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How to Know When Your Sales Onboarding Program Is Good Enough
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
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Does your sales onboarding program feel like it’s never done? Are you making significant revisions every time it runs?

Here’s the deal. How often—and how much—you change your sales onboarding program should directly reflect the level of change in your company. So if your company is going through a lot of upheaval—like a shift in sales roles and responsibilities or a product launch—expect lots of changes to your onboarding program. However, if your company is fairly stable, you might ask yourself why the program is constantly being tweaked.

It may be that you don’t know when good enough is truly good enough—and when it’s safe to re-focus your energy on projects that can have a bigger impact. In fact, after a certain point, additional changes can result in diminishing returns.

Your sales onboarding program is good enough when new sales reps have a specific plan that enables them to do their job over the course of their first 90 days. That plan is actually multiple plans. And, as you’ll see, creating it requires that you both know what is expected of sales reps during their first 90 days and that you do some legwork to capture best practices to incorporate into your sales onboarding program.

Here are the seven “mini-plans” that comprise a larger strategy that sales reps should have in place when they complete your sales onboarding program.

Prospecting Plan  

If they are responsible for prospecting, sales reps should have a plan that specifies how they are expected to research and reach out to prospects. The more concrete you can get, the better. Specify the amount of time to spend on researching. And, then be sure to note the number of emails to send and the number of calls to make. You’ll also want to create email templates and call scripts that include cadence and sequences. It doesn’t make sense to send the same email or leave the same voice mail repeatedly. Since lots of sales people procrastinate about prospecting, make this a daily plan. 

Qualifying Plan 

New sales reps should be crystal clear on the criteria to grade prospects green, yellow, or red. Green is your perfect customer. Yellow is a maybe. And, red is no way. They should also have a list of questions to ask to make this decision. 

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Keep in Touch Plan (aka Lead Nurturing) 

Not everyone will be ready to buy immediately. Sales reps should have a clear plan to stay top of mind by sending valuable content at pre-determined intervals to green and yellow prospects. You should identify this content and the accompanying email sequence and cadence. 

Follow-Up Plan 

We’ve all experienced the vanishing prospect. New sales reps should have a plan to deal with this that specifies how to get in touch, when, what to say, and when it no longer makes financial sense to pursue this elusive opportunity. 

Objection Handling Plan 

The path to a sale is littered with objections from the first contact to the final close. New sales reps need to know when objections are likely to occur and what the most common ones are. They also need to know how to handle them so that they don’t impede a sale that should happen. 

Sales Meeting Plan

I use the term “meeting” here loosely. A sales meeting can be anything from an initial discovery call to a formal presentation. Take some time to identify the most likely “meetings” sales reps will find themselves in. Then, map out an agenda that includes specific objectives for each. You don’t want a new sales rep to find him or herself in a meeting unsure of how to proceed. 

To-Do List Plan 

This plan specifies exactly what a new sales rep should do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. This plan does not have to account for every hour of every day. But, it should specify the non-negotiable-must-be-done items. This plan can include administrative items, like updating the CRM as well as specific selling tasks. What this helps to avoid is the sales rep who is busy checking social media because he or she is not sure what to do next. 

My Personal Experience 

While I am sure that there are a few “plans” I am forgetting, the idea is to give new sales reps a very specific road map that they can execute on. Let me tell you a story to show you why this is so important.

Some of you know that I take ballet class. I’ve observed that when the choreography is straightforward and I know what step comes next, my transitions are smoother and I am able to really listen to and move with the music. In other words, I can focus on artistry. However, when the choreography is complicated and I have to focus on the steps, well…that artistry goes right out window. I am too busy trying to remember what step comes next to pay attention to how I am doing each step.

Similarly, you don’t want your new sales reps to have to focus on what comes next. When they know what they have to do, they can pay attention to how they are doing it. This is how they develop and improve their selling skills. When your sales onboarding program accomplishes this, you will know that it’s good enough.

About the Author
Diane Valenti, founder of Applied Performance Solutions, Inc., uses her instructional design ninja skills to help companies reduce their sales onboarding ramp time and help sales teams rapidly acquire product knowledge. She works with Fortune 500 and startup companies, alike. Get Diane’s checklist to learn if you are making these 10 incredibly common mistakes that slow sales onboarding.
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