How to Onboard New Sales Reps

By Jeff Beals

Newly hired employees are more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they have an effective onboarding program.

Let’s define onboarding as a set of activities that a company undertakes before a new employee starts, during the orientation period and throughout the first 12 months.

Because the chronic talent shortage, onboarding is becoming increasingly important. One could argue that properly onboarding new sales employees is even more essential than employees from other parts of the company.  A true sales rep, who is capable of finding and closing new clients, is difficult to find.  Do everything you can to keep good people on your team.

Onboarding activities break down into five categories:

1. Preparation before the first day

2. Orientation

3. Technical and product training

4. Sales training

5. Mentoring and coaching

Preparation before the first day includes the simple stuff such as paperwork, setting up of the workspace and providing access to technology.  Marketing items such as business cards, bio for the company website and press release should be taken care of before the newcomer arrives.  Having all of that completed ahead of time impresses new employees, making them feel valued. Announce the new employee to the rest of the team as early as is appropriate.

Many managers fail to communicate with incoming employees between the time they accept the job and their first day. Considering that sometimes several weeks elapse during this time period, you don’t want to go “dark” on your new sales rep.  This is actually a semi-vulnerable time.  Occasionally, new employees receive other employment offers during this transition period.  If you’re not communicating regularly, you run the risk of having them stolen right out from underneath you.

Orientation typically takes place during the first few days and includes tours, introductions, overview of human resources issues, basic office functions, etc.  Depending on how many sales reps are in your office, arrange for the new person to meet some or all of the existing reps one on one.

Orientation is also a good time to start talking about sales goals and recommended milestones the new sales rep should strive to accomplish in 30 days, 90 days, six months and one year.

During orientation, I like to address “buyer’s remorse.” Let me explain…

Whenever I started a new job, I typically went through a short period of time during the first week where I’m overwhelmed and feel like a fish out of water. A new job is a form of change and change makes us feel uncomfortable.  At the beginning, it’s easy to think, “Oh no…I made a mistake by coming here.”  I like to remind new employees that it’s natural to go through a wide range of emotions as you orient yourself to a new company.

Technical and product training is probably the easiest part of the onboarding process for the manager.  Your company is full of people who are experts when it comes to the stuff you sell.

Sales training is extremely important, but many companies mistakenly gloss over this part of the onboarding process.  The more detailed your sales training program is, the more successful your people will be.  I have always believed that it is easier to teach product knowledge than it is selling skills.

Make sure your sales training focuses more on prospecting than any other part of the selling process, because prospecting is what separates good sales reps from great ones.

Of course, sales training should be an on-going activity even for your existing reps who have years of experience.

Finally, mentoring and coaching are designed to extend the onboarding process beyond the initial training period. Think of “mentoring” as a relationship with a more experiences sales rep. “Coaching is an on-going interaction between the rep and the manager.  Nothing is more important to a sales rep’s success than quality one-on-one time with the sales manager.

Choose a mentor who embraces the idea of being a mentor.  You don’t want someone who will only put in a half-hearted effort.  Tell the mentor how they will benefit from the situation so they realize that mentorship is more than an altruistic endeavor. Arrange the mentor relationship before the new sales rep’s first day, so everything is ready to go on time.

Onboarding is more than just a three-day training program during the sales rep’s first week.  It’s an ongoing, coordinated activity over a full year that transitions the person from an outsider who knows nothing into a high-functioning, committed team player who is making a difference.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.