This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management.
Sales onboarding is necessary to equip new sales reps with the knowledge and tools needed to be productive and engaged with your organization. Effective onboarding plans cover a wide variety of topics from companywide policies to department-specific information. We’ll walk you through the eight essential components of an effective sales onboarding plan and ways to ensure your new sales team will be ready to perform at their highest level.
Free Sales Onboarding Checklist Download
A sales onboarding checklist streamlines and organizes the onboarding process for new salespeople and makes the process more repeatable. We’ve created a sales onboarding checklist you can download for free that will help ensure your business is providing new sales reps with a roadmap to their onboarding schedule and the best onboarding experience.
You can then use this checklist to make sure your onboarding plan includes the eight major components and their supporting activities. These components are:
1. General Employee Orientation
A general new employee orientation to the values, policies, and inner workings of your company should be the first onboarding activity for any new employee. Employee orientation should leave the new employee with an understanding of important policies and procedures and their terms of employment as well as the company make-up, such as different departments, who to speak to when they have questions, and overall operations.
Send a companywide new employee announcement email welcoming the new staff member
Review and explain the company’s mission and vision statements
Discuss company values, history, leadership, and organizational structure
Tour the facility and make introductions (or for distributed teams, facilitate virtual introductions)
Finalize any remaining hiring paperwork
Provide and review the employee handbook
Confirm the overall sales compensation structure and bonuses that were extended during the hiring process and review payroll dates, when their first paycheck will be issued, and how to make changes to their employee information or payroll withholding
Outline the employee benefits program including enrollment instructions, timing, and forms (or how to access online benefits management system)
Go over paid time off (PTO), how to request time off for vacation or illness, and paid company holidays
Review health and safety policies and what to do if injured on the job or in case of emergencies
Provide any items needed for facility access such as keys or keycards, restroom keys or access codes, and employee ID
2. Workstation & Technology Setup
Many sales reps will need to use company computers, mobile phones, tablets, and other devices, as well as apps for each device—so an important part of sales onboarding is setting up the new hire’s workstation, technology, and access to apps and accounts in advance. Not only will doing this get your new rep up and running more quickly, it will also make them feel more welcome, and save a lot of time during onboarding and sales training.
*Set up workstation hardware and equipment, such as:
- Desktop computer, monitor, and mouse
- Additional monitor
Provide and set up mobile devices like a laptop, smartphone, or tablet and associated apps and accounts
Create an email account for the new hire
Assign a phone extension or number and add the new hire to the company directory
Review how to access voicemail, record greetings, and settings such as placing a caller on hold, transferring a call, do not disturb (DND), and other often-used features
Install needed software and apps and create a user account for company and team collaboration software, such as:
Provide an overview of how to use the equipment, software, apps, any available instructional materials or cheat sheets, and who to ask if they need help
Discuss company policies and expectations for the use of company technology, equipment, and supplies
*For remote workers and distributed teams, you’ll need a system for sending equipment or having them pick it up, along with a step-by-step guide to help them set it all up at their home, and who to contact if they get stuck. Alternatively, your business could extend a monetary tech allowance so distributed team members can choose and purchase equipment for use on the road or at home.
3. Operational Sales Onboarding Training
The next training that should be provided to new sales reps is reviewing your sales operation in general. Operational training is usually done by the sales manager. However, it may also be done by an experienced employee assigned to be the new sales rep’s mentor for a period of time, such as the first 90 days.
Sales manager sends a new employee announcement and welcome email to members of the department
Tour the department and make introductions
Show the new hire important spaces such as the break room, restrooms, cafeteria or kitchen, and where to get office supplies
Review the sales department’s organizational chart
Review the sales culture of your organization in terms of working environment, communications, collaboration, and team dynamics
Go over what the typical day-to-day sales operation is like, including the typical day of the new sales rep, as well as important milestones such as month-end, quarterly, and year-end procedures
Discuss any operational adjustments required due to seasonal changes, e.g., you may have a “busy season” where most of your revenue is generated, requiring sales employees to work longer hours during that time period and shorter working hours during other time periods
4. Product & Service Training for New Sales Reps
Training should be provided that narrows in specifically on the product or service new sales reps will be selling. This training can occur through a variety of means, including one-to-one training with an internal product expert, seminars, online or video training modules, or shadowing a current employee selling the same product or service.
Discuss the technical aspects of the product or service in terms of features, benefits, what it does, how it works, the main selling points (including the unique selling proposition), and what client pain points it addresses
Review the ideal customer types and buyer personas for the product or service being sold, also known as customer profiles
Product demonstrations and presentations covering use and features
Access to online products, such as software as a service (SaaS) products to become familiar with use, features, and benefits
Product documentation, technical manuals, user guides, and sales brochures to help the new hire thoroughly understand the products and services they will be selling
5. Sales Process Training
This type of training is specifically for sales activities and continues beyond onboarding for all employees. Through training, seminars, tutorials, or shadowing, it covers general sales tasks like how to place a cold call, conduct a sales pitch, and close a sale. It also encompasses sales methods used such as using questions to qualify a lead or taking a consultative approach to selling by helping the customer understand what solutions they need.
