Sales onboarding is an essential part of any sales team’s structure.
In fact, it can totally make or break a new hire’s success. Get it right, and your sales department will quickly bring new sellers up to speed and teach them how to excel. Get it wrong, and your sales team will probably have a hard time hitting its sales targets.
Of course, sales onboarding is about more than just boosting your company’s bottom line. It’s also about employee engagement. Once you have an onboarding strategy, your reps will work harder and enjoy their work more, while sales leaders will experience less stress.
(That’s what happens when the people you manage do their jobs well, giving you space to strategize, evaluate, and coach. You know, the stuff you were actually hired to do.)
The thing is, effective sales onboarding looks way different today than it did in the past. It’s not just about communication anymore—though, clear communication is never a bad idea. It’s about building personalized learning systems and incorporating modern technologies.
In this article, I’ll show you everything you need about the sales onboarding process. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to handle new salespeople effectively. Let’s dive in!
Sales Onboarding 101: The Foundation of a Successful Sales Plan
As mentioned above, sales onboarding is an essential process—at least, if you want your new employees to succeed. In this section, we’ll explore the purpose of sales onboarding and the unique benefits it brings to both individuals and organizations.
The Purpose of Sales Onboarding
Sales onboarding is a structured training process that helps individuals transition smoothly into their new roles. That way, they can make a positive impact on company goals sooner.
An effective onboarding strategy will equip new sales team members with the necessary product knowledge, selling skills, and sales resources to become effective contributors. In other words, it will give them the core competencies to close deals consistently.
“Great,” you’re thinking. “But what does new employee onboarding actually look like?”
I’m glad you asked! While every sales onboarding routine differs, the best features a 30-60-90 day plan that walks new hires through their company’s sales process.
Day one might introduce them to the specific people they’ll work with and the technology they’ll use. Day 30 might focus on proper sales call etiquette, and Day 60 might center around high-level techniques new reps can implement to shorten sales cycles.
As I said, every onboarding process is different, but the end goal is always the same: teach new employees how to be successful and drive your company forward.
“Sales onboarding is the point in which, regardless of the employee’s prior experience or professional style, you can get them on the same page with the rest of your sales team.“Erin Banta, Co-Founder, Pepper
Benefits of Effective Sales Onboarding
I won’t lie to you. Effective sales onboarding takes work. But the benefits will be more than worth the effort. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important advantages:
- Reduced ramp-up time: A sales onboarding program will enable new sales reps to reach peak productivity levels faster. Once they have the necessary knowledge and tools, they can start closing deals and generating revenue at a quicker pace.
- Higher sales performance: When salespeople receive comprehensive training, they gain the confidence and skills required to excel in their roles. This leads to improved sales performance and more revenue for the organization.
- Increased employee retention: Effective onboarding helps new hires feel supported and valued. Investing in their development from the very beginning of their tenure with your company can enhance employee satisfaction and reduce turnover rates.
- Alignment with company objectives: Sales onboarding ensures new team members understand their company’s goals—and how their role contributes to its success. This alignment will help foster a sense of purpose in their work.
- Enhanced customer relationships: When new sales team members understand their company’s products and services, they can effectively communicate the value proposition to potential customers and address pain points. This leads to stronger customer relationships and increased customer satisfaction.
By implementing an effective sales onboarding program, companies can set their new employees up for success, drive revenue growth, and foster a positive sales culture. In other words, the benefits of sales onboarding far outweigh the effort required to implement this process.
8 Key Components of Your Sales Onboarding Plan
When it comes to employee onboarding, there are several key components to consider. Miss on any of them, and your new salespeople won’t reach their potential.
Include these components, however, and your sales department will effectively train and integrate new sales hires from their very first day with your company.
With that in mind, consider this section to be an onboarding checklist, which you can use to evaluate your onboarding strategy and ensure it’s up to snuff.
Your sales onboarding plan needs to establish clear expectations.
By the time a new hire completes the onboarding process, they should understand their roles and responsibilities and the goals they are expected to achieve.
Setting these expectations during the first month will help new hires align their efforts with your organization and work towards common company initiatives.
