How to Organize New Hire On-Boarding to Accelerate Time to Quota
As a sales or recruiter leader or small business owner, getting your new sales reps and new recruiters ramped up and hitting quota as quickly as possible is one of your most important responsibilities. The sooner they are able to make quota the better and easier your job becomes. Yet the reality is most IT staffing firms struggle to quickly and efficiently on-board and ramp-up their new hires. And many new hires struggle to ever hit quota while many more never even make it. The impact of this is costly according to Brad Smart, author of Topgrading for Sales, who states that the average cost of a failed ramp-up is six times the base salary for a salesperson. The reality is even more concerning with The Bridge Group reporting that the average sales rep stays in the job for only 1.4 years.
This is why it is essential to develop a new hire on-boarding program that helps more of your new reps and new recruiters succeed in the shortest possible time frame. This not only helps deliver quicker ROI but also reduces employee churn that plagues most IT staffing firms.
First Things First, Don’t Underestimate Your New Hire’s Learning Curve
According to research by CSO Insights, sales rep ramp-up time (the ability to consistently meet quota) ranges between 3-12 months. For a basic sales cycle involving a low cost and low risk decision, a sales rep can achieve this proficiency in just a couple of months. But as the decision making process grows more complex (on behalf of the client, think multiple decision makers) so does ramp-up time. Why? Sales reps simply have more to learn. While we in the IT staffing industry are not typically selling multi-million-dollar deals that involve huge amounts of risk on behalf of the client, we are also not selling $50.00 watches on the street corner either. On the “sales process complexity scale” I would say we are about a six out of 10 (being most complex). As I have stated previously, most IT staffing firms give new hires a short orientation then turn them loose to “figure things out on their own.” This is a set up for failure. And as I have also discussed previously, assigning a rep to shadow a top performer for a few weeks is also a recipe for failure as is delivering new hire training like a college student prepares for a mid-term the night before. Information through a water hose also is a recipe for failure.
So what is the right way to on-board new hires? Below I share my ideas, lessons learned and best practices for how to most effectively organize your new hire on-boarding program.
How Should You Organize Your New Hire On-boarding Program?
Start by thinking about everything that new hires need to know in order to hit their quota. For example, you can (and should) break down everything that a new sales rep needs to know in order to be successful in their job. For me, I break it down into the following components:
This includes your company history, growth, major milestones, values, leadership, etc. Every sales rep needs to be able to speak intelligently about the company they work for including their history, goals and objectives and overall strategy. I also believe every sales rep should be able to articulate the story behind the entrepreneur who founded the business including how and why they started the business in the first place.
Who are your customers? What industries do they work in? Do they work for big companies or small companies? What is their role or roles within the organization? What problems do your customers face? How are they evaluated? What do they value and what (and where) do they read and consume information to do their job more effectively? Why do they buy from you? How do they buy from you? What problems do you and your services solve for your customers? What customer case studies do you have that highlight how your service offerings have impacted your customers business (reduced costs, increased revenues, etc).
I think this one is self-explanatory. What are your service offerings? What problems do your services solve for your customers? Do your sales reps know which service offering to position and when? What is the value of your service offering(s). Who is most interested in learning about your service offerings? How are your services priced?
Sales Process & Sales Methodology
If you can't lay out a sales process work flow map that articulates each step that the seller and buyer must take in order for a deal to close than your sales reps are going to make it up on their own. This means they will be left on their own to "figure it out." This is why it takes so many new sales reps and new recruiters so long to ramp up and hit quota and why many never make it. Don't leave it up to them to figure out it. Documenting the stages of your sales process will accelerate new hire on-boarding.
Similarly, if you leave it up to your new hires to figure out how to execute each step in your sales process they will make up their own way. Chances are the owner or sales leader in your company has much more experience in sales and selling IT staffing services than your new hires and should know the most effective way for executing each step in your sales process. But if you leave it up to your new hire to figure it out on his/her own how to best cold call a client or submit (pitch) a candidate, don't be surprised if you are still waiting for that rep to hit quota 12+ months later. Your sales methodology describes how each step in your sales process is to be executed. Don't leave this to chance.
This one seems obvious but amazingly I have yet, in my eight + years running Menemsha Group to come across an IT staffing firm that actually provides sales training in their new hire on-boarding orientation. To be clear, the type of sales training I'm referring to focuses on teaching sales reps prospecting skills, objection handling skills, presentation skills, how to ask probing questions, how to qualify sales leads and opportunities, active listening, negotiation, etc. Being in a sales role I would say it is pretty important that your sales reps have these skills.
Business Acumen Skills
Business acumen skills on the other hand refers to a sales rep's understanding of how all of the different departments in a company rely on one another in order to produce their product or service. Business acumen is the understanding of how these different teams and departments are interconnected and reliant on each other. It’s about understanding the cause and effect between each department. Being able to recognize and understand this is business acumen. Recognizing when something positive or negative (trigger event) happens (or is happening) within an organization and understanding who (or what departments) will be impacted and how they will be impacted is business acumen. It’s this ability to connect the dots or to see and recognize the “chain reaction” of these events. Sales professionals needs business acumen skills in order to make the transition from "order taker" to having business oriented conversations and selling up the value chain. After all, anyone can find pre-defined, budget approved job orders. That doesn't require much if any skill. To be successful in sales today sellers must know how to create opportunities. This is where business acumen comes in.
Tools & Systems
This includes understanding your ATS or CRM systems, email systems and any other internal systems that a new hire needs to understand in order to be successful in their role.
Who is the competition? How does the competition differ from what you offer? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Prioritize Your Training Curriculum
Once you have mapped out all of the knowledge and skill areas that a new hire needs to learn you need to decide what the rep must learn today vs. what can be learned as they go or down the road. Making this decision will allow you to start to build out your training deployment schedule including your user adoption plan.
This is where most companies go off the tracks. Most companies start training their new hires on:
- CRM/ATS systems
- HR/Company policies
- Company history
I'm not saying new sales rep don't need to be trained on these topics. What I am saying though is they don't need to be trained on them in the first 30 or even 60 days. Remember, the goal is quota attainment. Properly documenting in your CRM/ATS is not going to get your new hires to quota. Neither is learning your company history or your service offerings. And be sure to resist the natural temptation of start your new hire training by teaching your new sales reps your service offerings. You can read more here on how and why this strategy pushes sales reps into constant pitch mode.
In my next post I will share with you with the first 30 days should look like for on-boarding new sales rep.
What does your new hire-on-boarding program consistent of? How do you organize your training content? What are you finding most challenging? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.