Employee Onboarding, Sales Training

3 Ways to Customize Your Sales Onboarding Program to Reduce Time to Productivity

by Debbie Williams

Effective sales professionals are one of the biggest contributors to company revenue - they’re also extremely difficult to find. A great sales representative is experienced, knows your target market and product, and understands how to pitch your offerings in the most compelling way.

But to be effective, productive members of your company, new sales hires first need to learn your business and, often, the art of selling. That doesn’t happen overnight. Sales onboarding programs can be lengthy, intense, and still may not give new hires the skills they need to be fully productive.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. Companies can both increase the effectiveness of their sales onboarding program and reduce time to productivity with just a few key techniques.

How to Reduce Time to Productivity for New Sales Employees

Sales onboarding programs are crucial for ramping up new hires, but they’re rarely as effective as they could be. One of the best ways to improve effectiveness and reduce time to productivity is through customization. Customizing your onboarding program will help new sales professionals learn the skills they need without wasting extra time reviewing what they already know. Use these three tips to reduce time to productivity for new sales team members.

1. Tailor the length of onboarding programs to individual employees -- A shorter onboarding program doesn’t always equal decreased time to productivity. While an onboarding program shouldn’t drag on for too long, it shouldn’t be rushed in an effort to get sales employees to the phones. Too often, a rushed program actually strains your budget in the long run as it can result in salespeople who don’t have the skills to function well in their role - resulting in small deals and lower close rates.

The average employee takes from eight months to two years to become fully productive.¹ This illustrates that employees are very different in how quickly they learn and feel confident in their abilities.

To get new hires productive as quickly as possible, tailor the length of sales onboarding programs to individual employees’ needs. Create several program variations, with lengthier options for sales professionals who are new to the field and shorter, more product and target market focused courses for experienced sales men and women. Regularly check in with new sales employees for feedback on perceived progress, as well as gather feedback from their team members and customers they serve. This will help you fine-tune how long onboarding processes should last.

2. Incorporate feedback from employees who became productive quickly -- Some salespeople start contributing faster than others. By getting feedback from these workers concerning what specifically helped them become productive, you can adjust your existing onboarding program to be more effective. Talent Management and HR asked,

“What knowledge, skills and behaviours are common to your most successful, most productive employees?”²

You can gather this information from seasoned sales associates by using employee assessments that include questions such as:

  • “What was the most helpful aspect of introductory sales training for you?”
  • “Were there any aspects of onboarding you found unnecessary?”
  • “Which of the skills you gleaned from your onboarding program did you put to use the fastest?”
  • “What skills were you already proficient in before onboarding?”
  • “What online course(s) increased your self-confidence as a sales team member most drastically?

Look for commonalities in feedback. For example, if many quick contributors say learning new techniques to close a sale was extremely helpful to them, tweak your current program to teach more of those skills. Conversely, if most top performers say learning to generate leads over social media wasn’t helpful, consider making that less of a priority in your sales onboarding program.

3. Customize learning paths to reduce time to productivity -- While it’s fine to have an onboarding program that’s standardized in both length and content, it’s critical that you are able to customize it for individual learners, the product they’re selling, and their target audience. LMS learning paths can facilitate this.

Learning paths allow you to create a personalized flow of information based on what’s important to individual employees. For example, you could have separate learning paths for experienced sales professionals and those who are new to the field. You could also have learning paths for sales professionals focused on selling different products, or who target a very specific segment of your market.

Learning paths are helpful because every new hire will have different strengths and weaknesses and will need different product and market knowledge based on their specific role in your company. Some employees who have worked in sales extensively will have very strong customer service skills and may just need a refresher course in this area, whereas learning how to best serve customers could be vitally important to the success of other new employees. Some will have worked with your target audience before, whereas others will need extensive training on your personas, their pain points, and the language that resonates with them.

By leveraging your learning management system to create personalized learning paths with the training your new sales hires need most, you can use your sales onboarding program to quickly fill knowledge gaps. That will help you avoid wasting time teaching new employees what they already know.

Customization is Key to a Sales Onboarding Program That Fosters Productivity

A focused onboarding program shortens time to productivity,³ and most businesses can better focus their onboarding by customizing it to individual employees. If you are concerned that many of your new sales employees are taking too long to fully contribute to your company, make sales onboarding program customization one of your top priorities.
Sales Training

1,2 TLNT. Address new hire training early to speed productivity. https://www.tlnt.com/address-new-hire-gaps-early-to-speed-full-productivity/.

Lessonly. Without focused onboarding, time to productivity suffers. https://www.lessonly.com/blog/onboarding-improves-time-to-productivity/.

Debbie Williams

Debbie Williams

Director, Marketing