Is Your Onboarding On Straight?

Onboarding new sellers is an underrated factor in sales success. In fact, your speed in onboarding is one of the TOP ways you can impact your number this year (assuming you will hire a salesperson this year).

What is Onboarding?

We tend to think of onboarding in the traditional sense – making sure sellers are equipped as they come aboard your organizational vessel.  Many people narrowly define onboarding as making sure people get their computers, learn how the company works, and go through a variety of trainings.  

And indeed, you have to get those basic things right.  Nothing gets you off on the worse foot with top sales talent like not having your act together when they show up. But if all you’re doing is making sure they’re equipped to sell you’re missing the boat.

Onboarding = Getting New Sellers On Board FAST

The real point of onboarding isn’t to get sellers on board the company, it’s to get sellers “on board” the selling train – ASAP!  The sooner new salespeople start actually selling something, the more likely you are to make your number this year.  

That means anything that decreases time-to-sales is hurting your success.  And a major culprit is the way most companies have traditionally onboarded new sellers.

The Problem:  Inside-Out Onboarding

Most onboarding we’ve seen gets things backward.  Traditional onboarding focuses on the wrong things in the wrong order, and actually DECREASES seller effectiveness in the first, crucial months in their new job.

That’s the way most onboarding gets done – first, new sellers learn all about your company’s HR policies, benefits, etc.  Then they learn about your products and services.  After that, they learn about operational things like CRM and your other platforms. Along the way, they get their equipment. After a certain period of time, they start selling.

This seems like such a logical process – you have to know what you’re talking about before you can sell things, and you have to know how to work the system in order to move anything through it?  How could inside-out onboarding be backward?

Traditional Onboarding Relies on Faulty Assumptions

It’s backward because inside-out onboarding relies on two faulty assumptions.  

The first is that salespeople need to know what they’re talking about before they start selling. WRONG! Salespeople do NOT have to know about your products and services first. 

What they DO need to know is two things:

  • Your value proposition and how your stuff benefits customers
  • What your customers need and how to ask about it

The second faulty assumption is that new sellers have to know the system before they start selling.  WRONG!  In fact, clogging their minds with organizational facts that aren’t timely is a waste of everything – time, money, and opportunity.

What they DO need is two things:

  • Just enough operational knowledge to start selling
  • Just-in-time operational training as they need it 

 Solution:  Outside-In Onboarding

To increase your speed-to-productivity for new sellers, simply turn your onboarding process around. We call it outside-in onboarding, but it’s really just making the selling happen sooner.

Here’s the process:

Step 1:  Teach new hires about Market issues and Segment opportunities

  • What are market conditions? What’s the outlook?
  • What problems or issues plague key segments?
  • What are customers looking for in a solution?

Step 2:  Help them learn about customer needs:

  • How do segment issues translate to customer needs?
  • How do customers measure value in a solution?

Step 3:  Help sellers learn your value proposition

  • How do you help customers solve problems?
  • What do customer value most in a solution?
  • How do customers compare you to competition?

Step 4:  Sell!

  • Start selling Day 1!

Step 5:  Teach the operational stuff JIT

  • Not before they need it!

Essentials for Success

All onboarding, whether traditional (slow) or advanced (modern), depends on having the basics right.  Of COURSE you have to have these things nailed for any onboarding to be successful.

  • Equipment ready day one!
    • Phones, computers, and cards
  • All communication systems go!
    • email, intranet, chatter
  • Expectations set in advance
    • inputs, activity, and results
  • Plan and schedule in place
    • calendar of events and measurable milestones

The more you think of onboarding as a project to manage, the more systematic and organized you will be.  In particular, socializing the calendar and curriculum for new selling hires ensures you have the organizational awareness and alignment you need to succeed.

Focus on the Goal:  Speed to Productivity

That’s the point – like the bobsled team that adorns the home page of our website, the best sales managers relentlessly focus on speed and ruthlessly eliminate or postpone any onboarding activity that hurts speed to productivity.

After all, it’s your number that’s at stake!  Don’t let inside-out onboarding hurt your chances!

Good luck,

Dan and Matt