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Is Your Sales Onboarding Too Long?


Tue May 10 2016

Is Your Sales Onboarding Too Long?
Is Your Sales Onboarding Too Long?-bb1c2ebf7561d331a842aa0af63855920ab5e76b3f58cb61f2780e900c1aaeda

I recently attended one of the premier conferences for entrepreneurs. It packed tremendous value into a short time with presentations by such superstars as serial entrepreneurs Devin and Melanie Duncan and UGG founder Brian Smith. I couldn’t have asked for a better learning experience. 

Yet before the last slide for the last session was shown, I slipped out the side door to catch an early flight home. I felt, and am pretty sure looked, like a wrung-out dishrag. I simply couldn’t absorb one more piece of information. I figured I’d get a copy of the slides and watch the recorded session at a later date when I could actually get something out of it. 


Want to guess how long the conference was? Two days. That’s right, two measly days. Lest you think I am some sort of super wimp, I wasn’t the only one who slipped out early or sported the glazed-eyed look of the proverbial deer in headlights. 

Quick question for you: How long is your sales onboarding? And if I was toast after two days of information cramming, how do you think your brand-new sales reps feel after you subject them to two or more weeks of sales onboarding? 

While your sales reps can’t slip out early as I did, there are other, nonphysical ways of checking out. If your sales reps are mentally miles away, how much are they really getting out of training? 

Let’s take a look at what makes learning such an exhausting experience. During the conference, I was engaged in the following activities: 

  • sitting, listening, and paying attention for extended periods of time 

  • deciding what to include in my copious notes 

  • deciding if, when, and how I might use the information being presented in my day-to-day work 

  • exchanging additional ideas with my fellow participants during breaks and meals. 

All of these activities are mentally taxing. And, when I don’t get to learn a little and then practice applying it, it is akin to eating all of my meals for the week on Sunday and then burning the calories for the next six days. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? 


The same applies to your sales reps. If you stuff them with information, I can guarantee that a bunch of it is leaking out and more never even makes it in. 

I get it: You’ve got two, or even three, weeks for sales onboarding. How can you make it a more effective learning experience? My recommendation is to set it up like a series of meals. This means you do a little training (eating) followed by a little application (calorie burning). And, when I say application, I don’t just mean role play and other classroom activities. I also mean real work assignments. 

Your onboarding might be structured like this: 

This way, you can conduct your onboarding for weeks without burning out your sales reps. 

At the end of the program, I recommend assigning reps to work in teams to complete a project that gives them a chance to use as much of what they learned as possible. For example, you could ask them to conduct a mock sales call or prepare a mock sales presentation. 


This structure allows new sales reps to absorb what you are teaching and incorporate it into their work routine. Isn't this, after all, the purpose of sales onboarding?

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