Onboarding In Sales: Training + Leadership

Mat Singer, Senior Director of Sales Operations and Excellence, Upland Software

Sales teams are often one of the most expensive resources within a company, yet the average frontline sales manager spends only 9% of his or her time developing direct report sellers. 

Developing teams of high-performing sales leaders starts with the hiring process, but it really comes to life in the onboarding process. Every sales leader looks for ways to improve the onboarding process and make their team more productive in order to build on the strengths of their talent base to drive revenue. The challenge that lies within, however, is how to best bring new hires up to speed fast for effective selling. 

There is no one-size-fits-all model to selecting and training the top sales leader, so a holistic onboarding program needs to rely not only on training and sales tactics, but also on leadership and coaching. In most companies, however, many senior sales professionals are dialed in on their own revenue goals and customers’ experience, so participation in training tends to fall by the wayside, and the charge of onboarding these valuable resources is handed off to different departments.

There are three main ways to power up an onboarding program so that it becomes about training tactics as well as overarching leadership of the revenue team. With leaders involved in the onboarding process, sharing collective knowledge and balancing the guiding methodology with individual expertise, onboarding programs will be poised for greater success -- and sales teams positioned for stronger revenue growth.

Leaders, Take Part!

Leaders should be participating in the onboarding process. Training practices should start from the top-down, with leaders directing the selling methodology. This becomes the foundation of daily tactics and regular coaching and can then be delegated to others for filling in the details. 

With busy schedules and a focus on the bottom line, sales leaders often turn their valuable new hires over to an onboarding manager and then expect to have those sellers back and ready to drive revenue in six weeks’ time. This handoff is a big miss, however, as it is the job of every team member, cross-functionally, to collaborate on learning best practices to meet revenue goals. Furthermore, training doesn’t end after onboarding. Regular touchpoints, like weekly product and enablement sessions, keep the conversation between leadership and sales going. Furthermore, development is most impactful when it takes the form of coaching conversations about live opportunities. Reinforcing the sales process, methodology, and best practices should occur one conversation at a time.

Every sales leader is thinking about how to drive performance and thus optimize the achievement of the revenue team as a whole. In order to ensure salespeople are equipped for success, leaders need to facilitate alignment not just within sales but across marketing, customer success, professional services, and renewals, so their participation in training is essential.

Share the Collective Customer Knowledge

Every customer touchpoint gathers important insights, like personal goals or named decision-makers, and data about how to best provide value specific to that customer. In sales, it’s important to speak in one voice across the entire customer journey, deliver value at every interaction, and provide the right material at the right time – all of which builds strong relationships that turn customers into advocates. Sharing collective knowledge across the entire revenue team and encouraging the sales members to be a part of it helps to keep this process running smoothly. It increases the value to the customer while decreasing the onboarding timeline for new hires. 

As mentioned earlier, training is an ongoing process, and the practices observed in an onboarding program need to be sustained throughout the buying journey of a customer. Automated processes and toolsets that support sellers to better understand their customer are crucial in training. A well-designed intranet, a knowledge base, collaboration tools, and AI-based chatbots are all examples of ways to empower reps to self-serve while ramping up their knowledge. These systems allow coaches and leaders to operationalize the selling methodology and encourage coaching to take place in real-time, which helps sellers to ramp up quickly.

Balance Expertise With Methodology In Training

New hires arrive with expertise from past experiences -- often, it’s a reason they were hired -- but it is important to find a balance between leveraging past experience while still focusing on onboarding to align them with the methodology and collective knowledge of the revenue team. In the long run, practicing a methodology in alignment with the greater team will enable more success and revenue optimization.

The strongest sales teams have active leaders who are dedicated to training, coaching, and onboarding their charges. As these processes improve, so will the success of the revenue team. With leaders at the helm and practices for knowledge sharing and methodology leading the way, onboarding practices will develop into more effective drivers of consistent improvement and revenue optimization. 

Mat Singer is a seasoned sales enablement and operations leader with experience in telecom, health care, electronics and more. In addition to serving as head of sales enablement and onboarding at Upland Software, he is a part-time author, photographer and adventurer. Connect with Mat on LinkedIn.

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