Hiring a great rep is only half the battle.
Without proper onboarding, even experienced reps aren’t going to reach their maximum potential in your organization.
If you want your reps to be “battle ready,” they need more than just general sales experience. They also need:
- Knowledge about your products or services
- Deep understanding of the customer & the ICP
- Proficiency in our technology, systems, and processes
- Training on our company culture, and what we expect from all of our team members
The only way your reps will gain proficiency in these areas is if you train and coach them.
When you invest in solid, effective onboarding, you can set your reps up for success from Day One. This reduces their on-ramp, shortens time to profitability, and positions you for even greater growth.
Here are some key aspects of the onboarding process that you should definitely prioritize.
Make your expectations clear.
When a new rep starts working in your organization, they’re going to have certain expectations. Those expectations are going to vary from rep to rep, and will be highly dependent on their previous experiences.
One common expectation, especially among more experienced reps, is that they’re going to have freedom to work how they want.
But you aren’t bringing on a bunch of cowboys who are going to go out and start shooting from the hip. You’re building an organization that can predictably generate revenue.
What’s more, there are certain motions that you’ve tested over and over again that you’ve found works well with your ICP and market.
For example, let’s say you’re an organization that sells to marketers. All of your research and experience tells you that marketers rarely pick up their phones, but are very active on LinkedIn. In that case, you don’t want a new rep coming in and just doing cold calls — they shouldn’t waste time re-learning what you already know.
Your sales floor can’t just be a free-for-all. You need to take the time to get everyone aligned and on the same page. Sometimes that involves a little more hand holding than some reps are used to.
Make it clear that, at least in the beginning, everyone sits in the “small box.” They still have room to move, but their freedom is restricted.
Over time as the rep becomes accustomed to your organization, starts hitting their numbers, and is moving along their development curve, they can sit in the “big box” and have a lot more freedom.
You’re not doing this because you want to micromanage or be “Big Brother.” You’re doing it because when everyone is following the same process, you can identify problems more easily, and better predict your revenue.
Focus on the Middle 60%.
Not all coaching efforts are created equal.
In fact, if you apply an equal amount of coaching to every rep in your organization, you’re not going to move the curve as much as if you just focused on those reps who are most likely to improve.
These are what we call the Middle 60%. It’s this group that is going to have the greatest shot at improving themselves.
The Middle 60% are those people on the Skill Will Matrix who have either low skill or low will, but not both:
- High Skill, High Will: Promote them
- High Skill, Low Will: Coach them
- Low Skill, High Will: Train them
- Low Skill, Low Will: Liberate them
Your highest performers are likely self-motivated enough to improve their skills. And short of a miracle, your lowest performers aren’t going to respond positively to your coaching efforts.
So instead of wasting coaching calories on reps who really don’t need it, focus your efforts on the ones who will benefit from them the most.
Personalize coaching plans to each rep.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to coaching. In fact, if you try to approach coaching in a cookie-cutter way, it’s going to backfire on you really fast.
You may see some marginal improvements at first. But that could just be the Hawthorne Effect: the very act of observing performance leads to improvements. Basically, people act a little better when they know they’re being watched.
But if you want significant, tangible growth, you have to go deeper than that. According to our own data, we found that if you take reps with low activity and coach them on call quality, their overall scores will actually go down.
On the other hand, reps who have medium and high levels of activity will see an increase in call scores when coached on call quality.
So what does this tell us, exactly?
It shows that depending on what the rep is struggling with, that’s going to impact where you should focus your coaching. And if you focus on the wrong area, it could have a detrimental effect.
Evaluate both the process and the reps.
Once the onboarding process is finished and your reps have hit the sales floor, it’s important to keep evaluating their performance.
Not only is this important for their own development, but it can help you find out whether your onboarding needs to be improved. If only a few reps out of the bunch are struggling, then the problem likely lies with the reps, not the process.
On the other hand, if you see problems across the board, then you need to reevaluate how you onboard your reps.
But if the issue does lie with the rep, that’s something you’re going to have to work on. A good first step is to get an experienced rep to work with them and provide an example of what “good” looks like.
If that doesn’t work, then you can either go into drill sergeant mode, move them to another part of the business, or let them go.
Either way, you should be devoting your time and coaching calories to the people and projects that are going to result in the most growth. When you do that, you’ll start to see significant, and even exponential, improvements.