Recent research by The Bridge Group and For Entrepreneurs shares an ongoing shift in 2015’s SaaS inside sales organizations, data that together tell a story of declining returns and growth in training.
The Bridge Group surveyed 342 B2B SaaS companies to build their report. The numbers tell a stark story: the average rep turnover rate (excluding promotions) is now 34%, with “involuntary turnover [making] up nearly two-thirds of that number.” The same research suggests that one in ten companies experience turnover rates above 55%. The new average time for reps to ramp to productivity has reached 5.3 months. On average, only 67% of reps are making quota, “down from 74% in 2012.” From any angle, the story reveals trends that sales leadership hoped would be going in the other direction, and ineffective training is one of the primary root causes of the problem.
The data tells a familiar story for sales managers watching the past decade of change within sales teams: relying purely on traditional sales training and onboarding remains expensive while failing to onboard new reps quickly and effectively and ramp them to productivity as soon as possible leads to turnover. We’re simply not catering to how a majority of reps learn and grow.
Turnover rates near 35% can be expensive in any organization, requiring not only the costs of wasted training and investment but also of acquiring a replacement. The results can be dramatic – with the average rep receiving $3,400 in training per year, turning over even 10 reps can cost more than an entire new hire.
You need to get more out of your existing sales force while increasing the success of onboarding. How do you beat the odds and normalize the impact of sales training back toward growth? Three key strategies can help.
1. Better Sales Onboarding
Onboarding can be the single most important time in a sales rep’s tenure. The bulk of the information, training, and coaching that a rep gets is usually concentrated in their first two weeks. The problem, however, is that only so much can be done in such a short period of time.
Extending the sales onboarding effort can be a way to get after the problem. Reps who experience 30, 60, or even 90-day sales onboarding programs, supplemented by continuous training and practice, stand a much better chance at quickly ramping and reaching quota. Reps tend to forget content and strategy not because they are bad learners, but because they don’t have all the context in their first 90 days. This is precisely why some form of onboarding should continue during the first year.
2. Deliberate Practice
Deliberate practice is the idea that, in order to get better at something, you need to purposely practice it as much as possible. It’s the philosophy that drives star athletes to success, and it works just as well in sales training. Reps can’t be expected to pick up the phone and drive a perfect sales pitch if they haven’t done so in practice many times before.
Give sales reps opportunities to practice new and existing sales skills, closing techniques and messages as much as possible, and push them to complete lessons. Often, sparking exclusivity around the training can help drive interest in the practice, increasing rep interest in participation. Segment your reps and build treatments where needed. Three common segments are high performers, the core, and under-performers.
Align sales managers behind continuous training efforts that promote coaching as a significant part of their job.
3. Engaging with Technology
In 2015 and beyond, your average new hire is likely to be a Millennial. As the children of the 2000s, these reps are very experienced in technology and are adept learners. Yet, many of our existing training relies on slideshows, printed guides, and binders of materials, as opposed to more interactive learning that’s now possible with technology.
It’s time to make the change to new technologies. Instead of ripping off the band-aid, make a gradual shift by combining your traditional sales training curriculum with concepts like the flipped classroom that require the learner to be more prepared when they enter a live training environment. The availability of video and practice-based technology means reps can get “trained” on their own time as opposed to just your time – the reality is that you probably don’t have enough of it.