Today’s post is by Lauren Bailey, the former global head of telesales training for SAP and current president of Factor 8, an award-winning consulting and training company specializing in inside sales. She has been recognized as a Top 25 professional in inside sales and is a top 100 sales coach to follow in 2017.
Been thinking that revenue targets would be easier to crush if your new hires would ramp up to speed more quickly? You’re spot on, my friend.
Best-in-class onboarding (or new-hire training) programs go well beyond the standard “welcome to the company” orientation and dive into actual job training. But most programs stop after introducing reps to their new systems and product. This leaves reps on their own to figure out things like:
- Who do I call first?
- How do I give a demo?
- What do I say if they ask me about the product?
The result? Long ramp-up times – while the reps use experience to supplement what they could have been taught. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a ramp-up period. Our goal is to shorten it.
I’ve been building and benchmarking sales rep onboarding programs for the past 15 years, and there are very few who don’t need help. Why? Because most trainers don’t actually get sales, and most sales leaders don’t usually get excited about sales training for new hires only – they consider it a sandbox thing.
A great onboarding program is a killer combination of both worlds. Incidentally, a great program can also shrink your rep attrition. Keep them longer, ramp them up faster; this is worth your investment, sales leaders!
Here are eight signs of a world-class rep onboarding program that you should start using immediately:
#1: Remember training for new hires is a process, not an event.
Think of it as “just-in-time training.” 100 percent classroom time is one to two weeks and then decreases gradually to once a month.
For example, a new hire is in full-time training for two weeks; but, by week four, they’re in class two hours a day – and, in week six, only one hour a day. By week eight it’s one hour a week. By month three (and for the rest of their tenure) they’re in training once a month.
For this reason, it is critical to focus reps’ first two weeks of training on only what they’ll need month one on the phone.
Why? They’ll have no idea what they don’t know yet. That means you’ll graduate a team of super-confident bad-asses that can’t wait to get on the phones. Perfect. Want to learn more? Check out my video on building “just in time” new hire training.
#2: Use call recordings.
This is my favorite tip. My theory is that ramp time is always present because it isn’t the “what to do or say” that takes a long time to get. It’s the “when do I do it or say it” that takes experience to really nail.
We shorten the “when do I say it?” learning curve by letting reps listen to call recordings. The recordings don’t have to be their own, and they shouldn’t all be great calls – just typical. It’s like reviewing game tapes before the big game – breaking down what the other team (customer) is doing and when they should have used the right play (skill). Check out my video on using “the pause game” with call recordings for instructions on this free and easy tip.
#3: All six critical components of a training program are included and mixed together.
- Systems and tools – CRM, intranet, lead management, etc.
- Product and service – be sure it’s “how to sell the product or service” and not “the full history of the product or service”
- Sales – how to sell our products over the phone (not generic sales 101 field training!)
- Process – how leads and orders get processed + rep and customers’ top 10 questions
- Acumen – business acumen, industry acumen, and customer acumen – these are critical!
- Manager integration – nope, lunch on day one isn’t enough. Get them more involved.
#4: Get sales reps on the phones (ASAP)!
This is kind of the Factor 8 motto. We put it on our T-shirts because we think it’s so important. If you can create an exercise where reps are calling current, potential, or even past customers by day two, do it! They can qualify leads, gather success stories, call cold leads – whatever! The right hires are itching to start calling, and the wrong hires will show reluctance and wash out. You’re welcome.
#5: Less than 30 percent is e-learning.
Sorry, large organizations – I know it’s so tempting! But classroom-based training is still the most effective for a reason: You can’t practice selling with a computer! Also, how engaging is your new hire’s experience when they’re clicking forward 200 times a day? Painful.
#6: Be rigorous.
In my experience, a good 25 percent of every new-hire class should not graduate training (yes, please be sure you’re hiring in groups, not “onesie-twosie”). When you really trust your training department, you’ll count on them to de facto manage reps during training and coach them out the door if they won’t make it. Start, stop, and break times should be like real life on the floor, and weekly tests let them know how they’re doing.
#7: Make sure training for new hires mimics the floor.
Quick-hit ways to do this:
- You have a systems sandbox for training (a monthly-updated mirror image of all systems)
- Phones and systems in the classroom for better role plays
- Dummy accounts or even real (low-scoring) accounts for practice
- Call coaching or quality forms approved by sales leadership used for role plays and testing
- Scenario-based testing. (Because, really, when is a real client going to say, “A – send me a quote; B, schedule a call back…”?)
#8: Don’t let HR teach reps how to sell.
There’s a difference between regular company training and sales training. Aberdeen recently reported that 85 percent of best-in-class sales teams use a professional sales curriculum or trainer. Sorry, HR, but that’s because, if these folks knew how to sell, they would actually sell. To learn what you need from a sales training vendor, check out my video, “What is good sales training?
Overwhelmed? Here are a few easy ways to start:
- Get to know your current onboarding training ASAP. Pick your best sales leader and charge them with shortening ramp. Attend training, learn about good training, partner with and assist your trainer with curriculum.
- Get the reports. Sales numbers won’t show you class-by-class ramp times unless you specifically build it. Believe me, it’s worth it.
- Close the loop. Are you reporting the top three skill gaps on the floor to training on a monthly or quarterly basis? Do you have the call coaching and rep meeting cadence in place to provide this?
- Get some help. Spend the money to bring in a professional sales training leader, someone to fix your program, or a great sales training curriculum. When sales reps ramp faster and stay longer, you’ll wish you’d budgeted for this three years ago!