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Improper Onboarding | Top Factors That Stop Sales Growth

Updated: November 2022

Improper Onboarding

Hiring and training a new salesperson is costly. From the day they start, they are instantly a negative cash flow to you until they start producing. So, the instinct for most companies is to get that person selling as fast as they can. This is logical. However, the shortcuts companies take to get those new salespeople selling can be counterproductive.

Onboarding is like Golf 

Consider this – you are a reasonably new golfer and want to get better, so you decide to take golf lessons. You go to a golf pro who spends a few hours over a couple of days teaching you how to drive, use your fairway woods, chip, hit sand shots and flop shots, read greens, putt, etc. You should be able to go shoot par now, right? 

Of course not.

You need to practice. Then you can shoot par, right? Again, not so fast. There is very little chance that you will remember everything your golf pro told you in those few short days. When you go practice, nobody is there to tell you whether you are doing things correctly or not. Your chances of becoming a good golfer without further help are meager.

What Typically Happens

This is pretty close to how many small businesses train new salespeople. They have the new person spend an hour or two in each department, shadow a successful salesperson, and get force-fed tons of information on the products, competition, and industry. Then are set free to produce. 

It's equivalent to drinking from the fire hose.

The total "onboarding” or “training" might last two days or two weeks. After that, the new salesperson stands the same chance of success as the inexperienced golfer described above. Unfortunately, even if you've hired an experienced salesperson with decent sales skills, they still have not yet learned your company's approach, sales process, differentiators, internal processes, etc. 

Businesses do this all the time, and when the salesperson fails and is terminated or leaves because they weren't making money, they repeat the process.

How to Avoid the Fire Hose Method 

So, what do you change to avoid this trap? There are a few things:

Make a Plan

Make a checklist of where your new salesperson should be in their training at 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. The best onboarding programs are structured with clear milestones, assignments, and a coaching plan to give specific feedback on the skills needed for the role. In addition, it helps to set up the coaching relationship with the sales leader and salesperson based on specific deliverables.

One of the ways to do this is to create a Learn/Do/Deliver template.

Learn - Do - Deliver Onboarding Tool

Learn

These are specifics that the new salesperson needs to know to be successful. Maybe it is the company elevator pitch, ideal client definition, and company values. They will grow their knowledge in these areas as they move across 30, 60, and 90 days.

Do

These are activities they should perform as part of training. This could include spending time in each department, shadowing other salespeople, creating target lists, going on calls, etc.

Deliver

This is the one that gets missed most often and is probably the most important. It is your validation that they can apply what they've learned. This could include giving you the elevator pitch or a presentation as if you were the prospect. Maybe you go along on some calls with them to see if they are asking the customer questions the right way. Perhaps they need to produce a specific number of new opportunities. 

The goal for the new salesperson to show you something that demonstrates that they understand the concepts and can apply them.

Use this grid as your training plan and checkpoints. Sit down with the salesperson at the end of each period and evaluate whether they are on track.

Reinforce the Plan

After the first few weeks and months are out of the way, training is not over. Continue to go on calls with them. When they do it right, reinforce the behavior. If they don't get it right, provide feedback and observations to correct it positively.

After you have defined your plan, make sure you'll reinforce it with your team.

Create a reinforcement strategy that includes conversations in one-on-ones, updates in sales team meetings, and a weekly email or dashboard that tracks the plan's progress. Be clear on what you want your team to do and how you will follow up with them.

Following up with your team reinforces excellent performance and behavior, while providing necessary feedback. For example, if you fail to "inspect what you expect," people will pick up on that quickly and be less compelled to do what is asked of them.

Following up keeps everyone on track and allows for solid accountability, transparency, and team alignment.

Stay on Top of Sales Training

Companies often come out with new products and services, enter new markets, and get new competitors. You'll want to follow a similar process; this ensures that salespeople can maximally sell the new product or service. Many new product or service trainings focus on the features and benefits, but miss training on the sales process and how the sales team will sell them. 

By incorporating a consistant sales process and training regularly, companies can ensure that their salespeople are continuously operating at peak performance. Set clear expectations about what they should do. Don't just expect that they will go off and start selling.

As a Result

Improper onboarding is one of the top factors that stop sales growth. If companies take shortcuts to get new salespeople to produce quickly, it's equivalent to drinking from the fire hose.

You must take the time to onboard your new salespeople properly if you want them to stick around and be successful. By implementing a plan and ensuring that your new hires are receiving the proper training, you can avoid the fire hose method and set them – and your company – up for success. 

Companies that utilize the fire hose method either get stuck in their growth or have a revolving door of salespeople that "didn't work out."

If you need help getting started, reach out to us. We would be happy to assist you in setting up a system that works for you and your team.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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