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How to Onboard and Train New Sales Reps

James Roloff
James Roloff
3 min read
How to Onboard and Train New Sales Reps
Photo by Campaign Creators / Unsplash

In this episode of TABS (Talking About Business Strategy), I talk with Josh McDonald from Brainheart Growth.

We discuss the onboarding process for new sales hires. Josh shares his knowledge on crafting a great onboarding process and ways to avoid common sales training mistakes.

Show Notes

Why is it essential to have an onboarding plan for new sales reps?

Josh emphasizes that a great onboarding process lays the groundwork for success. Your job is to show people what success looks like and gives them a roadmap to get there.

When you fail to provide a good onboarding process, one of two things happens: 1) reps don't perform, or 2) they leave out of frustration. In both cases, these are costly mistakes. Not only do you lose out on the cost of the salary and benefits, but you also have opportunity costs from lost deals and time training.

What are the critical components of onboarding and training a new rep?

It can be challenging to create an out-of-the-box onboarding process. Josh said you should try to tailor the approach to the person and the role. However, there are some core principles that he said need to be included:

  • Sales Methodology - Josh says that the most important and ignored onboarding component is teaching your sales methodology. He notes that this is different than your sales "process." Your methodology is your philosophy on how you sell.
  • Business Knowledge - As many salespeople are selling to prospects higher up on the org chart, it's essential that they can have coherent and high-level business conversations. This means having business knowledge and an understanding of fundamental corporate performance metrics.
  • Persona Knowledge - Josh also recommends training on your buyer's persona. This allows your rep to truly understand your buyer's world - their compensation, their responsibilities, how they are measured, and the business impact of your solution.
  • Role Playing - Reps need feedback and coaching to succeed, and role playing is a great training tool. Josh also said that role-playing is a great way to reinforce sales methodology. Role playing allows you to "run the routes" in practice and measure them against your sales team's methodology.
  • Product and Marketing Knowledge - The training on your product and market is still important. However, this should come in after how it impacts your prospect's business and who the prospect is.

What big mistakes do you see companies making with new hires?

Josh said mistake number one is hiring the wrong people. He said this is usually because the business failed to create an ideal profile of its candidates ahead of time. Instead, they chose to hire based on "gut feel" of who was best.

To avoid this, he recommends building a profile and list of measurable traits/skills you can objectively measure against in the hiring process. Be sure to know the difference between innate skills you need to see and other skills that can be trained and coached on the job.

The other mistake he typically sees is hiring for the wrong role. Josh gives the example of small or newer businesses that tend to look to hire senior sales leadership when they should be looking for more aggressive and business development-minded individuals. He recommends looking at the primary responsibilities and activities needed and hiring for a role that aligns with them.

How do you recommend sales managers get started with creating an onboarding plan?

When developing a sales onboarding plan, Josh recommends you start by looking at the context of what role you are training for. Sales development reps and entry-level positions will require different onboarding than seasoned account executives. Consider what each role needs to be successful.

Always lay out a minimum of the first 4-8 weeks. Give them a training schedule that provides them with the toolkit to be successful in their new role. As noted above, this includes sales methodology, persona, role-playing, and product training. A great start is usually with the "business" case for what you sell.

I also noted that I'd created a document outlining week-by-week training for past hires. This has helped to provide a framework to ensure nothing is missed and give new hires a checklist to work off of.

Brainheart Growth Website

Josh's LinkedIn