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Insights

Overcome Top Barriers to Effective Sales Onboarding

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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When hiring new salespeople, organizations can expect to spend weeks, or even months, getting them up to full productivity. That represents a huge cost—every week longer than necessary to reach productivity represents lost revenue—so organizations have a strong incentive to offer sales onboarding programs that get new sales representatives up to speed as fast as possible.

So, what obstacles should organizations watch out for when designing their sales onboarding programs?

According to the results of Sales Onboarding: Launching Productivity, a report from ATD Research, issues with sales managers are common. Cited by 56 percent of the report’s participants, sales managers not being held accountable for coaching or reinforcing what is taught in sales onboarding was the top barrier to effectiveness.

Challenges for Sales Managers

Steven Rath Morgan, former head of global learning and talent development at Xerox, says issues with holding managers accountable can stem from having geographically dispersed sales forces, another top barrier from the report. In his interview for Sales Onboarding, he suggests that having sales managers who work in different locations from the representatives they manage “can impede meaningful coaching.” To him, conversations between managers and sales representatives who don’t see each other often “become superficial via phone conversations with a focus” on giving numbers and highlights instead of driving employee growth.

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Solving Problems With Structured Video-Based Coaching

To confront issues with manager accountability and geographic dispersion, Rath Morgan recommends that organizations support sales onboarding with structured video-based coaching. Under such a system, sales representatives create short videos that showcase their sales skills. For example, they may record an "elevator pitch."

Then, the representative shares the video with the sales manager, plus an assigned sales coach, who each provide feedback. The key, though, is that the sales coach doesn’t just provide feedback to the rep. “They also provide feedback to the manager about the quality of the manager’s input,” explains Rath Morgan.

Rath Morgan says that, in his experience, a supervised remote coaching process holds managers accountable during sales onboarding because “it doesn’t just let them do the minimum.” With options to do the coaching synchronously or asynchronously, “flexibility can be designed into the program by L&D to engage managers as a core part of the onboarding process, holding them accountable for results.”

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About the Research

In fall 2019, ATD surveyed 141 talent development, sales enablement, human resources, and sales leadership professionals with knowledge of their organizations’ sales training programs and activities. Of these, 62 percent said that their organization has a sales onboarding program. Based on their responses and on interviews with subject matter experts, the report identifies practices that are associated with better sales performance.

The full report, sponsored by Upside Learning, is available for purchase here. ATD members can download the whitepaper for free. To learn more about the report, listen to the free webcast.

About the Author

Alex Moore is a junior research analyst for the Association for Talent Development. Alex returned to ATD in 2019 after spending a year living and working in Chile. Prior to moving abroad, Alex was a writer/editor for ATD working on TD magazine, a research coordinator at ATD, and a customer care advocate at ATD. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 with a B.A. in English.

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