When a salesperson starts in their new gig, some of the main questions they ask themselves are, “How am I going to get trained so I can ramp as fast as possible?” and “How am I going to put myself in the best possible position to succeed?” New hires are going through a big life change and are excited, yet nervous. They crave direction.
But sadly for them, not many companies offer it. According to Allied HR IQ, 60% of companies don’t set any milestones or goals for new hires. This is a huge problem. In a sales role, the onboarding process is too often undervalued and overlooked. Even those companies that do have goals in place almost never have a vision that matches its actual execution.
And it goes without saying that strong onboarding makes a difference. A study by the Revenue Accelerator that looked at over 500 sales management executives and business leaders on the topic of onboarding found that salespeople who work for employers most satisfied with their onboarding processes got up to speed 34% faster – i.e., four months earlier – than those less satisfied with their onboarding processes.
Onboarding offers an important opportunity to set the tone for a new hire, to create and find a rhythm and to create momentum toward success. This experience can be made more meaningful and productive with an approach centered on key performance indicators (KPIs).
[Check out our free eBook: “Why Modern Sales Leaders Drive with KPIs.”]
The Onboarding Problem
Unfortunately, what often happens is this:
- New hire reads through training materials and collateral, shadows employees and monitors what they are doing
- New hire is given a quota and told that no sales are expected for the first couple of months. The new hire is also told that during months three or four that small sales quotas are expected and by five and six, they are basically a fully fledged salesperson with regular quota expectations.
- Some employers will provide direction by supplying a list of accounts and expect the new salesperson to make a bunch of calls, and just go for it, willy nilly. At others, that salesperson is on their own. (Neither is good strategy, in our estimation.)
- Even the 40% of companies that do set goals or milestones for new hires often not doing so optimally. They put performance stats — around things like quota, meetings per month, calls per day, etc — right next to everyone else, which means that until that new hire is fully ramped they feel like they’re never doing enough. And worse, replicating everyone else doesn’t mean you are doing well. What they really want to know is if they are doing what’s necessary to put them on a path to be a top performer.
Are we really missing that much? Typically, that’s the way things work, because it’s the way things have been done for decades. Time for innovation, don’t you say?
Think and Question Your Sales KPIs
In order to hit the ground running, new hires need to create sales opportunities. They need to direct attention toward your company’s target buyer and build a sales funnel of leads for the months to come.
In developing qualified opportunities, they need to wonder things like:
- “How many conversations do I need to be having?”
- “How long should my conversations be?”
- “How many meetings can I schedule?”
And you need to consider the same questions to guide them.
A variation of these types of questions are important to think about during an onboarding process and will inform the sales KPIs to work toward. The development of these KPIs are essential to the continued success of the new hire because it will either set that person up for success or failure, productivity or misery.
Onboarding without KPIs is quite like hiking up a mountain without a compass or any indicators that will steer you clear of a cliff or waterfall.
New Hire KPIs vs. Veteran KPIs
A fully ramped salesperson needs to set meetings and engage customers in different ways, but this is very separate than an employee starting out. A new hire should be measured against the same sales KPIs, but the goals must be quantitatively different.
Instead of setting expectations to generate, say, $500,000 of sales opportunities in that sixth month, maybe it’s: Go find $50,000. Small, bite-size portions. Portions that will inform decision-making and line you up for months down the road. As always, leading indicators are king. Lagging indicators are, well, lagging. (Read this post to refresh your memory on that.)
Here’s an example of how the sales KPI performance expectations may vary by month over a 6-month ramping period. You should be setting very clear expectations around these so the new hire and the sales manager are fully aligned and also have a sales KPI-management system in place to easily track progress.
Onboarding with Sales KPIs: An HR Solution
It takes new salespeople from eight months to over a year to perform at the same level as their tenured colleagues. Having a KPI-driven sales culture helps you to cut that down and quickly figure out if any of those new hires might not be good fits. There will be zero question around expectations, because the new salesperson and manager will stay fully aligned.
The best way to create a controlled environment is when multiple salespeople come on at once, receive a set of a KPIs and are evaluated with that orientation in mind. Allow the new “class” of hires to learn from each other. Let them compare performance with their true peers.
Most hires that aren’t working out are being mismanaged, but with a KPI-driven approach, the real sales performers will rise to the top because you have provided them all with the right KPIs to work with — a common denominator, if you will.
Effectively, you’re capitalizing on human behavior. People want to learn from each other. They want to hit goals. Revamp your onboarding experience so it doesn’t sound like an airplane pilot announcing safety instructions.
Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity and 50% greater new hire retention. Make sales KPIs part of your process, and you’ll be on your way to both.