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Sales Enablement Journey: Reimagining Sales Onboarding

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Tue Aug 27 2019

Sales Enablement Journey: Reimagining Sales Onboarding
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Our fearless leader asked us to solve for the problem of out-of-cycle new hires. We were offering one week of instructor-led sales training on a quarterly basis, with class sizes ranging from six to 20. Obviously, the schedule meant that a newly hired salesperson could potentially wait as long as 85 days to get the new hire sales training. This placed a burden on the line managers, both inside and in the field, because they had to get new staff productive as soon as possible.

We interviewed the managers and found that each of them had a slightly different process for onboarding new people. Not surprisingly, it wasn't consistent. But collectively, it was a pretty spectacular list of best practices.

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Along the way we realized we had a gap in our sales training. Salespeople work routes and call or visit their customers on a periodic basis. Over time, they get to know many of their customers through repeat visits. But when you are brand-new to a territory, you go out, introduce yourself, set expectations for the relationship, and maybe get some kind of commitments for next steps. This introductory round of visits only happens once, in the first 90 days in the company (unless you change territories). We were not training salespeople to make this first sweep. So this prep work was left up to the managers.

From there, we identified the sales competencies associated with this specific scenario, along with a conversation guide. In support of those skills, we developed 17, five-minute microlearning courses over a period of about two months. For voice talent we recruited four salespeople with great pipes. Many courses included video with expert demonstrations, and each had a short reinforcement quiz with softball questions.

So, we were good with content at that point, but we still had the problem of off-cycle new hires.

The solution? We created a revolving cycle of eight virtual instructor-led sessions. The pre-work for each session was two or three microlearning courses. The screens from the microlearning courses were also used in the virtual sessions to test for understanding, reinforce learning, and practice skills.

Each year, we rotate a few senior salespeople through a stretch role as sales trainers. This was a good opportunity for them to share their expertise by facilitating many of the virtual sessions. It was enriching for the new hires, because in addition to getting to know their manager and territorial teammates, they had access to additional experts who were there specifically to provide mentoring.

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These virtual sessions were delivered on Mondays and Fridays for four consecutive weeks. Regardless of start date, a new hire would immediately join their cohort and be welcomed into the sales and sales training community. Of course, the result was that people went through the training in different sequences. We agreed the trade-off was worth it, though, because it was timely, it was inclusive, and we were only covering what they really needed to know for the first 90 days.

A couple of thoughts on effective virtual training:

  • Facilitators should be on camera, looking directly into the lens to simulate the eye to eye experience. If the group is small, everyone should be on camera.

  • Take advantage of polling and breakout rooms so participants can work in small groups for a few minutes. Sales skills training should always include demonstrations and practice activities.

  • Consider assigning a producer to assist the facilitator with the meeting software.

  • Use a participant list to call on and involve everyone. You can avoid putting people on the spot by giving them some advance warning. For example, you might say, "In a minute, I am going to ask Danita and Marcus to share their thoughts on the topic…" or "I'm going to call on you in alphabetical order for this next segment."

Next up is chapter four on implementing competency-based skill assessment and field coaching tools.

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