“I recommend building a company story. How would you describe your company’s mission and vision? In what ways does your company strive to achieve its values? What are your strengths? What makes it unique from your competitors? Explain these things to new hires.“Tristan Harris, Sr. Digital Marketing Manager, Thrive Digital Marketing Agency
Sales Training Materials
Make sure your sales onboarding process includes comprehensive training materials.
These materials should cover your organization’s products and services; specific sales techniques new salespeople should implement; and the frameworks, methodologies, and outreach processes said reps can use to close deals faster and more consistently.
Finally, ensure your in-depth training programs provide reps with an understanding of the various sales tools (think CRM software) they’ll need to use to carry out their responsibilities.
“Providing sales enablement materials during the onboarding process reinforces what points and information are critical to mention to potential prospects and sets your sales managers up for success.“Shelley Hancock, Shelley Hancock Consulting
Product and Industry Knowledge
Your onboarding strategy should help new sales hires develop a strong understanding of your organization’s products and services, as well as the industry in which they operate.
What do your products do? What pricing structure do you use for your professional services? Who are your company’s top competitors, and how do your offerings compare to theirs?
Successful sales initiatives require in-depth product training and industry knowledge. By giving these things to your new sales hires, you’ll ensure they have the information to effectively communicate with customers and drive sales.
“A must for every newbie is to go through our internal documentation on ICPs and competition.“Nebojsa Savicic, Co-founder, Plainly
Essential Sales Skills
Your sales onboarding plan should focus on developing essential sales skills.
For example, how should new employees nurture leads? How should they handle objections? And how can they become experts at closing deals? Your onboarding strategy should include training sessions on all essential sales topics, from making sales calls to updating CRMs.
Why? Because training is the only way your sales reps will learn the necessary competencies. Once they have them, they can confidently engage with prospects and customers, shorten sales cycles, and ultimately drive sales growth for your organization.
Knowing what to do in specific sales situations is one thing. Doing it in a real-world scenario is another. Role-playing will allow new sales hires to get hands-on and in-person experience with important sales techniques—all within a controlled environment.
Make sure your employee onboarding procedures include role-playing exercises.
As a sales manager, you can really help your sales team with this. Sit down with them and pretend to be Prospect ABC from Company XYZ. Then ask your new rep to sell to you. When they finish, you can give them constructive feedback they can use to improve.
Build training programs that include role-playing exercises. Force new employees to implement what they’ve learned regarding ideal customer pain points, sales strategies, and preferred company workflows. Your salespeople will be better for it.
“Role-playing exercises enable sales reps to practice handling objections, demonstrate product knowledge, and deliver persuasive pitches. This hands-on experience helps improve their communication skills and lets them develop effective sales strategies. As sales reps become more comfortable through role-playing, they approach their work with enthusiasm. This positive mindset carries over to their actual sales interactions, leading to better customer engagement, stronger relationships, and increased sales performance.“Normand Chevrette, President & CEO, CME CORP
Shadow Experienced Salespeople
Allow new hires to shadow your sales department’s top sellers. That way, they can observe the strategies and techniques used by seasoned professionals to close a high volume of deals.
There are two ways to teach salespeople. One, you throw them into the fire and hope they learn from their mistakes. Or two, you show them how other team members achieve success, then ask them to do the same. The second option has a much higher success rate.
“Pair new sales team members with experienced mentors, or allow them to shadow successful sales reps. Hands-on learning and exposure to real-life sales scenarios accelerates the learning process and builds confidence.“Vaibhav Kakkar CEO, Digital Web Solutions
Assess and Providing Feedback
Ensure your sales onboarding plan includes assessments and feedback sessions.
You need to check in with new sales hires regularly to make sure they understand their roles, how to sell within your sales process, how to use the various sales tools in your department’s tech stack, etc. You then need to give them feedback on their performance.
Just make sure that your feedback is constructive. Identify areas of improvement in a way that encourages growth rather than stealing each rep’s self-confidence.
Also, feedback should flow both ways. Allow new sales reps to give you feedback. What do they think would make your employee onboarding program more effective?
(Note: your reps might not share anything with you during onboarding. So follow up with them at a later date. They might have more insight to share once they’ve completed the whole process.)
