Onboarding: Balancing Learning & Performance

By Irina Soriano

Losing a fully ramped salesperson is very costly especially within their first year of employment. Between administrative and hiring cost, onboarding, training … you might face an average cost of 150-200% of the annual salary to replace them. This could be painful to any business, but detrimental to start-ups that are scaling their operation. To address this problem, the root should be analyzed: Do you have a consistent approach to hiring the right talent?

What are your hiring criteria and competencies per role? How do you know these competencies will bring in the right talent? Is your hiring process aligned to these competencies? How have your sales leaders been trained to interview? 

The list of questions to consider is long. I will cover this topic in more depth in one of my next articles. For the purpose of this post, I will assume you have a consistent hiring process in place.

Your Sales Onboarding program will be crucial to creating a “positive experience”for your new employee during their first year with the company. A fully set up Sales Onboarding should go beyond the initial weeks of close interaction with your new hire. The length of your program can be debated, of course. I personally feel your sales reps should be at least fully ramped before onboarding officially ends. Ramp time depends on the length of your sales cycle. By “positive experience”I mean two things: LEARNINGand PERFORMANCE. I have seen a lot of onboarding programs that solely focus on the learning component assuming the learning will eventually lead to performance (Finger-Crossing Approach).

When it comes to the learning component, you might decide to drive an ILT (Instructor-Led Training) or an E-Learning approach – maybe a blend of the two. The goal would be to train and educate your new hire on your company, business, culture, people, product/service, sales process, and methodology.

But is this enough to ensure your new sales hire will PERFORM within the desired time frame?

If you ever sat in the sales chair, you would know that bringing in little or no new business within expected timelines will certainly not create a “positive experience” for any sales person. So how can you ensure you help decrease ramp time through your Sales Onboarding program? One of the answers is using a blended approach to provide LEARNING and to drive PERFORMANCE at the same time. That’s why effective Sales Onboarding programs take a while to be set up. Create a blend of the following options:


ILT (Instructor-Led Training in Classroom)PRO:Classroom training during the first 2-3 days of employment or a sales boot camp – creating a classroom learning experience can be especially valuable if you have remote salespeople. It helps create an initial bond with the company and other employees. CON:Especially for start-up businesses flying employees around the globe can be very costly and requires time investment from trainers, SMEs and the employees.

VILT (Virtual-Instructor Led Training)PRO:With a geographically dispersed sales workforce, VILTs are a great option to maintain the human element of the learning experience. Everybody can be in the same “room”, while actually being in a different place. There are fabulous teleconferencing solutions that allow you to set up virtual training rooms for activities to make training more interactive. CON:Following virtually led training can be draining when they last too long. It is harder to control participation and engagement. Be sure to use the right tool and control duration.

E-LEARNINGPRO:With a user-friendly LMS, e-learning is a wonderful tool to provide flexible learning experiences during Sales Onboarding. Include videos, certifications, enablement recordings to make it less stale. Especially helpful when training a lot of new hires in different locations (easy to scale). Very cost effective. CON:No human interaction. When modules or learning paths are too long, they can get boring. Focus on micro learning.

PERFORMANCE: Blend these into your Sales Onboarding!

SALES COACHINGTeaching your sales managers how to do 1-2-1 sales coaching can have a huge impact on driving performance during onboarding. Having a coaching methodology with a clean set up – activity – debriefstructure that can be used to live coach behavior during customer calls and meetings is a GAME CHANGER. It helps sales managers deliver clear feedback focused on very specific areas the sales rep wants to improve. An extremely powerful tool for any sales organization to decrease ramp time! You can blend sales coaching into your certification process or set up sales coaching session throughout your onboarding program.

RAMP GOALS & EXPECTATIONSThere is nothing worse than joining an organization and not knowing what is expected of you. Setting clear ramp goals and explaining expectations on DAY 1 is very important to help drive performance. Monthly ramp goals will depend on the length of your sales cycle, the industry you are in and the tools you have available to track performance. Some ideas could be: quota achievement & pipeline (per sales stage), accounts worked, calls/emails/meetings, ARR, win rate, ACV, self-sourced opportunities, and so on. Have employees track their own ramp goals monthly/bi-weekly, so they are in control of staying on track with their performance. This is also valuable for sales managers to gain clarity where more sales coaching is needed.

These are just some ideas to help balance LEARNINGand PERFORMANCEduring Sales Onboarding. It also comes down to allow new hires to actually make time early on to understand their territory and to prospect, prospect, prospect. The earlier you allow time for these activities, the faster you can …


Author, Irina Soriano is Director of Global Enablement & Training at Percolate 

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