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New Sales Hires, New Learners

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Using five key pillars, develop an effective onboarding program to ensure salespeople's success.

Companies are increasingly embracing the sales enablement field on a global scale, and as a result, the number of people on LinkedIn with "enablement" as part of their title has tripled between 2017 and 2020, according to Paul Krajewski's Sales Enablement blog. That could be indicative of the business world's larger realization of something that enablement practitioners have known for a long time: A productive and engaged salesforce requires effective enablement.


Now, what does effective enablement look like? Every enablement guru will likely tell you something different. To me, one of the first things that comes to mind is a comprehensive, engaging, and application-based onboarding program.

What it is

Onboarding and enablement have a symbiotic relationship. With effective enablement comes dynamic onboarding, and with dynamic onboarding comes effective enablement. The goal of onboarding should be to ensure that new hires receive the right support on day one, regardless of whether they have been in SaaS for years or are fresh out of undergrad and their first sales experience was waiting tables.

How it works

The sales enablement function at Top Hat, an ed tech scale-up based in Toronto, Canada, designed a three-week onboarding program to accommodate various learning preferences through bespoke teaching methods that provide a dynamic experience for any customer-facing employee. Built on five foundational elements, it features a combination of lecture, asynchronous module and assignment completion, simulated application of concepts through activities like mock demos and role plays, and on-the-job experience.


The five pillars can help you develop an effective sales enablement onboarding program. Use them as levers to build competence and confidence among customer-facing representatives.

Communicate the company's messaging and positioning. With little or no understanding of the company's messaging and positioning, there can be no consistency in the pitch. At Top Hat, we use playbooks to disseminate our master messaging. The revenue enablement manager breaks down the messaging line by line, so that learners can understand the pitch's contextual significance. From there, learners break into groups or pairs to practice the pitch.

Everyone should have their elevator pitch down by the end of the first week. Your aim should be to ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn book, even if their tune is slightly different from their neighbors.

Build new hires' sales acumen. No matter how long a person has been in sales, it is still an ever-changing, ever-evolving field. That means sales reps need to continually sharpen their axes by being lifelong students of the craft. Any credible onboarding program will not overlook that factor. Everything from tonality to discovery to objection handling are advantageous to include in your programming, even for the most seasoned salespeople.

We start by breaking apart the sales cycle with a deal from a top performer and having new hires listen to part of the sale that we would consider exemplar. We then pair learners so they can try it for themselves. The revenue enablement manager oversees the mock sessions and provides participants with feedback.

Enhance sales makers' product knowledge. Some of the most confident salespeople I've met are the ones who know their solution inside and out. Sales reps can sell a dream, or they can truly understand the solution and what gaps it may or—sometimes more importantly—may not fill for customers.

Our new hires complete self-paced product modules to gain perspective on what it is like to be an end user of the product that they will be selling. The modules are application based in that learners read a bit about a specific functionality, then go into their sandbox course to try creating it on their own. New hires also must use the product to give a presentation to the class about a topic of their choice.

Familiarize new hires with the competitive landscape. Your salespeople are going to be hit with an objection about a competitor at one point or another. When that happens, don't leave them scrambling for an answer. Be honest with new hires about your company's position in the market, its strengths, its weaknesses, what customers love about the company, and what the company is working hard to change.

Our learners mainly receive the company's competitive landscape knowledge via lecture, with a facilitated discussion afterward. We break down all the products that Top Hat competes with directly, somewhat directly, and indirectly, which helps learners understand the multiple spaces in which our company competes.

Equip them with tools to succeed. There are so many incredible sales enablement tools these days. Take an honest inventory of your sales organizations' needs to decide on what tools are right for the sales team based on such factors as productivity, ramp time, ease of coaching, and access to effective enablement and marketing assets.


Once you have the right tech stack, ensure that you are spending a significant portion of the onboarding program training new hires on how to maximize value with those tools. The sales enablement team becomes part of your company's return on investment by showing new hires how to get the most out of the organization's customer relationship management system, content repository, conversation intelligence tool, etc., on a day-to-day basis.


We've achieved some tremendous results since revamping our program in 2017 using the five pillars. In 2020, the revenue enablement team onboarded more than 100 people in a company with a total staff of just more than 350. New hires saw an average quota attainment of 80 percent between January 2020 and September 2020. In addition, customer satisfaction survey scores consistently track at 94 percent or higher.

In developing an effective sales enablement program, remember that you and your team are accountable for ensuring sales reps have the knowledge, resources, processes, tools, and confidence to service their customers effectively. Further, when you build a customer-centric enablement program that keeps all learners' journeys top of mind, you help people do their jobs better, which in turn boosts the business's bottom line.

Checklist: Onboarding Sales Reps

  • Communicate the company's messaging and positioning.
  • Build new hires' sales acumen.
  • Enhance sales makers' product knowledge.
  • Familiarize new hires with the competitive landscape.
  • Equip them with tools to succeed.


Bray, C., and H. Sorey. 2017. The Sales Enablement Playbook, 1st ed. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

Gong Labs. The Revenue Intelligence Blog. gong.io/blog.

Moore, A., and M. Ho. 2020. Sales Onboarding: Launching Productivity. Whitepaper. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

Sales Enablement PRO. 2020. State of Sales Enablement 2020. Seattle, WA: Sales Enablement PRO.

About the Author

Vanessa Metcalf leads the enablement function at the fast-growing Canadian ed-tech company Top Hat. She is professionally passionate about seeing other people win, advocating for the needs of customer-facing revenue folks, and doing her part to grow the enablement field in Canada.

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