Chapter 1: Why ramp time matters
What is ramp time?
Ramp time in sales refers to the amount of time it takes from a new hire’s first day to when they are considered fully active and productive in their role. A company’s ramp time can vary based on factors like the length of the sales cycle, product, and industry. On average, though, it can take six to nine months for a new sales hire to be productive in their role. It can take another year or two for the rep to achieve their expected peak quota. Ramp time can be a costly investment for the company, both in duration and value.
Considering the need to train, coach, and prepare a new sales rep, the ramp-up stage can cost a company a fair amount of time and money without an immediate return on investment.
Onboarding new sales reps can cost companies up to three times the employee’s base salary.
Additionally, the longer the onboarding process, the longer the delay in revenue for the company. The time needed to get a new sales to hire up and running can account for up to 5% in annual revenue losses. So, there’s a clear incentive for companies — and employees — to shorten ramp time.
Employee experience and retention
All of that being said, rushing a new sales hire through training in order for them to start selling quicker won’t serve you in the long run. Ramp time is unavoidable — and necessary - so, the focus instead should be on streamlining the process.
One of the best ways to decrease ramp time for a new hire is through an organized and structured onboarding process. The onboarding and ramp-up framework should include orientation, comprehensive training and resources, and hands-on learning opportunities, as well as readily available resources. A 30-60-90 progression plan is a great example of how a company can clearly demonstrate the expectations and anticipated milestones for the role.
An organized system is also highly beneficial to both the company and the employee. If the ramp-up and onboarding process falls flat, it can cause one out of every six new hires to leave their role within the first three months on the job.
Chapter 2: Reducing ramp time
Proactive and seamless onboarding
The first step in reducing ramp time is to create a structured onboarding process. Companies that create a formal onboarding process can see a 54% increase in productivity and a 34% faster ramp-up time to job role proficiency.
Where to begin? Start with being prepared before the new hire’s first day:
- Organize applicable HR, compliance, and tax paperwork
- Set up any relevant accounts (like email and CRM)
- Ensure pertinent access requests are granted in advance
These administrative tasks may seem small, but eliminating unnecessary delays and friction is an important piece in making sure onboarding is smooth and easy for your new employee. Getting ahead of these little details also helps to set up the sales rep for success from the start, which can have a lasting impact on their performance and achievements down the road.
In addition, preparing an orientation schedule for their first day ensures everyone at the company is on the same page and prepared to welcome a new team member. Make sure your schedule is clear about what they can expect on day one, as well as what is expected of any training managers or supervisors. Orientation is also a great time to cover the core values and goals of the company.
The Management and consulting firm Sales Benchmark Index recently polled 736 new hires about their first day, and 2/3 of respondents said they were dissatisfied and left feeling detached from their position. Providing a strong first impression can ensure your new employee feels confident, supported, and encouraged — and that they’re excited to come back for day two. Engaging and preparing sales reps from the start will lead not only to more (and faster) sales but will undoubtedly result in more efficient work in the long run.
Giving your sales reps the opportunity to onboard with confidence and support, will have lasting effects long after they’re fully ramped up.
For instance, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they had a great onboarding experience. Taking into account the additional cost that employee turnover can have on a company, the emphasis on an efficient, positive onboarding experience is even more important.
"Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged. It offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers."-Amy Hirsh Robinson, The Interchange Group
Training and resources
An important piece of the onboarding puzzle is the functional training needed for the role. Creating a new-hire training checklist or list of training goals can help prepare your sales rep for how they can be successful at your company. Setting training objectives will help new hires know whether or not they're on track and offer clear milestones as they ramp up.
Of course, training sessions will be specific to your company and product, but their general goal should be consistent — for employees to understand the platforms, tools, and knowledge they need to do their job well. Here are just a few examples of training sessions you might include in your onboarding program to streamline the ramp-up period:
- Company overview, goals, teams
- Products/Services overview
- Understanding the full sales cycle
- Project management tools & software training
- CRM training
- Key sales skills (depending on experience level)
To make the training process easier to digest, ensure that each step of the sales cycle is clearly documented. For example, create a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ playbook, along with detailed answers in order to supply the sales rep with the materials they need upfront before they start selling. Answering questions proactively, especially ones they might not even know to ask, will prepare them quickly to start bringing in revenue.
It’s important to remember that individuals learn in many different ways, so try to vary your content delivery methods in order to integrate a well-rounded training program. Training can include:
- Interactive games
- In-person sessions
In addition, it’s best to try and break up training sessions into digestible blocks, which can help boost retention, engagement, and comprehension, ultimately speeding up their ramp time.
E-learning platforms are another valuable option for training since they often combine multiple variations of teaching methods and can give new employees the ability to learn from anywhere — especially helpful for increasing numbers of remote employees.
Moreover, using sales training and onboarding software can streamline the process. Online training can also come in handy for any employee who wants to have the ability to review important resources, even after their onboarding process has been completed.
