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3 Steps to Building a Killer Sales Onboarding Plan

By this time, you've learned a lot about onboarding. In parts one, two and three of this series, we pointed out the surprisingly high cost of replacing a sales rep ($115,000), looked at some little-known facts about professional selling that underscore the importance of onboarding and reviewed onboarding trends and best practices. Now, in this fourth and final post, it's time to apply all you've learned by putting together a plan for your own version of onboarding success.

"Most companies under-invest in onboarding programs and focus too much on product training for new hires. This often leads to longer ramp times. (Ramp time is the time it takes for a new hire to reach full productivity). Ramp times can be 2x to 5x longer compared to best practice. This results in a serious hit to productivity, costing companies millions of dollars.

"It doesn't have to be this way. ". . . Successful onboarding programs . . . can reduce new hire attrition by 15 percent and increase new hire productivity (e.g., achievement to goal) by 40 percent in the first year." This same source details onboarding planning by laying out three essential components or building blocks.

1. Program principles and goals. Defining the goals of your onboarding program is an all-important first step. Why? Because ". . . outcomes reflect what key stakeholders expect from reps at the end of an onboarding program (e.g., at six months on the job) and along the way. Guiding principles should also be established early to ensure program design work aligns with leadership vision."

2. Program strategy. Three strategic pieces—content, structure and measurement—make up this second building block and are necessary for all onboarding programs. Think of content as the "what" of onboarding. In other words, what needs to be accomplished to be successful. Embedded in content are the nuts and bolts of navigation (how to get things done), products and business (audiences, product benefits, competitive advantages) and sales (the specific sales methodology of your company). Structure is the "how" of content deployment. Mastery of each piece of content must proceed through three steps—knowledge, practice and execution in the field.

Measurement is the "how much" piece of an onboarding program—how much content should a new hire master and by when? Milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the two components of measurement.

3. The execution engine. This is the true machinery of success—the real work of implementing, sustaining and integrating an onboarding program. While space limits our explanation of these five parts of successful execution, you can review all of the details of each step here.

  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities.
  • Build supporting and sustaining processes.
  • Utilize onboarding-related tools.
  • Establish governance structures.
  • Integrate sales onboarding with other programs.

It has often been said that the only constant is change. This seems especially apt for the endless cycle of recruiting, hiring, training and ramping new sales representatives up to productivity. Because, once you've done that, some of them will leave (for any of a multitude of reasons, many beyond your control).

However, you can influence some of those reasons. By carefully building a strong and intentional onboarding program, you will be doing all you can to speed new hires toward productivity. At the same time, you will be paving the way to greater job satisfaction for employees, increased commitment to your organization and lower turnover—and therefore lower recruitment and hiring costs.

What works in onboarding and what doesn't? How do you make a good program better? And what are the onboarding secrets highly successful companies use consistently? You'll find answers to these questions and many others in Maestro's white paper, Onboarding: Shortening the path to productivity. Learn why smart and savvy employers know it's time to get serious about onboarding. Download the white paper now.

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