“Regular feedback sessions, both from managers and peers, are invaluable for guiding new reps’ growth and identifying areas for improvement.“Abhishek Shah, Founder, Testlify
Continuous Learning and Development
Remember that sales onboarding is not a one-time event—at least, it shouldn’t be. The best sales departments understand that onboarding is an ongoing process.
Does that mean your sales team will never grow from your basic sales training regimens? Of course not. Successful sales organizations prioritize continuous learning and development by providing their reps with tickets to in-person workshops, access to online courses and certification programs, and other resources they can use to sharpen their skills.
By investing in your reps’ growth, you can ensure the long-term success of your team.
“You still want to ensure your sales reps develop into highly-skilled professionals that understand your product inside and out, so it’s essential to include a robust continuous development program. Training never ends in sales—it simply evolves, and your team must evolve and grow alongside it!“Denise Hemke, Chief Product Officer, Checkr
5 Best Practices for Effective Sales Onboarding
Now that we’ve covered the key components of an effective sales onboarding plan, let’s talk about a few best practices you can use to turbocharge your employee onboarding efforts.
Create a Structured Onboarding Program
A structured onboarding program is crucial to provide new sales reps a complete and consistent learning experience. Why? Because it will help them better understand your company’s culture, the products or services you sell, and the sales processes you use.
By building an organized curriculum—complete with plenty of sales enablement materials, clear goals, and a realistic timeline—you can establish a solid foundation for their success.
“One of the ways that we’ve been able to get our sales reps up to speed quickly is by having a very structured onboarding program that uses a lot of videos to help them get really clear on our processes. Using video helps to reinforce what new reps are learning because we start with a short written lesson first, then use the video to go more in-depth and provide real-world examples of what the new reps are learning. This also caters to employees’ learning preferences, as many people prefer video over text-based learning.“Corey Donovan, President of Alta Technologies
Tailor Onboarding to Each Individual Sales Rep
Every sales rep has unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. Don’t create an employee onboarding process that fails to consider this.
Instead, build a sales onboarding plan catering to each rep’s needs. Doing so will allow you to optimize their learning experience, leading to greater success—both for the reps you train and your sales department as a whole.
If you’re wondering, “What does personalized onboarding actually look like?” I’ve got you:
Assign reps specific training sessions and messaging templates that address their most prominent weaknesses. Pair them with mentors who can connect with them on a personal level. (More on sales mentorship below.) And offer them any other support they may require.
This approach will ensure each sales rep receives the guidance they need to excel.
Utilize Technology for Onboarding
Technology can enhance a variety of tasks for sellers, including sales onboarding.
Think about it: once you have access to the right platforms, you’ll be able to easily share online training modules, pre-recorded webinars, and other forms of training with new sales reps. The result? Additional learning opportunities are presented in highly engaging ways.
On a related note, your onboarding strategy should teach new hires how to use the specific sales tools in your company’s tech stack. I’m talking about your sales department’s CRM software and its integration partners, your internal messaging app, etc.
Essentially, if the tool appears in your department’s workflow, new reps need to learn to use it.
“Today’s sales team is heavily backed by sales tech ranging from CRM communication platforms to lead generation and social media marketing tools. These tools undoubtedly offer sales reps the opportunity to align their task list to efficiency, productivity, and overall company strategy, even if they’re new to the role. All this is possible only when we have an onboarding process that provides our new sales professionals with the training they need to master our tech stack. When new sales reps learn and master the software and tools we use in our organization, they find it easier to understand how the latest sales technologies drive our overall sales strategy.”Ariav Cohen, VP of Marketing and Sales, Proprep
Incorporate Real-Life Scenarios
New sales hires need more than head knowledge. They need hands-on experience to ensure they’re prepared for the rigors of their new job. Because of this, every employee onboarding process should incorporate real-world scenarios into its training program.
You can do this via role-playing exercises and/or allowing new reps to shadow veteran sellers. Both strategies will help recruits develop their skills and boost their confidence.
Foster Collaboration and Mentorship
Lastly, encourage collaboration among sales team members, as this can enhance the onboarding experience. Actually, take it a step further and build entire mentorship programs.
