Organizations face a perennial question: how to effectively execute sales onboarding programs.

Part 1 of this blog defined onboarding principles and goals and a strategy to adopt them. Equally important is an organization’s understanding of how to execute its new-hire onboarding program. AGI’s Program Execution “Engine” consists of the people, processes, metrics, tools, governance and integration with other Sales Enablement programs necessary to get onboarding right. Consider first the following productivity dilemma:

Joan was seriously concerned about the new-hire onboarding program her Sales Operations team planned to roll out. As the VP of Sales for a fast-paced medical devices company, she was counting on the new-hire program to support her rapidly expanding team.

Something didn’t sit well with Joan. The content and the roll-out plan were reasonable. However, the Ops team didn’t have answers to some of Joan’s basic questions: Who will own each part of the onboarding process?  How will Sales Ops ensure the consistent execution of the program over time?  How will they measure the program’s success? How will they address the inevitable challenges or problems with the program as they arise?

Joan questioned whether the program would ultimately succeed, or become another ill-fated corporate program that starts with a flash then devolves into “business as usual.”

There’s hope for Joan and other sales leaders who face similar productivity gaps. In fact, sales leaders who effectively execute AGI’s onboarding execution plan report a 5-15 percent cut in new-hire attrition and a 15-30 percent increase in new-hire productivity (e.g., achievement to goal) in the first year.

The Onboarding Program Execution Engine: Successfully implement, sustain and optimize onboarding and align with other sales enablement programs within an organization with these five steps:

  1. Establish clear roles & responsibilities. Onboarding is often left to first-line managers with little to no accountability to the rest of the organization, resulting in uneven onboarding experiences and higher rep churn. Instead, clearly define roles and responsibilities for reps and their entire onboarding team, such as their manager, sales operations, sales training and HR. Assign “buddies” or fellow tenured reps to each new hire who can show them the ropes of the organization and reinforce good behaviors and proper processes. A recent AGI client found the use of “buddies” shortened ramp time by an average of 45 days.
  2. Build supporting & sustaining processes. A consistent, documented and measurable process is essential for program success. Leading organizations develop and maintain sales onboarding playbooks for both new hires and managers.  Playbooks include a complete 90-day ramp-up plan with a development roadmap and checklists, articulated roles and responsibilities, and organizational reference guides (e.g., contact lists, internal/external site links and process guides).
  3. Utilize onboarding-related tools.  Automation via learning management systems (LMS) can be a key enabler of a successful onboarding program. Leading organizations partner with HR to ensure new hires and their managers understand how online learning resources are assigned and tracked and how this content ties to the overall onboarding program. In a recent client engagement, we worked with the Salesforce.com administration team to launch and integrate Salesforce Chatter into the onboarding program. This integration enabled new hires to interact with other new hires and support teams, share new ideas and use an easy-to-access location for all reference materials and sales collateral.
  4. Establish governance structures. Every program requires oversight and ownership to be sustainable, and sales onboarding is no different. Assign an owner to the program who will be responsible for monitoring, measuring and updating the program. But don’t stop there. Establish a governance structure involving key stakeholders to meet regularly and serve as an approval body for all key onboarding program decisions. Finally, determine the right program scorecard and participant survey cadence to ensure program feedback is regularly received and assessed.
  5. Integrate sales onboarding with other programs. New-hire onboarding, while important, is only the beginning of a new hire’s journey at an organization. There are general onboarding programs led by HR, annual sales meetings and new product-launch initiatives, all of which must be taken into consideration when customizing the onboarding program and timeline for each new hire. Another important process to consider is account and territory assignments – hand-offs and mid-year adjustments, if not done in collaboration with a new hire’s onboarding plan, can lead to increased customer frustration and lost business.  Finally, leading organizations also consider the “talent development” big picture – for example, how onboarding feeds into future sales leadership development. (Read more about typical programs within a sales operations organization that can impact a new hire’s success.)

Often the sales onboarding program is an under-leveraged, overlooked asset for sales leaders looking to increase productivity, especially in high-growth environments with rapid hiring goals. Fortunately, a properly designed and carefully executed sales onboarding program can reap great rewards.

Want a new perspective on how to expand or upgrade your sales onboarding program? Contact us.

Read Part 1 of this blog series.