Why 90% of Your Sales Reps Will Fail Unless You Get This Right

Founder & CEO of elev8.io. Author: The Zero to 100 Million Sales Blueprint & The Goals, Grit & Greatness Planner.A serial entrepreneur since 2002.
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14. Why 90% of Your Sales Reps Will Fail Unless You Get This Right

Before I spend a lot of time, energy and resources finding candidates to join my sales teams, I prepare for them to hit the ground running by establishing a robust and consistent hiring and onboarding plan. 

Too many companies just “wing it” when it comes to onboarding new sales reps. Sales employee attrition is notoriously high compared to other professions. Not only is it a hard craft to master and sustain, why without experience and no onboarding plan you’re almost doomed to fail. 

Not surprisingly, data from Hubspot shows that the average sales turnover is 35% (nearly 3 times higher than other industries at 13%).

According to CSO Insights there’s a 16.2% higher chance that your reps hit their quota if there’s an effective onboarding process in place—that seems like a fairly good statistic to invest in if you want to improve your company’s bottom line.

So the million dollar question is, what does an effective new sales rep onboarding plan look like? How can you reduce your sales rep turnover significantly and boost profits by 2-3x the amount of your reps that meet their quota?

It all begins with a paradigm shift within your organization. And especially at the top of the food chain. If you religiously monitor, support and enforce improvement on your sales hiring metrics, rest assured that sales turnover will never take place. 

Create a Comprehensive 30-60-90 Day Sales Onboarding Plan

A way to look at new sales onboarding is by creating a comprehensive 30-60-90 day plan where you include all the following elements. Then extend additional coaching on an individual basis as needed. 

But remember. No two reps are the same so there will always be a need for personalization.

Before they start

  • Communicate clear expectations for the role; not just the usually ‘fluffy’ job description expectations, but in detail what sales activities will be required to meet quotas i.e. average amount of calls per day, emails sent, time spent on LinkedIn for social selling (also in spare time), and how many interactions with prospects expected across all channels. 
  • Align their personal goals with your objectives. Make sure to uncover these (financial, motivational, career advancement, etc.) and share with all pertinent stakeholders so that you can remind the new candidate of the carrot dangling in front of them as the tough gets tougher on the job and they need a reminder of why they’re there.
  • Provide them with a comprehensive company overview (from your pitch deck) and elaborate on all important elements of your company such as vision, values, employee benefits, training and career trajectory initiatives, etc. 
  • If possible, after the employment contract is signed, I like to invite them in for a full day monitoring the sales department before their first day so they can understand how a regular day at your workspace looks and can prepare themselves for what’s soon to come. If you have a larger company, provide a full tour of your facilities. 
  • Reading material. Don’t overload them with study material before they start, but many  appreciate any content that can help them hit the ground running (especially since your selection of hires should be eager to learn and be competitive).
  • Ensure all paperwork and preparation is fully executed (information collected, contract signed, company emails created, welcome emails sent, employee handbook circulated, etc.). 

Day 0-30 

  • Conduct a product training session “on steroids”. Too many companies fail in this area figuring their reps don’t need much product training. The fact of the matter is that today’s top performing reps are solutions advisors and consult prospects on how to solve their problems. Most industries demand they become subject-matter experts and know the ins and out of their solution offers.
  • Develop a “Sales Department Wiki” or collateral bank that is constantly updated. Make sure the initial induction process covers all relevant information such as company and product knowledge, your industry, key partners, possible compliance and regulatory information.
  • Emphasize that they become familiar with key customer case studies and testimonials such that they can recite them during a call in a story-telling format as if they had sold that particular customer themselves. Encourage them to become storytellers in all their customer interactions. 
  • Processes, processes, processes. Success leaves clues so make sure they can go from 0 to 100 as fast as possible by learning your ideal sales processes and following them. 
  • Sales methodology training, lead qualification criteria, psychological triggers of your pitch and value proposition should be covered in great detail. This is where your sales leader should take initiative to own the approach and create confidence that things are done the best way. 
  • Provide them with an  understanding of your target market, Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and the competition. Make sure to include an overview of your mystery shopping process and provide competitor scorecards for them to become highly familiar with. 
  • Provide a user-friendly, easy to understand manual that includes shortcuts and time-saving feature explanations on all your sales technology; most importantly, key tools such as CRM, dialer, email software and sales enablement/outreach tech, lead enrichment tools, etc. 
  • Conduct daily role plays on how to prospect, pitch, do demos, probe customers, etc. Align these with your buyer personas so that they’re customized as in a real life sales scenario. 
  • Provide a comprehensive overview of your entire customer journey. This may seem redundant, but the less you silo your sales team from other company functions by teaching them the entire journey, the more likely they are to perform at a higher level, understand and respect their colleagues and be engaged across the company
  • Issue scripts or call outlines and conduct daily role plays. Compare and play recordings of previous successful “ideal” calls made by your experienced reps across the entire sales cycle. That way not only do your new reps get to model their “deal pitch” but also understand how the prospect or customer is handled during the next steps of your sales cycle. 
  • Set up meetings with key stakeholders across departments, as you find it necessary, not only with your sales leadership. I always include three departments in that process.1) Product Fulfilment/Engineering (how does the “magic” happen?), 2) Customer Service/Customer Success (what do our customers love? What do they hate?) and finally, 3) Marketing (to understand the market, USPs, ICP, competitors, etc. in depth and to shine extra light on any questions your reps have in these areas so they fully understand how and why a new lead eventually lands in their lap). 
  • Digital footprint. Walk them through and provide templates for how this should look. Prospects check out their LinkedIn and other social media profiles to know who they’re dealing with. If these have an unprofessional appearance they lose opportunities and suffer financially. Fix this right out of the gate by setting expectations and providing support. I recommend getting marketing involved here for professional headshots, banners, etc.