By pairing new sales reps with experienced sellers, new reps can learn from those who’ve already achieved success. They can then use the tips, tricks, and best practices they pick up from their mentor to connect with more prospects and close more deals.
“One way that we set our new sales reps up for success is pairing them with a learning buddy during the onboarding process. We’ve found that this buddy process helps reps feel more confident, better understand their role and responsibilities, and start working full-time sooner than if they were entirely on their own.“David Janovic, CEO, RJ Living
Measuring the Effectiveness of Sales Onboarding
Is your sales onboarding plan working? You won’t know until you measure it.
This is a vital part of the process. Skip it, and new sales reps might not be able to achieve the success you want for them. After all, a key piece of the puzzle might be missing.
Fortunately, you can easily assess your onboarding efforts by tracking sales performance and metrics, gathering feedback from sales reps and managers, and evaluating time-to-ramp and retention rates. Let’s explore these three elements in greater detail.
Tracking Sales Performance and Metrics
One of the best ways to measure your sales onboarding efforts is to track performance metrics for the new salespeople on your team.
Doing so will allow you to analyze their progress, which will give you the concrete data you need to assess the impact of your employee onboarding strategy.
Start by defining key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your onboarding goals. These could be metrics like revenue generated, deals closed, or customer satisfaction ratings.
Then regularly monitor these metrics and compare them to the performance of experienced sales reps. That way, you can identify areas of improvement in your onboarding program.
Gathering Feedback from Sales Reps and Managers
Another way to measure your sales onboarding plan is to simply gather feedback.
What do your new hires think of the process? What do the other sales managers in your company think? You can learn about your program’s pros and cons by soliciting their input.
For example, new sales reps might love the training sessions you’ve put together for them but find it difficult to connect with other sellers in your company. Once you understand this struggle, you can adjust your onboarding efforts for greater collaboration.
The question is, how do you get this feedback? There are a couple of different ways:
- Host regular check-in meetings: Invite folks into your office and ask them what they think about your onboarding process. Straight up. This is the easiest route. Just know that fresh recruits might not feel comfortable enough to answer honestly.
- Conduct anonymous surveys: Send a survey to new hires after their first month. You shouldn’t have trouble getting honest answers as long as the survey is truly anonymous. This option takes a bit more work but may prove more useful.
Whichever method you choose, ask new reps for specific information about the clarity of expectations, the quality of training materials, and the level of support received during onboarding. And ask sales managers about the preparedness and performance of new hires.
The feedback you receive will help you pinpoint areas of your onboarding program to improve.
Evaluating Time-to-Ramp and Retention Rates
Finally, evaluate the time it takes new reps to ramp up and become productive.
How long does it take them to achieve key milestones, such as making their first sale or reaching a certain level of quota attainment? Now compare these time frames to accepted industry benchmarks to gauge the effectiveness of your onboarding program.
I also suggest tracking retention rates. This metric will tell you a lot about how prepared new sales reps are for long-term success. How so? High retention rates suggest new hires have the skills and support they need to feel comfortable and succeed. In other words, it will tell you if your onboarding efforts are actually achieving your goals.
Time to ramp and retention rate metrics will help you determine the efficiency of your training and support systems. Use them to improve your company’s sales onboarding program.
“In 2023, reducing ramp-time is more important than ever. Scaling our sales team to 100+ reps, we developed an effective onboarding process including a setup of meetings to learn about sales materials, sales process, our product, personas. This was supported by well-documented self-onboarding materials, a buddy program, and role-playing situations to demo to the team before hitting the road. Our onboarding process seamlessly merged into our continuous training program to ensure we’re creating a great buyer experience, and made our reps successful.“Janis Zech, Founder and CEO, WeFlow
Better Onboarding, Better Business
Sales onboarding is essential if you want to maximize your sales team’s potential.
By providing new hires with the necessary training and resources, you can ensure your salespeople are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. You’ll also enjoy higher employee retention rates and greater customer satisfaction. Win!
Fortunately, effective onboarding isn’t some mystical art. If you implement the advice in this article, you can build a stellar program that propels your company forward.