Onboarding new reps: Who has time for that?
  • sales
  • Blog post

Onboarding new reps: Who has time for that?

In last week’s post, I highlighted some ideas from our recent Webinar with Steve Von Hoene on sales onboarding. For attendees, the #1 onboarding issue — by far — was time.

Last week, we looked at one aspect of the time problem: how to accelerate the learning curve and get new reps producing faster. This week, we’re going to look at another dimension: How sales managers can find the time for coaching and training new hires.

In a poll of our attendees, most respondents said they’ll spend five to ten hours a week on onboarding in the first weeks and months after they bring in a new hire. You can look at that number from two perspectives: For managers, that’s a huge time commitment, given all the other things that are on their plate. But for the new hire, it’s not nearly enough. It means that for the vast majority of their time, their boss isn’t available.

So how can managers bridge that gap?

Here are four ideas to consider:

Don’t try to do it all yourself. You don’t necessarily need to be the hands-on trainer, coach, reinforcer and all the rest. Instead, put your management skills to work. Your job is to manage the onboarding process — creating the plan, marshaling the resources to put it into effect and monitoring it to make sure it’s working. You don’t have to actually deliver all of the coaching and training yourself.

Turn onboarding into a training opportunity for other reps. In medical education, there’s a time-honored method for teaching skills to residents: See one, do one, teach one. First time around, the resident watches while a more experienced physician does a procedure. Next time, the resident does the procedure, under the watchful eye of the more experienced physician. Third time, the resident teaches another resident how to do it (hopefully, still under the supervision of the instructor). It turns out that this approach has a double benefit: It reinforces the teacher’s knowledge, and also makes the learning more accessible to the learner. So figure out who else on your sales team can teach the newbie. It might be an experienced rep who happens to be really good at the task in question. But it could also be a less experienced rep who struggled with the task before mastering it.

Create a library of resources that you can reuse. For example, maybe you don’t have time to role-play every scenario that a new hire will encounter. So why not set up series of role plays for your entire team, record them, and use them over and over? Studies show that people learn as much or more from observing a role play than from participating in it. So your new hire can learn a lot without your having to invest any additional time. The same goes for other resources. Try to capture the learning that happens in your organization every day — for example, by documenting win-loss analyses, having reps write down how they handle various sales problems, and so on — and make this content available to new hires so they can learn on their own.

Use commercial training resources. Full disclosure here: We sell online sales training, so I have a vested interest in this recommendation. But why reinvent the wheel, when validated, high-quality materials are available? You will always need to train new reps on your particular products, customers and industry. But there’s a common set of effective selling skills that work in just about every situation.

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