Bringing new agents onto your sales team is not easy. Agent onboarding is a unique process with unique challenges, and there’s no clear formula for reducing ramp-up time. According to a study from Accenture, “nearly one-half of sales representatives take 10 months or longer to become adept enough to contribute to company goals.” This means sales managers need to show patience with their new hires. However, it does not mean that managers are powerless in reducing ramp-up time and making new hires productive sooner. Here are some tips for developing a culture that minimizes the onboard and ramp-up process and maximizes the ROI of new hires.
Create a structure for mentorship
While easy to overlook, veteran agents can be one of the most valuable resources when it comes to training new agents. Not only do your vets typically have more sales experience and a better understanding of your product, but they are familiar with the intangibles unique to your company: the sales process, the culture and even the values – things that can be tough for anyone to learn at a new company. Pairing a new rep with a mentor will accelerate their understanding of your product, it’s best practices, the pain points it solves and how, and common buyer objections. Perhaps most importantly, these mentors have gone through the same onboarding process, so they can help their mentees avoid the pitfalls that they stumbled on. But having one of your veterans work with new reps has direct benefits for managers, as well. Being familiar with the culture of your sales floor and the values of your company gives the mentor a good perspective on how mentees are fitting into the environment, and allows them a more in-depth view of the cultural fit.
While creating a structure of mentorship is crucial in reducing the ramp-up time of your new agents, the execution isn’t as simple as telling your older reps to take care of the new ones – establishing any sort of structure requires a plan. Set up concrete benchmarks for your mentors, such as meeting with their mentee for a half-hour each day or grabbing lunch once a week. Be sure your experienced agents understand their role as mentor, and the purpose behind it. It is easy to forget that sales is a team game, and good mentorship reinforces a team culture. Playing mentor is a privilege – it’s an opportunity for an agent to take more responsibility and gain management level experience. Additionally, make time to visit with your mentors concerning the process. Ask what elements of the onboarding process are working, what needs improvement, and what snags new reps are consistently hitting. Such a close perspective can be invaluable in evaluating and refining the onboarding process as you continue to bring in new reps. Finally, set a timeline for the onboarding process. The best agents are always learning, but some tend to continue acting as students, content to watch more than act without the proper motivation. Whether it’s a time period such as three months or a goal to accomplish, set a concrete benchmark for the mentee to transition from an understudy role into their own.
Establish a culture of hunters
The most effective sales reps are hunters; that is, they are always looking for new leads. These agents view their daily calling lists as part of their pipeline – the rest they fill with their own. The best agents are constantly self-sourcing new opportunity. Self-sourced leads are crucial for a high-performing sales teams, as they are usually more qualified than those a manager can provide. In order to take your sales team to the next level – and to help your new reps transform into selling machines – you must cultivate a culture of hunters. The value of motivating your reps to create their own opportunity is clear: more opportunity leads to more deals, which generates more revenue. But a self-sourcing culture brings benefits for incoming agents, as well. Bringing new agents into such a culture reduces their ramp-up time, as training them to hunt allows them to build their own pipeline much more quickly, accelerating their opportunity to call quality prospects.
Active self-sourcing can totally reinvent a sales team, with reps adding more and more qualified leads to their pipeline and creating more opportunity. But, as always, motivating your team to become hunters is easier said than done. The key is creating a sense of accountability in self-sourcing leads, and then reinforcing that. Set clear goals for your reps to strive toward – maybe in addition to requiring they make 100 calls each day, they must find 10 new leads to add to their pipeline. Track the leads they are bringing in on their own, and when a rep closes a self-sourced deal, celebrate that win! It takes a lot of work to bring a lead to the top of the funnel and then guide them all the way through, and when it comes to self-sourced deals, all of that work rests on a single pair of shoulders. You can also provide content that reps can use on their own to help close deals. Sales agents deserve a little extra recognition for putting in the extra work to add new business to your organization on their own.
Invest in Sales Technology
In the modern sales industry, a robust sales stack is necessary for your team to reach its full potential. There are seemingly countless options to enhance any element of the sales process, from prospecting and nurturing to actually signing contracts. Whether you’re looking to improve your approach to inbound or outbound sales, or even marketing, there’s a platform waiting for you. So, if you’re looking to reduce your new agent ramp-up time, you can find an app for that. If you’re a sales manager, sales technology probably isn’t new to you, but the idea of leveraging it to help your new agents might be. The key that some managers miss is making that technology available to your whole team. Some managers view sales tech as a resource reserved for top-performers, or for account executives but not the business development team. But if your sales tech is making your reps more effective, shouldn’t it help make your new reps effective faster? Giving your entire team access to your sales stack is paramount in assisting new hires as they acclimate to your sales process.
If you’re looking to build or rebuild your sales stack, start with your CRM. A robust CRM platform is the cornerstone of a good sales stack, and you’ve got plenty to choose from (although we’re big fans of Salesforce). A good CRM helps with every step of the sales process, including logging calls, tracking interactions, and maintaining records, and it ensures your information stays together and in the same place, making it easy to reference previous touchpoints and infer data from your own activity. A good CRM will help your incoming agents, as well, by giving them a single interface to work with rather than learning and consolidating multiple platforms such as email clients, dialers and databases. While many sales tech decisions are need-driven, there’s one solution that every sales team should implement: automation. The average sales agents spends just one-third of their time actually selling. Every day agents lose time to important but simple tasks such as logging calls and updating records. Sales automation saves agents hours each day by taking care of those tasks and many, many more in the background. Those reclaimed hours can totally reinvent your sales process. Automation is also huge for new reps, removing human error from much of the sales process and allowing them to focus on learning and building their pipeline.