Written By: Rich Mesch
June 5, 2023 – 6 min read
Statistics show that the chance of a salesperson hitting their numbers is the flip of a coin. Recent studies show that between 40 to 60% of salespeople hit their quota. How can it be—businesses invest billions of dollars each year improving performance through sales training, sales enablement, and sales operations, and yet half of the professionals do not meet quota?
What if it’s not their fault? What if it results from the systems and culture they sell inside of?
What we’re talking about is onboarding. Some call it new-hire orientation, and others simply refer to it as ‘signing someone on.’ The bottom line is poor onboarding results in a significant financial impact on employers, starting with high turnover rates.
According to a hiring and recruitment article published in the Harvard Business Review:
We’re about to turn traditional onboarding on its head with the little-known term—ever-boarding. Ever-boarding creates a culture of continuous learning to reinforce and create sustainable new and desired behaviors through accountability. Ever-boarding takes over where onboarding leaves off. It recognizes that job knowledge, growth, and speed to productivity don’t have a beginning and end. It also incorporates micro-learning to create teachable moments throughout the workweek without disrupting the flow of productivity. And most importantly, it doesn’t stop unless the employee chooses to leave the organization.
Let’s first look at how a typical onboarding experience might go for a sales new hire that we’ll call Syd.
Syd lands a new sales job with a well-known high-tech company. She’s pumped and says, ” I am going to love this job!” Syd arrives to work early on her first day, full of energy, excitement, and possibility. She meets with the HR manager and receives a 60-day onboarding plan.
The fun begins!
Syd peruses the onboarding plan and thinks, “this seems doable.” Everything seems to be going well the first couple of weeks, and then Syd’s responsibilities start pulling her away from “the plan” and into the business.
Syd’s sales leader has been down two team members for over a month and is scrambling to create a path to make quota for the quarter. No fault of the sales leader, but he is becoming reactive and shortsighted because he needs to make his numbers!
And now, the real struggle begins.
This struggle continues for a couple of weeks: Syd is trying to “stay the course” of her onboarding plan while the sales leader is focused on tactics to achieve quicker sales results.
Syd feels like she is being pulled in two directions and then wonders if she made the right decision taking this job. The HR manager checks in periodically but has primarily let her sales leader take over. Syd feels unsettled but decides to stay and survives the first 60 days. She struggled to complete her onboarding checklist and is not doing as well as she had hoped after two months. Another person on her team left, and her manager seems to be more reactive.
What if Syd’s experience were more supportive? Let’s take a look at another scenario with a company that uses ever-boarding as a culture tool.
During Syd’s final interview, she met with a senior sales leader, Abby, who told her that their onboarding approach is different from most sales organizations. Abby explained the company focuses on three core values: culture, systems, and accountability. She said that the CEO grew up in sales and disliked most of his career experiences, so he proclaimed his organization would treat new hires differently.
Syd was immediately on board! She felt included and at ease even before she accepted the position.
The main difference between Syd’s encounter with the first company and this one is that leadership is committed to creating a culture of continuous improvement. This means there is development and progress at all employee stages, and there are systems in place and accountability at every level.
As it relates to ever-boarding, a weekly cadence of accountability is part of the process. For Syd, it started with her pre-boarding—the period between when she accepted the position and her first day of work.
Two weeks before she started, she received a welcome kit in the mail with company swag and a personal handwritten letter from the company CEO. In the letter, he expressed his personal commitment to Syd’s development from this moment forward. The CEO also explained why he puts all new salespeople on salary for the first year. He had been in too many sales positions where he needed to produce quickly, taking precedence over long-term success.
The welcome kit also included a sheet with access codes to the company systems so that Syd could start learning about the company and its history before her first day.
On Syd’s first day of work, she met with a sponsor—a senior-level sales associate, Audrey, who became her guide the first year. Audrey was responsible for Syd’s success at learning about the company, answering questions, and helping navigate her way around the office. Syd’s entire support team included: the HR manager who developed Syd’s personal impact plan, Syd’s direct manager, and her guide. Syd has never felt this much support and commitment to her personal success.
Syd’s ever-boarding journey does not stop there.
Fast forward 18 months into the role, Syd is asked to be a sponsor for new hires. This is the first step in the company’s leadership development program. From there, Syd aspires to eventually be selected to lead the sales team.