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The DOs and DON’Ts of New Sales Professional Onboarding

By: Teresa Weirich

September 4, 2018

When it comes to hiring and onboarding new sales professionals, there is a lot at stake: hours and hours of training sessions, a significant amount of HR resources, and of course, several months—if not more—of ramp-up time before they’re selling at full capacity. When sales leaders consider the cost of replacing a team member (it costs approximately $115,000 to replace a sales professional), along with the average turnover rate of 28% in sales, onboarding becomes an even more important discussion—one that deserves a significant amount of attention. After all, sales organizations only get one shot at setting up each sales professional to do their best work.

Let’s get right to the topic at hand. What should a sales leader do (and maybe more importantly, what should you NOT do) to set individual contributors up for success in the very fragile early days of their career at a company? Below, we’ll share 3 practical DOs and 3 DON’Ts that will help the onboarding process not only go easier—but set up each team member to perform like the best sales professional on every single call.

DO Provide Them With Sales Enablement and Tools

CEB studies show that 57% of the buying journey is complete before buyers ever interact with a company. An effective sales enablement strategy allows companies to improve sales productivity by ensuring that sales professionals have the resources needed to take control of the final 43% of the buying journey.

Sales enablement is a critical component of new sales professional onboarding as it presents a time for the company to set course, demonstrate tools, instill proper procedures across various departments (such as finance, product, etc), and most importantly, allows sales professionals to ask questions in a safe environment. While most companies have robust sales enablement training in place for the onboarding process, many fall short when it comes to continuous education. In enterprise sales, the product or solution tends to change frequently with quarterly releases, and of course, marketing messaging usually accompanies the big updates. Without regular sales training and hands-on learning, it’s all too tempting for sales professionals to fall back on their own tendencies or to use outdated messaging or demo material.

DO Set Precedence For Methodology—And Hold Them To It

A sales methodology is the “how” of selling. It takes goals and turns them into actionable steps. Sales organizations may follow a certain well-known methodology, such as SPIN selling, the Challenger Sale, or the Sandler System. Many of today’s modern sales leaders pick and choose the components they like from several of the more widely adopted selling styles to create their own unique methodology.

Regardless of which methodology is selected, the key is to set a precedent from day one (and even during the interview process) that the sales professional must adhere to the company’s methodology. That doesn’t mean that she can’t let her own personality shine through during the sales process—in fact, it’s just the opposite. But it does mean that the sales professional is held accountable for activities and checkpoints during the selling cycle to ensure the entire organization is in lockstep, relaying the same message to prospects so the team presents itself in unison. This is also extremely valuable when it comes to sharing knowledge and best practices through each stage.

DO Establish 1:1 Weekly Coaching Sessions

Weekly 1:1 coaching sessions is where the sales magic happens. But, thanks to sales leaders’ busy schedules and conflicting priorities, they often get canceled or moved to quick 15-minute check-ins that are meant to prevent massive fires versus providing strategic time to work through deal nuances and to share learnings. That reactive approach is counter-intuitive to making sure that each sales professional is equipped to handle active deals and to provide real-time coaching.

Weekly coaching sessions are where good sales leaders are separated from high impact ones. 1 hour spent with each team member on a weekly basis may seem like a significant investment, but it’s one that allows both the leader and the individual contributor to focus on the make or break components of the strategic business case versus the tactical day-to-day deal mechanics. In the end, this will help both avoid a very slippery slope that often leads to a tactical mindset rather than a strategic, enterprise one.

DON’T Allow Sales Professionals to Use Their Own Processes

Sales leaders tend to hire team members with tenacity, character, and shining personalities. The last thing they want to do when onboarding a new hire is to strip them of the flair that made them so attractive during the interview process. But, there’s a fine line between allowing sales professionals to showcase their own personality and allowing them free reign to run their deals as they please (we actually wrote an entire blog post about this tension on OpenView’s blog – check it out!). When a structure is lacking, too much can be compromised: CRM data, follow-ups, objection handling, company messaging, and much more.

At Costello, we believe in the concept of a sales playbook that ensures every team member is marching to the same beat, albeit in their own style. Said another way, we believe that the best sales teams master the fundamentals in a controlled environment, and excel because of their characteristics—not in spite of them. Sales leaders should enforce the organization’s methodology and, so long as sales professionals operate within it, allow them to exhibit their personality and characteristics throughout the sales process.

DON’T Permit Team Members to Log Meetings Or Notes In Outside Systems

What’s the harm if sales professionals prefer to log their meetings or notes in outside systems, so long as they log primary details in the company’s CRM? Sales professionals may be used to using a Google Spreadsheet to capture notes during calls or a Word Doc to track objections and red flags, but having those items in third-party systems that aren’t connected to the database or system of record can cause major issues down the road. What happens when the sales professional leaves? What if the account is transferred to another team member? What about accurate sales forecasting or unpacking a specific deal for the executive team?

Even if it seems harmless enough to allow sales professionals to track notes or questions in a separate doc so long as they also track in the organization’s system of record, it can cause major issues when it comes to setting precedence for methodology. One challenge that teams often face is that CRMs don’t lend themselves well to capturing notes or questions in a way that can be filtered and used in future conversations or coaching conversations. While they are phenomenal tools for capturing deal mechanics, they aren’t set up to guide sales conversations and capture business case along the sales process. To avoid this lose-lose situation, sales leaders should consider adopting a guided selling platform that integrates with the CRM and also serves as a way to capture notes, indicate call outcomes, record objections, and more. As a complementary platform to a CRM, that every piece of valuable information is available and called upon for coaching and team development.

DON’T Forget to Ask For Feedback

Making changes within the sales organization is inevitable and necessary—especially in the complex enterprise world. That’s why frequent iteration and optimization of the sales process is not only recommended, but required.

Sales professionals are on the frontlines: they are the ones having daily conversations with prospects and customers, are tuned in to new market trends, and are hearing objections (and responding to them). By not asking for feedback, sales leaders are missing out on a goldmine of valuable information that can help them to make iterations to the sales process and capitalize on emerging trends that can help their sales team thrive. Not to mention, this collaborative approach helps to align all members of the sales team from executives to sales leaders to sales professionals and even SDRs. Feedback should happen on a regular basis and shouldn’t be confined just to 1:1 sessions, but to sales meetings and team conversations as well. The more aligned the entire organization is with what’s working and what’s not, the better the team can and will perform.


  • Teresa Weirich's Headshot
    Teresa Weirich

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