by Jim Patton
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report, only 66% of employees working in the United States feel engaged in their current job. This number has not changed much over the past decade. We know that a solid onboarding program is critical for increasing employee engagement, yet only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. Onboarding has become even more challenging the past year as many sales reps have been forced to onboard virtually. This can be both a challenge for the new sales rep and the company hiring when neither party has ever met live in person.
So, how can you increase employee engagement and set your sales team up for onboarding success? Here are five components of an effective onboarding program for sales organizations:
1. Develop and Send a Pre-Boarding Plan
World-class companies are 53% more likely to provide pre-boarding activities. Sales reps are eager to get started. Sending them information to read and expectations for their onboarding experience will help them hit the ground running. It is also essential to make sure they have any new equipment, like smartphones and laptops, shipped to them before day one to start getting up-to-speed on their new role as quickly as possible. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to log in to your company’s network or your business email at the start of onboarding.
2. Develop and Distribute an Impact Plan
An onboarding plan, or what we at PDG like to call an impact plan, lays out the onboarding journey for your new sales rep. It shows a weekly schedule of what the sales rep needs to complete as a part of the onboarding process. The plan can be as simple as an Excel workbook with tabs for each week’s activities, or it can be built and housed in a learning management system (LMS) or adaptive learning platform (ALP). The impact plan can be broken down into sections, including things that the new rep needs to know, activities the sales rep must do, and further refinement/advanced learning areas. Both the new rep and their manager can view the impact plan as it is being completed and use it as the basis for weekly coaching discussions.
3. Set Up Meet and Greets Between New Sales Reps and Colleagues From Operations
Sales reps need to know their internal support team. The key to success for any new rep is to build your internal network of subject matter experts. Know who to go to when you need internal subject matter expertise on a sales call or who can help you draft a statement of work. New hires should be scheduling meet and greet calls with other staff members in the first 30 days on the job. These can be brief calls where both parties get to know one another better and discuss how they can work together. This also goes a long way in acclimating the new sales rep to the company’s culture.
4. Build-In Time for Role-Playing Preparation and Practice
Athletes hate to watch game films! These films show the athletes what they are doing well and the areas they need to improve on. The same thing goes for preparing a sales pitch for your product/service and practicing it with your manager and other cohort members. Some of the adaptive learning platforms on the market have video capabilities that allow sales reps to record sales pitches and then submit them to managers for review and feedback. You can also use live video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom to do these practice sessions. As the saying goes, “practice does make perfect!”
5. Include Weekly Coaching Checkpoints in the Impact Plan
It is important to keep your new sales rep engaged and feeling like a part of the team. 72% of employees say one-on-one time with their direct manager is the most important part of the onboarding process. Sales managers should conduct at least a weekly checkpoint with the new rep to review progress towards completing tasks in the impact plan. These checkpoints should be more frequent during the first two to three weeks in the new role. The coaching sessions should be more than just a task for the sales manager to check off, and in order to improve the performance of the new sales reps, the coaching needs to be done with quality. This may require coaching training for the sales manager.
Virtual onboarding is much more than a one-time training event via a Zoom call. If you want to drive business results through behavior change, you must make sure that your sales reps are doing what they learned while onboarding and doing it well while on the job. It is also vital that they receive quality coaching from their manager regularly. These actions will lead to faster time to productivity and increased employee engagement.