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How to Build an Effective Remote Sales Onboarding Process

February 26, 2021
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How to Build an Effective Remote Sales Onboarding Process

Ramp-up time for a new sales hire typically takes up to six to nine months. Because this has a direct impact on a business’s bottom line, the sales onboarding process must be as efficient as possible, putting the right tools, information, and training in the hands of sales hires on day one.

Doing so can be complicated in today’s remote working environment. That’s why you must remove any roadblocks in the way of your team’s ability to learn the ropes quickly and begin closing deals. In this article, we’ll provide a few essential tips for revamping your remote sales onboarding process for maximum efficiency.

Build top performers with a strong sales onboarding process

New hire onboarding sets the tone for what it means to be a top performer and what it takes to get there quickly. When done well, it sheds light on what makes your company tick, provides insights into your company’s culture, and identifies a path towards success. Done poorly, it can cause one out of every six new hires to leave their role within the first three months on the job.

Organizations with formal onboarding processes, see a 54% increase in productivity and a 34% faster ramp-up time to job role proficiency. This gives employees a 77% greater chance of hitting their first performance milestone. Plus, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced a great onboarding process.

The stakes are even greater for sales teams

For starters, it can take up to a year for new sales hires to perform at full capacity, and then another year or two to achieve peak quota attainment. This applies to even the most seasoned sales reps. When starting out at a new company, formal training and expectation-setting are essential to hit the ground running.

Failing to do so can have a negative impact on turnover. This is problematic because onboarding new sales reps can cost companies up to three times their base salary or, roughly, the time it takes to fully ramp up. Today, companies are losing 29% of their sales reps annually, well above the ideal sales attrition rate of 15% or less.

While turnover is normal in any organization, there are ways to avoid it from happening prematurely. Implementing a strong sales onboarding and training process can help, making it possible for your business to achieve a 353% ROI on each of your new sales hires.

7 tips for onboarding sales teams remotely

Your business can’t afford to have an ineffective sales onboarding process with so many people working remotely today. Here are few tips to optimize it:

1. Foster a positive team culture

With a good chunk of the world working remotely, human connection is getting lost in the digital shuffle. Companies must take a proactive step to maintain a strong team dynamic.

Everyone plays an important role in this. Sales leaders, for example, must set the tone, communicate expectations, and inspire everyone to achieve their goals. Reps, on the other hand, must follow their lead and ensure that their guidance is put into practice. There are a lot of ways to go about this when teams are working remotely, including:

  • Conducting bi-weekly All-Hands meetings where senior sales leaders can review goals, celebrate wins, identify growth opportunities, and share insights;
  • Creating gamified sales contests to drive fun and friendly competition;
  • Organizing monthly social events, using video conferencing tools to help the sales team get to know each other via 1:1 chats or small group conversations; and
  • Hosting bi-annual ‘hackathons’ where sales reps can brainstorm ideas for making standardized sales processes more effective, efficient, and productive.

Sales reps thrive in a competitive environment where they see the impact they’re making in the community. Building a stronger team culture is a great way to make your team more cohesive and results-oriented.

2. Document standard sales processes

Every sales team operates differently in terms of the tools, processes, and best practices they follow. Standardizing your sales training and documentation gives your team a crystal clear process to follow. It’s also a great way to avoid wasting time and money by having new hires learn via the “trial-by-fire” method.

So, equip your team with the right support resources, manuals, cheat sheets, and other tools to get them ramping faster, do their jobs more effectively, and achieve their goals.

For example, at Demodesk, we use Notion to centralize and streamline our documentation and onboarding processes for our employees—everything from setting up their email addresses to goal tracking. This has helped decrease our employees’ ramp-up time & drive accountability.

Finally, making the onboarding process simple, effective, and repeatable also gives sales reps added confidence in their day-to-day work. It also offers a reliable system of checks and balances for them to reference whenever a refresher is needed.

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3. Break up training material into bite-sized chunks

Avoid overloading new sales hires with too much content all at once, especially knowing that people tend to forget about 40% of what they learn within 24 hours.

