Sales onboarding mistake #2: Ignoring how people actually learn

Last week, I talked about the most common mistake we see in the design for sales onboarding: emphasizing product over customer.

This week, I’m going to talk about why it takes so long to get ramped up after onboarding finishes.

According to CSO Insights, did you know that 40% of all sales people take 7-12 months to ramp up? And another 20% take OVER A YEAR to get up and running? Combined, that’s almost two thirds of all sales new hires. If you are trying to grow your business now, you can’t afford to wait that long.

Now, let’s be honest. Part of this is due to simply bad hiring. Some folks get hired into a sales role that they don’t fit and/or the hiring profile being used is broken.

But there’s an equal – and possibly worse – problem here.

What is that problem? The onboarding actually doesn’t help people sell. The onboarding experience is causing their learning curve to slow down.

Which brings us back to the opening topic – how can we increase the speed to productivity of sales onboarding?

Assuming that we’ve already tackled any over-emphasis on product (seriously, do this first), the next logical step is to change the objectives for onboarding from “make sure reps can hit plan” to “make sure reps can master their sales conversations.” In other words, shift the design and flow of the onboarding experience from teaching everything a rep needs to know in separate chunks of information (e.g. product knowledge, followed by selling skills, followed by selling tools, and so forth) into teaching ONLY what they need to do to successfully have sales conversations – from the most basic conversation up (opening a sales call) to more advanced conversations (handling objections or negotiating a close).

At no point in the onboarding experience does anything get lost from week to week because the information/skill is consistently reinforced, repeated, and built upon every week.

Now, are you skeptical of this approach? Let me offer you one simple test: how did you last learn how to do something new?

Since we can’t discuss your example in person now, let’s use a hypothetical – learning how to cook lasagna. You either:

  • Studied everything in separate chunks. You learned how flavor works first, followed by learning about ingredients, followed by how to use a stove/knives/spatulas/pans, then the actual techniques required to make the recipe from beginning to end.
  • Or blended studying with sequenced action – possibly using a video that explained/demonstrated everything so that you could pause/rewind/watch again until you were ready to go to the next step.  You learned only enough information to enable just the next step, but it was all kinds of information blended together for just that step (from ingredients to tools to techniques). The next step in cooking took the same approach, and so forth, until a lasagna was made and ready to serve.

Which method did you choose?

More importantly, which method are you using on your sales people?

If you liked our approach to onboarding, you have two things that you can do.

  • First, join the discussion and share your perspective. Comment below (and share/like this blog). We love engaging in a great conversation.
  • Second, be on the lookout for registration details for our webinar on How to Build World-Class Sales Onboarding with a panel of true experts on Thursday, September 6th, 2018. Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more…

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

About the Author