Why Your Onboarding Process for New Sales Hires Needs Updating in the Post-Pandemic Era

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The past year hasn’t been kind to businesses. In July 2020, 70 percent of small business leaders indicated they were worried about their organizations’ finances, and 58 percent worried they might have to close due to dwindling revenues. While most companies are recovering in 2021, there’s not much room for error.

To navigate this tenuous time, the best thing you can do is hire and maintain a spectacular sales team. Talented sales professionals work directly with your customers to assess their needs and help them understand the benefit of your solutions. This produces a steady lead flow and more closed deals — precisely what you need to grow and survive.

Adjusting Your Approach to Sales Onboarding

Sounds great, right? The problem is that some businesses haven’t updated their onboarding processes since the pandemic. There wasn’t much reason to: Few companies were hiring after the economy took a nosedive, and many had to let go of existing employees (which resulted in a 14.8 percent unemployment rate  in April 2020).

Today, however, incoming sales representatives need to know how to meet the challenges of your new environment. In the past, businesses followed an unchanging onboarding formula. First, they would introduce candidates to team members and the company culture during interviews. Then, they would give new hires a rundown of the selling process. From that point on, it was up to the salespeople to fill the pipeline and close deals.

This uninvolved process won’t work well with today’s high stakes. Your sales onboarding process needs to be clearly defined to ensure success for your representatives and the organization. Sales team members need to know more than just the benefits they’ll receive. They need to have the right tools and direction so they can master your products or services and deliver maximum value to customers.

Tips for Onboarding Salespeople After the Pandemic

If you’re planning to bring on salespeople in the near future, you can’t rely on old onboarding processes. You need to adjust to the current environment and equip new hires from the start. Here’s how you can improve your sales recruitment and training protocols:

1. Clearly Communicate What the Role Expectations Are

The way you communicate with sales team members during onboarding can affect the results they produce later. If new hires aren’t sure what’s expected of them, they won’t meet company goals. This can result in disappointment and frustration on both sides.

Studies indicate that thoughtful onboarding can increase salesperson retention rates by 82 percent and productivity rates by more than 70 percent. Outline expectations right off the bat. Tell new hires what’s important to your company, and explain what success looks like in their roles. Be open about how you’re going to manage, track, evaluate, and reward progress. The clearer you are while onboarding, the fewer headaches you’ll experience later.

2. Align Sales Compensation With Your Business Plan

Never be vague or insincere about your sales compensation models. You want your incoming salespeople to understand what they need to do to snag higher pay rates, commissions, or promotions.

The key to productivity and job satisfaction is linking compensation to business goals. For instance, do you need to generate a certain percentage of revenue from new business each quarter to grow? Reward salespeople who meet or exceed this key performance indicator.

By connecting your business plan to your compensation structure, you can help ensure buy-in and reinforce behaviors instead of activities or tasks. This will produce the best long-term results for your organization.

3. Double Up on Your Pre-Pandemic Sales Efforts

Now is the time to take whatever you did sales-wise before the pandemic and double it. If your sales team’s collective goal was to make 100 calls a day, increase that to 200 calls.

Why be so aggressive? When economic headwinds — such as a recession or global pandemic — put a strain on your organization, you need to double your efforts at a minimum. From prospecting to proposals, everything needs to follow a twofold formula. That way, even if 50 percent of your sales team’s efforts produce no results, you’re operating at the same level you did when things were smooth sailing.

4. Create an Onboarding Support Program

Sales can be tough, especially for new hires. Incorporate support systems into your onboarding by offering regular training, venting sessions, mentorship programs, and more.

It will be tough for your organization to recover after COVID-19, and your sales team might experience more rejection than usual. Checkpoints and meetings can serve as a way to uncover or stave off issues. Above all else, you want your salespeople to strategize, adapt, and adjust. The best way to encourage performance is by giving them supportive avenues.

As a side note: If your existing salespeople seem less motivated, you might want to encourage them to join the onboarding process. This will help your whole sales team will feel buoyed rather than burdened.

When you put a premium on onboarding your salespeople, you set your team up for success from the start. That’s a proven route to recovery in the post-pandemic era.

Ryan Shapiro is the national director of sales at Sapper Consulting.

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By Ryan Shapiro