Day 30-60 

  • Pair them with an experienced sales rep to shadow and be mentored by. An effective way to increase the mentor’s engagement is to provide a bonus incentive for them paid out 50% when the new rep graduates from the initial 90-day sales onboarding process and 50% once the new rep meets your productivity metrics and their sales quota (i.e becomes profitable). Another method to incent mentors to do the best job possible is making success with this process a requisite for job advancement. 
  • Once they begin actual selling, set realistic goals that require a high degree of effort but are achievable to attain early wins. 
  • Provide training and explanation of your established written email sequences and snippet library. Explain what tests you’ve done to demonstrate why these work. And while they can be optimized like everything else in your processes, you don’t want new reps to come in and start over with their own email messaging experimentation. Let them pick up where you left off. But that requires education and reasoning to obtain buy-in. 
  • Provide a list of recommended reading material, e.g. industry blogs to keep up to par with trends, videos by subject matter experts, podcasts, along with 2-3 “must read” books that support your sales methodology (Zero to 100 Million Sales Blueprint being one of them I hope).  
  • Listen to their calls and conduct weekly, if not daily, feedback sessions where you also include their mentor so they can reinforce your coaching principles and insights. 
  • Begin reviewing their sales activity data/metrics and share with them. Provide feedback so that you create a feedback loop, understand potential areas they need more training on, as well as communicating what sales activity levels you’re expecting and that they’re being monitored (calls, emails, demos, proposals, follow ups, CRM compliance, etc.).
  • Walk them though your rebuttal library and conduct role plays so they are prepared as best as possible for their sales calls and the inevitable high volume of excuses and objections prospects throw in their face every day.

Day 60-90

  • Reinforce the month 1 product and market training. It’s now been 30-60 days since the first classroom session and now they’re entering the “real life” of sales. Why? People forget 70% of the information they learn during their training within one week. 70! And up to 87% within a month.
  • Have weekly collaborative sessions with marketing where they guide where to find useful case studies and collateral within your Sales Wiki/collateral bank so that they know exactly where to find relevant case studies to share, valuable statistics and data, ROI calculations, product explainers, and everything else that help them more effectively guide your prospects down the path to purchase.
  • Have your experienced reps provide solution demos on a weekly basis so new reps learn how to master this critical skill set. As mentioned before, it comes down to a science to integrate storytelling, evidence and entertainment all highly customized to the individual use case of the prospect. 
  • Conduct ad hoc call reviews (by sales coach/manager).
  • Do ongoing role plays to practice negotiating tactics, objection prevention and handling. 
  • Take exams and necessary certifications to make sure they fully comprehend product training.
  • Establish monthly performance reviews to support weekly feedback sessions. 
  • Have Sales Ops conduct CRM, tech stack usage and process compliance feedback as needed. This is very important! You want to establish the correct habits that foster performance immediately and reinforce them. 
  • Establish adjusted personalized goals for the next 3-6 months per their performance, ambitions and your career path progression plans. Make sure to push their comfort levels and establish lofty stretch goals now that they have been acclimatized to sales and your organization. Most reps prefer to “underpromise so that they can over deliver”—especially in a stressful sales environment. But peak performance won’t ever come in their comfort zone. 

With this comprehensive 30-60-90 day plan in place with all the essential elements, you will dramatically reduce sales rep turnover and increase time to sustainable profitable growth. This is an investment you can ill afford to pass up. I know from hard won experience that the benefits far outweigh the cost in time and resources.

Lastly, I highly welcome any questions, comments or suggestions you may have in case I missed something you find relevant to include. And if you need assistance with formulating a Sales Onboarding Plan for your company, just send me a note at gary@elev8.io and let’s talk.

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