All Posts by Tim Ohai

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

1

How good is your sales onboarding – do you have the wrong focus?

Onboarding is a vampire project.

In other words, you can stab it, shoot it, and burn it with fire. But it will keep coming back to life.

Why is this? Can onboarding actually be so hard to do effectively?

Yes and no.

Yes. Do onboarding wrong, and it will crash mightily. Until someone else gets assigned to “fix onboarding.” And repeats the cycle.

At the same time, no, it’s not that hard. You are only trying to get people to the most basic level of proficiency so that they can enter their role with the foundation to thrive.

So, why is onboarding consistently on most sales enablement to-do lists?

Because the solution that is called onboarding doesn’t address the actual problem you have to solve.

What is the problem? Well, in our practice, we see five interconnected issues that define the problem. This blog is going to be about the first one – which is the most common mistake we see.

Onboarding Mistake #1: The focus is on the product – instead of the customer

How many of your sales people struggle with shoving their product knowledge ahead of their customer’s perspective in sales conversations? If you are like many companies, it’s a lot.

The impact of this is slow ramp-up times, stagnant pipelines, messy forecasts, and ultimately high employee turnover.

Think of your current onboarding right now.

Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being perfect), how well do our graduating sellers understand our customers’ top challenges as well as, if not better than, they do?”

Now, ask yourself, ““On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being perfect), how well do our graduating sellers understand our products/solutions?”

If your answer to the first question is higher than your answer to your second question, well done! You are designing your onboarding – and preparing new sales people – the right way.

If your answer to the first question is lower than your answer to your second question, you have a problem. A problem with creating a product-focused sales force, instead of a customer-focused sales force. A problem that will slowly erode the quality of every sales conversation that new hire will have. A problem that your top sales managers and top sales reps will have to undo. And a problem that your worst sales managers and sales reps will reinforce.

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

3 ways to improve sales performance without relying on innovation

Years ago, when I worked as an employee for a global company, I had access to some interesting resources. One in particular stands out – for a couple of not-so-great reasons.

First, it was expensive. It cost tens of thousands of dollars just to become a member of their community and get access to research. It wasn’t my money, but I never thought it was the highest priority spend for us.

Which leads me to the second point: the research wasn’t worth the money. This group of primarily academics would provide me “best practices” that had been defined by the companies doing the best financially that year. But when I looked under the veneer, I found a terrible bias towards companies that were predominantly technology innovators. Well, duh. Innovation sells itself. That’s why it is such a precious resource to consistently invest in.

But what do you do when you don’t have any game-changing innovation? What do you do when your best innovation is essentially the same as your top competitors?

In my last post, I ranted about how too many leaders don’t know how to improve their team’s performance without some new innovation to sell itself. So this week, I’m giving you three things that you can do immediately to drive improved sales.

Number one: I can’t say this enough – drive clarity. Make sure everyone on the team (inside and outside of sales) understands the outcomes they are supposed to be working towards (no, a sales target is not an outcome – that’s the metric) and their roles in achieving them. Simply sitting your people down and making sure everyone is on the same page costs you nothing to do and provides immediate benefit. Frankly, this one action alone can drive an immediate lift in performance. Further, investigating where – and why – clarity breaks down will provide you months of action to address the biggest obstacles.

Number two: Create engagement. And by engagement, I specifically mean BOTH motivation AND empowerment. Don’t simply persuade people to care. Create an environment where you tackle what is de-motivating them (like isolation, information overload, etc.) and give them the assets they need for success (like access to people who can be an example/coach, showing them how to use their resources better, etc.). Again, simply giving this area attention and telling people what you see and what you will do can lift sales performance quickly. The critical key is immediately doing something about what you see/say. Make the effort, share the results.

Note: If you combine clarity and engagement, you get a powerful one-two punch that may literally take you years to fully build and implement. But the rewards will be phenomenal because how you execute matters.

Number three: Get deep on your customers. By this, I mean make sure that everyone on the team understands their customers in very specific, very tangible ways. They should be able to talk about their customers for at least 10 minutes without mentioning your company, your products, or themselves. They should be able to give real examples of what their customers are doing now, the challenges they are experiencing now, and the decisions they are making now. Share this information with each other – then define how you are helping these customers now. Only then can you connect the dots between the customer’s problems and the solutions you provided to them. Describe how you worked together to deliver the value you promised. Finally, make these stories available to the entire sales team so that they can see what true customer-focus looks like. You would be amazed at how often simple story-telling will help sales people get outside of their perspective and see their roles in new – and motivating – ways.

And for a bonus: You can always ask for help. Get someone (like us) to help you navigate the complexity of your business with an outsider’s eye. Leverage a fresh perspective to see what you and/or your team is missing. The impact can be immediate.

What would you add to the list?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

1 2 3