It’s Time to Throw Generic Onboarding Overboard


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Mis-hiring isn’t the root of all sales ills, but it sure continues to run like hell for first place. At ESR we’re amazed here at how many companies we speak with have no formalized hiring process. No profiles. No pre-determined, structured interview questions. No training for interviewers. No simulations. No predictive assessment tools. No reference checks. No background checks. No income verification. And no onboarding process. And they wonder why only 20 percent of their reps are delivering 80 percent of their revenue.

If you’ve hiring the wrong sales candidate, onboarding is a waste of time and money. And it gives you false hope that the person might be productive in within a reasonable period of time. They won’t.

I’ve read a number of articles and posts recently about onboarding and some of them miss the most important point: onboarding plans shouldn’t be generic. Putting all new sales hires through the same one-day, ten-day, or hundred-day program will not get the most out of them in the shortest period of time.

Companies that use a profile-based, behavioral interview approach have a reasonably accurate assessment of what each candidate brings to the table. Hiring authorities know what traits and skills the candidate possesses and how that candidate has performed in relevant and important selling situations in the past. If a candidate doesn’t have enough of the most critical traits they don’t get hired, because you can’t train them to perform in one way when their DNA, personal attributes, or other strong tendencies are directing them elsewhere. (There are exceptions, of course.)

The skills side is another story. There are no perfect candidates. But to know, when you offer a candidate a job, by how much they fall short in important skill areas and have a plan to train, coach, reinforce, educate, support and in other ways close any gaps that exist using the onboarding process—that’s how to get a B player to A more quickly and predictably.

Here’s a real example: Jason (not his real name) came through the interview process for a software company with flying colors. There was a strong match between his traits and what had been identified as being critical for the job: analytical thinking, positivism, courage, extroversion, etc. He did very well in the skills area as well: territory management, presentation skills, planning, negotiation, leading customers out of their comfort zones. But Jason was short on financial knowledge. The software company sales leaders knew that that financial knowledge is critical for making a sale. In fact, being able to read and interpret a prospect’s financial statements and articulate where, how, and specifically by how much their software would make an impact, would make the difference between being a finalist or not.

You can see where this is headed. The onboarding plan for Jason didn’t have him sitting in classes wasting time on things he already did well. Sure, he was provided with enough product and industry training to get him going. But the real focus was on getting Jason up to speed in financial knowledge and the business contribution his product makes to his customers. So Jason was given a detailed 90-day ramp-up plan as condition of employment. The plan provided resources (six hours with an in-house financial expert, for example), several books to read, a two-day program at the AMA, and monthly progress discussions with his manager.

That was three years ago. Jason’s performance has been stellar, just as they knew it would.

Are you still using using the same onboarding program for all your new reps?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Stein
Dave specializes in helping his clients win critical B2B sales opportunities as well as helping them hire the best sales talent.Dave is co-author of Beyond the Sales Process. He wrote the best-selling How Winners Sell in 2004.


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