New Hire Onboarding 101

There is high employee turnover in the sales industry, and there is extremely high employee turnover in the technology sales industry.

Diagnosing the cause of high turnover, and understanding what we can do to reduce it will be the topic of a future blog post from In the Funnel- Toronto Sales Consulting. For now we will assume that inducting new sales people is a requirement for companies big and small.

In keeping with the mission of In the Funnel (and this blog), we summarize below some recommendations for creating and executing an onboarding plan that will maximize the New Hire’s chances of sales success with your firm.

The objectives of a formal New Hire onboarding program are to:

  • Ensure the New Hire becomes a productive, successful, permanent member of your team.
  • Decrease the time required for the New Hire to make a material contribution to your team.
  • Establish milestones to provide the New Hire with real time feedback on their performance during their onboarding period.

Do not delegate this to HR. The New Hire onboarding program must be created and driven by sales leadership.

The key components to an effective New Hire onboarding program include the following activities.

1. Pre-Start Set Up Activities – Your Firm

You will show the New Hire how important they are to your firm by the professionalism and thoroughness of your preparation for their onboarding (and first day arrival).  We suggest the following:

  • Send reference materials on your firm for them to review prior to their start date (presentations, proposals, press releases etc.).
  • Send a copy of “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins. This is an excellent read on strategies to reduce ‘time to value’ for new employees.

Provide the New Hire with a copy of your formal onboarding program and calendar in advance of day 1:

  • This will let them know how seriously you are taking this process and give them an orientation to the level of work required from them to succeed.
  • Distribute an announcement on the New Hire to the company two weeks prior to the New Hire’s arrival (cc New Hire)
  • Ensure that the New Hire’s environment is ready BEFORE their first day.
  • Desk  / laptop / mobile devices(s)  / email / phone voicemail / sales force login / business cards / etc.

2. Pre-start Preparation Activities – New Hire

The New Hire can prepare for Day 1 based on their assessment of the Onboarding Program (which they receive immediately after accepting the offer letter).

They should arrive prepared to present (i) an introduction of themselves to their peers, and (ii) an elevator pitch on your company to the executive team. If they are aware of the vertical market to which they are going to be selling, we would also advise that they arrive prepared to speak to that market.

3. Day 1 Orientation

Day 1 for the New Hire must include at a minimum:

  • Meet and greet with Sales Leader and/or Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Office introductions – with Sales Leader
  • HR meeting (payroll / benefits / security passes / rules of conduct if applicable)
  • Informal lunch with peer(s)
  • Review of the sales plan or sales playbook by Sales Leader

4. Field Fast-Start Program

The New Hire must develop knowledge in four domains to position themselves for success within 60 days of onboarding. These are:

  • Company
  • History / Strategy / Structure / People
  • Sales Organization
  • Sales plan / Core principles / Objectives / Sales methodology
  • Industry
  • Target market  / Competition
  • Our Solutions
  • Value proposition / Tie to customer’s desired business outcome

The intent of the field fast-start program is to enable learning and development across these  domains. Each week will be structured to provide (i) content (ii) practical exposure (iii) testing, and (iv) feedback in these categories.

A natural cadence is to provide some form of content and practical exposure in the week prior to the New Hire presenting to the team. For example, they may receive product training on software solution 1 during week 1 and present a demo on the same at the end of week. Over a six week period, the New Hire might present on the following topics:

  • Company
  • Sales Process
  • Industry and Competition
  • Their target market
  • Your solutions/demos
  • Their territory plan

We will also need to expose the new hire to our prospects and customers during their onboarding program.

One suggestion is that they shadow an existing sales person for 3–5 customer calls and then book a number of their own approach calls to new prospects The Sales Leader should join them for support in this activity.

5. Evaluation Milestones

The New Hire will have a weekly one to one with their Sales Leader.  The expectation of a weekly presentation will provide an excellent outlet for immediate and relevant feedback during the first one to one’s.

The typical challenge here is  enforcing the discipline of the weekly one to one. Many sales managers and leaders consider these “optional” and defer them in favour of priority customer meetings. Our advice is to establish a schedule for the meetings at the start of the onboarding program and stick to them as they are critical feedback events to keep the New Hire on track.

6. The Final Milestone

Prior to “unleashing” the New Hire on their territory, they must create and present their quarterly sales plan to the executive or sales team. This is their strategy and tactical plan for the first full quarter in their territory after their 60 days of onboarding. This plan should include specific weekly goals and objectives for approach calls and sales funnel development. This plan will also be the reference for future one to one’s to evaluate progress.