Solving the Sales Training vs. Sales Manager Onboarding Paradox

sales onboarding

Which of these sales training scenarios sounds more familiar?

Scenario A:
The sales training organization leads onboarding, with sales managers waiting on the sidelines. Yet, after two weeks of onboarding, reps are passed to their managers, who now expect to have fully functioning reps.

Scenario B:
The responsibility to onboard is placed on the individual sales manager, working from their own playbooks and often with different expectations. Every manager’s approach to training is different, reps come out of the process with widely varying amounts of attention, and comparing success across onboarding classes is difficult.

Which of these scenarios is the most common to you? These are two extremes, so your organization may look like one, the other, or somewhere in between, but chances are, the some of the realities are the same.

In Scenario A, the problem starts at the handoff. Once reps are passed on to their manager, the structure associated with the onboarding program wanes. Managers inevitably focus on making this month or quarter, but new hire onboarding doesn’t stop after two weeks.

For Scenario B, the problem comes in a lack of cohesion. Each manager has their own playbook, and the results of training vary widely from rep to rep. One of the dirtiest secrets in any sales organization is that coaching is widely inconsistent across managers.

No matter which scenario you identify with, here are four tactics that, when executed, will build a well-oiled onboarding machine that your managers will love!

1. Benchmark success and track results

By setting up clear benchmarks for success, measuring key data like participation and knowledge retention, sales training and/or managers will have greater focus and attention on what’s working and what’s not. Likewise, a training organization that communicates with managers in a language they understand (time to first deal, time to quota attainment, time to certification, etc…) delivers far more value to the company than one that only delivers onboarding.

Good sales training starts with good teamwork.

2. Generate buzz before the start date

Building buzz before onboarding, both with introductions and teasers of the learning and success to come, is a great way to build momentum and align both sales training and managers on the task ahead. Moreover, reps start on day one knowing what to expect from sales training, managers, or both.

3. Continue to train after two weeks

No matter who leads the initial onboarding, it shouldn’t stop at an arbitrary moment in time. The reality is that we all learn at different speeds and intensities. Yet, there’s one thing that most organizations look at – “the start date.” A healthy way to get after this challenge is to look at the key milestones in year 1. Set up those milestones and build your curriculum around metrics as opposed to arbitrary moments in time.

4. Involve the broader team to accelerate learning

If you leverage the power of sales tribal knowledge and peer mentoring, you can reinforce onboarding concepts and community from day 1, while giving your new team members powerful tools to retain and better embrace new concepts. Reps learn more effectively from each other, so developing strong team bonds will help to reduce the time to productivity and boost overall learning stickiness.

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