Onboarding For Sales Teams: Five Ways to Make It Better

Of all your new joiners, people coming into your sales team are the ones you need to get up to speed the fastest. They’ll make the biggest difference to your top line performance. So you don’t want it to take an age before they’re skilled up and ready to bring in business for you.

But it takes time. Too much time. The Harvard Business Review surveyed over 150 sales organisations and found that for the majority of them, it takes more than 7 months to get a salesperson up to speed. For this role, time really is money.

So what can you do to accelerate their onboarding without overwhelming them, or bogging them down in process (which salespeople generally don’t embrace with open arms)? 

1. Show What Winners Do

Salespeople are, of course, on the sharper end of the competitive spectrum. The question a new joiner to a sales team always asks, implicitly or explicitly, is “What are your top performers doing, and how can I do that?” So, show them. Capture best habits and techniques of your top performers. Build out the day/week in the life of your best people. Curate videos of them pitching to show it in action. Make it part of what you expect from your winners.

Sales is about art and behaviours more than science and process – so show the artfulness of your team’s best.

2. Introduce Product Knowledge – In Context

Whether you sell products, services, or some combination, you will want to invest some time in educating joiners to the sales team in the what and the how of your offer. But resist the temptation to dump the information without context. That can be overwhelming and rock confidence if done clumsily. Keep this short and focused, and make sure you balance it with plenty of opportunity to apply it.

We regularly design goal based scenarios that have a balance of product information and practical opportunity to understand needs and pitch the right solution.

3. Keep It In One Place

I’m going to name and shame my sales brethren/sisterhood -- we’re not always the most organised of people. So keeping all learning and knowledge in one central place is going to make the new hire’s life (and everyone else’s) a lot easier. What’s more, it lives beyond onboarding as a live knowledge portal if you design and maintain it right.

Have a look at some of the sales learning portals we’ve created using Moodle and Totara LMS for sales and product knowledge for Nikon and Vodafone.

4. Be Where They Are: Go Multi-Device

Chances are your sales team are at least partially field-based, or on the move most of the time. Learning has to be accessible and on-demand wherever they are – it’s got to be multi-device by default. And how you use it counts too. You’re aiming for that plan/do/reflect cycle of gathering insights into a product at pace (yep, maybe in the reception area before the big pitch, we’ve all been there), pitching, and reflecting on what worked and didn’t, ideally with a coach and buddy.

See how Mitsubishi has created multi-device product knowledge elearning with Adapt open source.

5. Build Connections and Reward Collaboration

Salespeople may well be the most natural social learners. They are hardwired to observe what peers do, to seek out insights and best practices, and to apply – and even share (in our experience, the ‘selfish salesperson’ who doesn’t share insights and tips is a bit of a myth – modern sales teams win together and encourage collaboration).

So, your onboarding should encourage sharing and collaboration. We’ve seen some teams use Yammer to great effect here, sharing insights on how best to position a new product or service and sharing the insights with the team. In Sony Europe’s product knowledge portal, you can tap into the wisdom of a wide range of sales professionals.

What Next?

Are you using these channels for social learning and sharing in your organisation as part of your onboarding toolkit? We’ve developed onboarding and sales and product knowledge solutions for some of the world’s leading businesses. Get in touch and we can talk about how we can help you get started.


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