Tag Archives for " Sales conversations "

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


A simple, but important, rant

Warning: This is going to be a bit of a rant.

I once had a conversation with a senior executive in charge of sales at a large supply company. It didn’t go so well.

For starters, he was under tremendous pressure to drive a turnaround. North American sales had stagnated and the company was getting hammered by competitors. In fact, he had just spent $1M with a famous consulting company to get his strategy defined and ready to execute (note: nothing had executed yet).

Additionally, he had bought into the idea that he already knew everything, so talking with a consultant like me was, to him, something he was only doing because he had been asked to.

But the real sign that the conversation was not going to go anywhere was when we started talking about the problem he was trying to address. His first response was, “Problem? We don’t have any problems here.”

I quickly countered, “Fine. You just spent one million dollars with McKinsey. Why did you do that?”

“Oh, well, we need to get the business to… oh, you’re good.”

Sigh. This is not the kind of dialogue I enjoy.

To jump ahead, I told him that all of his efforts needed enable sales conversations. If those conversations didn’t happen, it didn’t matter what technology/process/training/marketing materials/compensation plan/etc. he was going to implement.

“So, how does your strategy enable sales conversations?” I asked.

His response? “I really don’t know, but I just spent a million dollars and I’m going to start there.”


And THIS is what’s wrong with most of the organizations I see. They are led by leaders who don’t know how to grow their business outside of generating new innovation. They deploy resources where they think they should go based on past habits and trendy business articles. They haven’t studied how healthy organizations create powerful sales engines. IF these leaders ever sold in their lives (and that’s a big IF), it was likely years ago when the economy – and their customers – were drastically different.


So, why am I ranting today? Because I want to see the narrative change. I want to see businesses thrive. I want to see people who are excited to go to work because sales are UP and the business is GROWING. I want to see delighted customers who think their suppliers are awesome and great to work with.

And if you are reading this, you VERY likely feel the same way. You want to see your company experience all of the above – and more. You see the disconnects and the self-inflicted wounds your company is experiencing. You know the leadership gap exists and you want to tackle it.

But the battle is just that – a battle. There’s chaos in the air and the ground is shaking.

Simply know this: I’m grateful to be able to share the foxhole with you. We’ll get there. I will do my best to give you the tools and arguments you need to change mindsets. And I am here to respond to your own rants and offer whatever support I can.

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.