How to Speed up Onboarding & Master Sales Enablement: 5 Expert Tips
If you’re a sales leader, you know the pressure is always on. Of all departments, sales has the most obvious impact on the success of your organization.
You could have the most sophisticated marketing team in the industry, but without well-trained salespeople to close the deal, your leads could easily drift into the arms of your competitors.
Sales enablement, or the art of continuous performance optimization, represents the difference between new revenue and lost opportunities. But creating a framework that supports long-term training success is easier said than done.
Succeeding in sales means starting at the beginning
Plain and simple: it’s impossible to succeed without an effective new hire onboarding model.
I spoke to Avner Baruch, Head of International Sales Enablement at WalkMe, to learn how he was able to drastically shorten the onboarding time for new sales representatives and create a sustainable model of sales enablement.
The impact of his successful approach is already evident.
Before he joined WalkMe, the average for a new sales rep to close their first deal was 100 days.
Since revamping their approach to onboarding and implementing new best practices, the department has been able to decrease that time by as much as 75%, with employees successfully closing their first deal in as fast as 25 days.
How can you replicate this success in your sales organization? Read on to learn about the biggest training pitfalls to avoid and five tips for sales enablement success.
A misguided approach to onboarding can set your team up for failure
When onboarding isn’t designed and executed effectively, your sales team becomes exposed to certain risks, such as discontinuity, unpreparedness to talk to prospects, and ultimately lost business.
When training is ineffective, it’s usually due to one of two mistakes, according to Avner.
The first is using a one-size-fits-all approach to training, which will obviously fail to fulfill the individual needs of each team member. The other is being too hands-off. If you throw your new reps into the deep-end, don’t expect them to figure out your processes and strategy themselves.
“To begin with, having reps learn by themselves results in the creation of silos,” says Avner. “In other words, managers will need to track and resolve gaps that were created because reps are executing based on individual interpretations of the sales playbook, messaging, pitch, and value realization.”
The problem with letting these silos begin to grow is that the walls get harder to tear down over time. When your reps train new salespeople based on an inaccurate or invalid baseline of information, you perpetuate this loop of discongruity and poor standardization.
Effective training and coaching skills are absolutely integral to effective onboarding and making your sales team’s ramp-up time as short as possible.
2 surprising employee training challenges to prepare for
Unlike other disciplines, where employees can begin completing core tasks after basic training, ramping up sales reps does not occur on a binary learning path, according to Avner. In most cases, it takes nearly two quarters for sales best practices to sink in and for performance to improve.
There are many challenging elements of onboarding, but Avner identified a particularly surprising one as a significant bottleneck to productivity: prior success.
“The most challenging part of ramping up reps is working with the ones who over-achieved in their previous roles,” he says. “These reps will try to apply in their new role whatever worked for them before. This may work when reps move horizontally — in the same space or vertical. However, when reps who wade in new waters rely mainly on self-confidence and ‘field-proven off-the-shelf’ skills, molding them becomes more challenging.”
Another core challenge originates from a common trait among salespeople: eagerness to sell.
We often joke that people who work in sales are a special breed of humans, with massive amounts of drive, enthusiasm, and ambition. These are great employee traits, but they often make it harder to be patient with training.
“Reps prefer to invest every waking hour in selling rather than sit in class or watch YouTube tutorials, especially when the end of the quarter is around the corner,” says Avner.
Sales enablement leaders must find the balance between nailing the fundamentals in training and keeping the fire burning in enthusiastic reps.
The 5 keys to successful onboarding and sales enablement
By avoiding those onboarding pitfalls and proactively addressing the challenges that commonly accompany training, you can get your new sales reps up to speed fast and provide successful ongoing sales enablement.
1. Teach reps to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk”
There’s always a learning curve when selling for a new company. Your freshly minted reps must cultivate the knowledge and confidence to accurately describe your company’s portfolio offering, associated technologies, and key terminology before speaking to prospects.
While reps with a solid technical background might bridge this gap easily, others will need more guidance and resources. To resolve this, Avner developed the Three Pillar Enablement methodology, which has been integral to his department’s success.
- Pillar 1 – Tech & Market Knowledge: The first pillar involves empowering reps to learn all of the necessary information and news on your market, verticals, trends, and key players. It includes getting them up to speed on common buzz words and introducing them to their KPIs.
- Pillar 2 – Product Knowledge: The second pillar is gaining a deep understanding of your own product offering, competitive landscape, and company values. This is also the step where reps should learn to provide a product demo.
- Pillar 3 – Sell: Only upon completing the two initial pillars can a rep be prepared to mitigate objections, pitch your product, and execute on your sales playbook.
2. Perfect your training delivery
As mentioned above, people in sales tend to be eager to start and have little patience for dry training sessions.
“Trainers who rely mostly on slides are doomed to fail,” says Avner.
First, providing lengthy presentations packed with information, standards, and best practices takes up a massive amount of time and leads to poor knowledge retention. Second, boredom is inevitable.
“[Your sales team] will simply lose interest, trust, and confidence in the system,” he added. To avoid this scenario, Avner suggests focusing on contextual learning, simulations where new reps role-play various scenarios, online trivia games, process simulations, individualized coaching, and post-call analysis.
3. Take a comprehensive approach to CRM onboarding
Mastering the CRM requires comprehensive onboarding and ongoing updates as changes to the system occur, according to Avner.
At WalkMe, a significant portion of the initial onboarding is dedicated to covering core topics and processes on the CRM to get new employees acquainted with the system. Beyond that, it’s critical to have a strategy in place for communicating changes or informing reps of operational errors.
“To reduce the burden on Sales Ops, context exposure on the CRM must be delivered in a scalable fashion,” he says.
Our sales team uses WalkMe on Salesforce, which enables the leadership to proactively target specific teams with content at a defined time, so escalations, iterative emails, and webinars aren’t needed.
4. Make your expectations clear
Bootcamps are an essential part of sales onboarding — not only for communicating information on the sales strategy and best practices but also for setting expectations.
The standards you set for your team in terms of performance and progress should be clearly and routinely communicated, according to Avner.
“Fortunately, we’re using Gong to track reps’ performance, which is easy and extremely accurate, though time-consuming,” he says. “By listening to reps’ calls, I can see what works for the top performers and share that later with other team members. When the need arises, I meet with specific reps to discuss their style on calls and ideas for improvement.”
5. Keep up the momentum
Developing a robust onboarding schedule that continues beyond the first weeks of an employee’s tenure is essential for maintaining momentum and ensuring learning actually sticks.
“Many businesses focus mainly on the first weeks of the onboarding process,” says Avner. “They put in hundreds of hours developing content, and then they dump it all on new hires only to find out later that the completion rate doesn’t meet expectations, for some ‘unknown’ reason.”
Successful sales enablement requires a long-term approach. Avner suggests designing a mechanism that keeps reps up-to-date on new information in the easiest way possible.
“Here at WalkMe, we leverage our own capabilities to push content to our reps rather than relying on them to pull data,” he says. For example, Avner can pull collateral from SMEs or relevant business units and deliver that to the team in real-time via WalkMe shoutouts.
When the pressure is high, be prepared
Effective sales enablement combines experience and best practices with preparedness, patience, and a proactive approach.
By taking the time to develop a comprehensive onboarding model, communicating clear expectations, and taking steps to avoid common pitfalls, you can create a framework for continual performance improvement and overall success.