According to the Sales Management Association, companies found that by using tech tools in their teaching, they were 57% more effective in their sales training and development.
If reducing ramp time is a priority for you, consider these tips for improving the training process and getting your new hires up to speed even quicker.
Shadowing and role playing
While providing resources and reading materials — like a sales FAQ sheet — can be useful, interactive job training is essential for a quick ramp-up. These training sessions might take the form of shadowing sales calls and meetings, as well as role-playing with managers or veteran sales reps.
Shadowing is an effective and comprehensive tool for a new sales rep to gain insight and hands-on experience from a more knowledgeable seller. By allowing new hires to sit in on sales calls and meetings, it can incorporate the training and sales skills they are learning into a real-world setting. They are able to observe commonly asked questions and concerns, as well as any potential hurdles they might encounter — which will prepare them for when they’re selling on their own.
Recording well-performed sales calls can also be a helpful tool for any sales rep who wants a tangible reference to study, as well as any remote employees in different time zones who are unable to join live meetings.
"Pairing a newbie with a more experienced worker is a great way to help your staff learn from each other and identify good or bad habits early on. Chances are, the veteran has already asked the same questions that the new employee has and can answer them quickly with real-life experience."-Peter Trebek, CEO @ GoTranscript
Role-playing is another example of interactive training that can be performed in a variety of ways, whether as part of a one-on-one meeting with their direct manager or with a group of experienced sellers. Incorporating the aforementioned toolkits and playbooks into these role-playing exercises will also enhance the experience.
Some topics may include:
- Company overview, goals, teams
- Tricks on how to close the sale
- Cold calling tactics
- How to handle objections or challenges
Another useful training tool for a new sales hire is to encourage them to understand the full scope and structure of a company by learning about other divisions within the organization, outside of sales. This can give them an opportunity to truly comprehend how the various teams work together and interact, enhancing the way they approach their selling.
By getting to know other departments and their processes, new sales reps can gain valuable insight into the entire operational flow of the sale far beyond just closing it.
For example, this might be through intra-organizational shadowing or informational team meetings. As a result, this can mold the sales rep into a more effective and well-rounded seller.
"We have found that shadowing one of our customer care reps gives them valuable insights into many of the issues and challenges that crop up with customers after the sale is made."- Jeff Kear - Owner @ Planning Pod
Mentor and mentee relationships can have a large impact on how quickly the new hire can ramp up in their onboarding process. Feeling supported and encouraged by an experienced seller can increase a sales rep’s engagement, motivation, and confidence, leading them to close deals quicker and more efficiently. Implementing a mentorship program can also create an immediate connection between the new seller and the company, helping them feel more adequately prepared to pitch the product.
Mentorship programs have lasting effects far beyond onboarding. Interestingly enough, millennials cite lack of professional development, coaching, and mentorship as top reasons why they transition out of companies.
In a recent Gartner and Capital Analytics study that examined the financial impact of mentoring, they found:
- Mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in the program
- Mentees were promoted five times more often than those not in the program.
- Retention rates were much higher for the participants in the mentoring program, with mentees seeing 72% retention rates and mentors at 69% versus retention rates of 49% for employees who did not participate.
Chapter 3: Continued success beyond ramp-up
A strong onboarding process does not necessarily end when the ramp-up is completed - it should also extend throughout their tenure at the company. Once the sales rep has been fully ramped up in their role, it’s important to emphasize that their continued success is a company goal.
Here are some ways you can further invest in your employees:
- Suggest they seek out specific certifications
- Hold additional training sessions
- Support further career development through continual education
- Encourage your sales reps to join sales leadership organizations
- Suggest they attend networking events to enhance their skills and grow their book of business
Ensuring that the managers maintain and prioritize weekly one-on-one conversations with their direct reports - to discuss goals, progress, and challenges - is an important thread that can weave through an employee’s onboarding into their ongoing career at your company. These steps can encourage and enhance retention and engagement. By extension, the company can benefit from the overall return on investment for each of its employees.
In addition, remaining open and willing to improve the company’s onboarding, training, and coaching structures benefits not just your new hires — it will ultimately grow your bottom line. Ask for feedback from each new hire after every onboarding experience. Implement new-hire surveys throughout the employee’s first year, and include the opinions of their mentors, managers, and trainers. By consistently checking in on employees’ experiences, the company can adjust the process to ensure it remains effective and helpful.
Not only can these actions reduce the ramp time and allow your sales rep to create revenue quicker, but implementing a strong sales onboarding and training process can make it possible for your business to achieve a 353% ROI on each of your new sales hires and effectively reduce the rate of employee dissatisfaction and turnover. It’s a win for everyone.
"Feedback from the sales rep is the best way to understand if the onboarding process is working...Our sales cycle is long and complex, and we generally don’t see the impact in sales immediately, so we need to look for other signs that the onboarding process is a success."- Deborah Hanamura Paladino and Company