Offer up ongoing training and other resources in the form of micro-learning to help boost engagement and retention. Because different people learn in different ways, vary your content delivery methods (i.e. video, webinar, interactive game, etc.) This will help make the information stick.

Demodesk’s Playbooks are a great option to build consistency into your sales onboarding process. Playbooks give sales organizations a highly scalable, efficient, and centralized way to ensure that reps have the most up-to-date content & CRM data in every call. They also assist reps to give compelling pitches in real-time with the use of pre-loaded playbook slides, speaker notes, and real-time objection handling.

4. Implement a buddy system or mentorship program

As a new hire, it’s easy to feel like it’s “you against the world”. Especially if you are learning how to do your job alone at home. A “buddy system” can help new sales reps feel more connected to the team and also provide a go-to person for asking questions and getting advice.

Depending on the complexity of the products or services your company sells, it’s also worth considering partnering new hires with a veteran sales rep. This creates a valuable mentorship dynamic enabling new sales reps to learn best practices first-hand from someone who’s spent time in the trenches.

If you aren’t sure where to start, here are a few tips for getting a buddy system or mentorship program up and running quickly:

  • Define a clear purpose: Identify the goals of the program, what requires a mentor must have, and what you anticipate both people to get out of this process.
  • Set the parameters: Build a standardized checklist that takes the guesswork out of what you want the mentor pairings to accomplish. Include a required timeline for completing tasks to ensure that the program's objectives are successfully achieved.
  • Identify the right mentors: When first launching your program, ask your top performers to pilot the program and provide feedback for improving it. Once you work out the kinks, you can open up a general application process to get others to participate. Just be sure to set baseline participation criteria to avoid pairing up a new hire with a rep who’s still ramping up.
  • Make supportive pairings: Do your best to pair up new sales hires with mentors who have a similar approach to work. Some people like being more hands-on while others prefer learning via occasional check-ins. Make sure both participants are on the same page.
  • Gauge progress: Check-in with both buddies once all to-dos have been accomplished and provide a survey where they can give feedback on the experience.

5. Make over-communication a priority

In a remote work environment, managers and team members alike must be proactive in their communications. Failing to do so can cause information breakdowns that can jeopardize deals or decrease overall happiness. Here are a few ideas for staying connected with your team:

  • Setup virtual team coffee breaks or happy hours
  • Maintain weekly 1:1 conversations to discuss progress against goals
  • Create a Slack channel for sharing important updates and celebrating “wins”
  • Organize team-building events, like virtual cooking classes

Being proactive in your communications will ensure that no one ever feels disconnected. It’s also a great way to nip performance issues in the bud before they become a problem.

6. Improve the sales onboarding process over time

As the needs of your business change, your sales onboarding process will need to change, too. For example, you may need to:

  • Introduce new tools and technologies for streamlining your team’s workflow
  • Shuffle the org structure to realign resources to new business objectives
  • Build ongoing training and learning content to assist sales reps

A long story short: No onboarding process is one-and-done. As a rule of thumb, be sure it always stays in lock-step with your company’s current goals and priorities.

Be sure to ask your sales reps to provide feedback throughout the onboarding process. They are your best resource for telling you what’s working and what’s not.

30/60/90 day Sales Onboarding Progression Plan

7. Set expectations for success

This is more than just fulfilling quotas. You must set clear expectations around how your sales reps do their jobs, what goals to work towards, and why they are doing this work in the first place.

More importantly, it should give them a solid foundation for future success within your sales organization. To add structure to their onboarding, consider introducing frameworks like the 30/60/90 day sales plan. Or use sales training and onboarding software to automate the process and make your sales resources easily accessible remotely.

Take your sales onboarding process to the next level

Every business has no choice but to adapt to the challenges of remote work. That’s why it’s so important to take the time now to build a strong remote sales onboarding process that can set new hires up for success, whether they work from home, at the office, or in the field.

To minimize turnover costs, improve employee retention, boost employee productivity, and decrease sales rep ramp up time. Make improving the sales onboarding process your top priority.

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