? A consistent, intentional sales onboarding process. Here are the basics of how to create a successful Onboarding process.

Increased retention with an onboarding process

Why Is Onboarding so Important?

You’ve found “the one.” The golden standard of salespeople. You know this person will succeed on your team, but it turns tragic when they don’t know it. This person doesn’t know anything about your organization, how you run your sales processes, what their day-to-day will look like, or even what is expected of them.

These are the gaps an Onboarding process fills. Be transparent in setting expectations and invest generously in training. It will pay off in spades when your incoming salespeople have a much better success rate.

If you lose 30%–50% of each sales hiring class to flameouts, in part due to faulty onboarding, you are eating this terrible opportunity cost again and again – not to mention the pure cost of the time and money you put into recruiting.

Sales onboarding advice

“The salesperson you haven’t hired yet, and haven’t gotten productive yet, isn’t generating the $50k, $100k, or $200k a month in sales they could be. Consider the future value of those customers as they recur, proliferate, and refer other customers, and that lost revenue looks even more troubling.”

In a HuffingtonPost article, Maia Josebachvili, VP of People at Greenhouse, found that “retaining a salesperson for three years instead of two, along with better onboarding and management practices, yields a difference of $1.3 million in net value to the company over a three year period.” The calculate expense is not limited to new hires; experienced staff can be just as costly.

Bottom line: Hire right. Enable right. Position your human capital for success. You won’t be sorry.

Onboarding 101

Day one. Your future top sales rep enters the lobby. Yes, they’re probably nervous. This might be their first job out of college or leaving a company they’ve been with the last five years. Either way, they’re the “new kid.” They’re carefully observing everything about your organization.

There are 3 ways you can make a great impression… even before they walk in day one.

1. Onboarding Structure

No one in the history of coaching has ever created a roster and stopped there. They have a very strategic book of plays. Onboarding works best if set up intentionally, like a class. One week may focus on how to use your product. The next week will go into your team’s sales process. Research indicates that 77% of new hires with a formal onboarding experience hit their first performance milestone.

New hire onboarding success

Throughout the ‘course,’ there should be repetition in addition to new information. To make the process less mundane, incorporate challenges. Create teams to encourage the class to form bonds that last well after onboarding is over.

2. Pre-Work

Assigning pre-work for new hires can make that first day less stressful for everyone. This can be in the form of presentations, recordings of successful sales calls, or even reading material. The purpose is to give everyone a baseline of understanding so they can hit the ground running. Recent graduates or newbies to the tech industry might not know all the lingo. Provide resources so they know simple things like the difference between an AE and SE. It shows them that your team is willing to teach them and that questions are welcomed.

Prework can also be internal. A (very basic) welcome gesture is making sure all of their equipment is ready when they arrive. For extra brownie points have the sales team sign a card and gift the new class with a swag bag. At Salesloft, all new hires are welcomed with branded apparel, stickers, a reusable mug, and a personalized welcome card.

3. Administrative

We’ve all been through a snooze-fest orientation (maybe more than a few times). The necessary evils of the first day include government paperwork, an explanation of employee benefits, and an overview of the departmental functions. The most important thing about this day is to make sure that in the end, new hires have a proactive, explicit, candid discussion of what is valued and expected in your organization. Leave on an inspirational note… and assure them that day 2 will be full speed ahead!

The tone is set for the success of your new sales professionals on day one. Providing resources for success, inspiring confidence in the organization, and transferring a feeling of inclusion to your new rockstars are critical in ensuring they’re excited and ready to take on the role.

Looking for more effective ways to coach once you’ve onboarded your new employees?  Download this eBook on Effective Sales Coaching.How to leverage technology for effective sales coaching