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Is sales rep churn threatening your company’s bottom line? If so, you aren’t alone.  With the current tight labor market, it’s becoming the No. 1 problem for many firms. Sales reps who leave can cause chaos in key accounts, and ultimately cause a negative customer experience.

While no one can control the labor market, there are two things you can control: Onboarding and sales compensation.

In fact, it’s critical for companies to focus on these two areas to prevent high turnover. The right onboarding will get buy-in from appreciative new hires, and landing on a fair, scalable compensation solution will keep your best sales folks on board for the foreseeable future.

In this first of two blog posts, we’ll look at how onboarding gets–and keeps–a new hire happy and engaged.

Today, new-hire onboarding has become a main focus for many human resources and training departments. There are several reasons for this:

  • Giving employees information using a prescriptive 30/60/90 day approach—as well as showing them where to find answers to commonly asked questions—empowers them to be productive from the first day.
  • Helping new hires see how their role as a salesperson relates to the entire company’s success builds buy-in. If employees feels invested in the company  they feel incentivized to perform their best.As firms add more productivity tools to help employees become even more efficient, some time needs to be allocated up front to ensure that the new hire understands how to use the tools, and where to get questions answered.
  • As part of the onboarding process, gaining an understanding of the company, products, selling process, and their unique selling points is crucial. This can be best achieved by an orderly and automated process, not catch as catch can.

New members of your sales force know they are going to need to sell, and make their numbers for the month, the quarter, and the year. But the right tools, and the right education and expectations set at the beginning, can help these feel achievable and motivating – not like dire threats hanging over their heads with little to no management support.

Here’s an example of an onboarding system below that includes the right processes to make a rep successful:

A company of course wants a new sales hire to be able to ramp up as quickly as possible. But taking some time to properly onboard this employee will help him hit his stride faster, and feel far more invested in your company.

Many successful companies take onboarding so seriously that it can start before the employee’s first day. Here are some tips about the kinds of onboarding practices that can build loyalty and longevity in your sales force.

Before the first day: Send a welcome email to new employees at home, with a schedule of their first day (or first week’s) appointments, orientation meetings, etc. Have a specific time on the date they should arrive, and the name of the person who’ll meet them. It’s best if the employee’s actual manager can do this greeting. Meanwhile, send out a company-wide email about new employees, with some fun facts and a brief bio, so that colleagues can warmly welcome them on their first day.

On the first day: Schedule time for new employees with IT to get their computer set up and give a brief overview of the company’s internal websites, tools, and resources. This can all be delivered virtually through an onboarding enablement platform or in person. Schedule a tour for that day or soon after so the employee can meet as many people in other departments as possible. Orientation and benefits meetings should also happen right away so the employee doesn’t have to worry about chasing things down later.

During the first week: Assign new employees a mentor or “buddy” to shadow–perhaps a senior sales rep or sales manager. This helps them feel not only welcome, but empowered with an actual “human resource” who can answer any questions that come up. This is a great time for new employees to start learning the nuts and bolts of what will be expected, not only in making sales calls, but also in how to configure quotes and pricing quickly, how to track where a client is in the sales process, and more. Detailed information helps them feel empowered straight out of the gate, and eager to start closing deals.

In the first two weeks: New employees should be given a list of potential customers, a territory to cover, a list of products to sell. However your sales team is set up, new hires should be able to quickly see where they fit in, what their responsibilities are, and what kinds of resources they’ll have to get the job done.

Automate product and marketing education. In many organizations, gaining product knowledge and marketing messages happens in a haphazard way. Subject-matter experts may not have the time to brief reps. As part of your onboarding consider online training, including  videos from product managers, to get the rep proficient in your products and services.

Sales enablement tools. Sales enablement tools facilitate  onboarding: They can organize the process in an orderly way, and provide a repository for relevant content salespeople need to do their jobs.

Onboarding shouldn’t be the end of the process. Be sure to circle back in the first 30, 60 and 90 days to make sure that new employees are hitting their marks. Also make sure they are happy, satisfied, and clear on the role they play in the company’s success.

The more empowered your employees feel during the onboarding process, and the better they see how they fit into the success of your company, the more motivated and happier they will feel. And the happier new salespeople feel, and the more empowered and business critical, the more likely they won’t be headed for the door.

In the second part of this blog series, we’ll discuss how to streamline compensation plans to help attract and keep the best salespeople.

Author Bio

Craig Nelson

Craig specializes in enabling companies to more effectively market and sell. His experience is based on a variety of leadership roles including the growth of several start-ups that became successful public software companies. In 1998, Nelson's passion for enabling marketing and sales led him to register www.salesenablement.com and subsequently co-found iCentera in 2003. Today, the iCentera sales enablement platform service is delivered over the internet to over 350,000 subscribers and in 2011, iCentera became part of CallidusCloud.

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