Review the sales process for getting from a new lead all the way to a new customer, including how to:
- Generate new leads (tactics used)
- Input new leads into the CRM
- Update sales pipeline information
- Nurture leads
- Qualify and score leads
- Close sales
- Onboard new customers and pass them to account management
Go over resources and procedures and provide simulation (role play) exercises for cold calling, including:
- Cold calling scripts
- Following up with cold leads
- Lead qualification
- Handling objections
Provide training and access for how to use your CRM system for lead nurturing, such as assigning leads to an automated drip campaign
Discuss and provide simulation practices for conducting a sales presentation, sales pitch, or product demo
Remember that onboarding is often a 90-day process—or even longer. Break up the process into manageable segments so that your new employee isn’t overwhelmed on their first day or week on the job. Assigning a mentor during the first 90 days is an effective way to facilitate thorough training while ensuring the new hire has someone they can turn to with questions.
6. Goals & Expectations Setting
Personalized sales goals, quotas, and performance standards should be set and reviewed with new sales reps before they dial a phone or send an email. Going over sales goals and performance expectations is usually handled in a one-on-one setting with the sales manager or through a team meeting.
Outline the minimum performance expectations of each sales rep in terms of metrics and activity, including sales metrics, such as:
- Number of calls placed
- Number of appointments scheduled
- Number of demos booked
- Number of free trials started
- Number of proposals sent
- Total deals closed and/or total sales revenue
Go over personal and team sales goals as well as the rewards for hitting them
Discuss procedures or consequences of not hitting minimum sales performance expectations
Cover resources available (e.g., mentoring, training, coaching) to help reps hit their sales goals
7. Lead Generation Resource Allocation Training
Once goals and expectations are set, one more item needs to be addressed to fully onboard a new sales rep and prepare them to succeed. They need access to lead generation resources and exclusive networks to start acquiring new customers by visiting clients, making calls, sending emails, networking, and other prospecting activities. Some of these resources can be distributed through your CRM system.
Provide a lead list to the new sales rep with contact information and any notes
Offer detailed customer profiles on different leads
Explain how inbound leads are allocated among members of the sales team, such as how leads are assigned from online web forms or incoming phone calls
Assign the new salesperson to a Chamber of Commerce, trade or business association, or lead share group as a way to create business and referral opportunities
8. Periodic Check-ins With New Hires
Depending on how your sales operation is set up, the full sales onboarding process may take from a few weeks to several months to complete. Regardless of whether your onboarding program has a clear start and end date or is completed incrementally, periodic check-ins should be done to make sure your new sales rep feels prepared, supported, and confident in their sales capabilities.
Check to see if the new salesperson is hitting their required metrics
Ask whether the sales rep has ideas for improvements (new employees come in with fresh eyes, and they may have valuable insights)
Determine if the new salesperson is having any specific difficulties with their role
Ask if there are any tools, training, or other resources they think could help them improve their performance
Ensure all of their equipment and technology is working properly
Ask if there is any training or topics covered during onboarding or orientation they would like a refresher on
A key way to measure the progress of new employees is implementing a 30-60-90 plan for each new hire. This plan outlines the training priorities and goals expected of a new sales rep in their first 30, then 60, then 90 days.
A 90-day new hire plan for sales onboarding should include measurable sales activities or tasks. For instance, in the first 30 days, you expect a new rep will have made 200 cold calls, within 60 days they will have sent out their first proposal, and within 90 days they will have closed a deal.
Best Practices to Improve Sales Onboarding
Onboarding can be nerve-racking for new hires and feel inconvenient for those helping onboard the new reps, but it doesn’t have to be. While following our downloadable sales onboarding checklist, there are many ways to streamline and optimize the sales onboarding process.
Formalize the Sales Onboarding Process
Formalizing the onboarding process turns it into a company program that has a repeatable process for onboarding new sales employees. This includes a set schedule for completing onboarding segments, a specific person managing the sales onboarding process, and coordination between other departments that need to be involved, such as human resources, accounting, and information technology.
It also requires documenting all of the pertinent setup, access, training, and other information in some form. This could be as an employee manual, a sales training booklet, or even online presentations and videos the new hire can reference at any time. These resources should be easily accessible and include who to talk to when the new hire has a question about the various topics covered during the onboarding process.
Gamify Sales Onboarding
One way to increase new hire engagement with the sales onboarding process is by gamifying it. Sales gamification refers to turning each onboarding activity into a friendly competition that uses points, badges for achievements, or rewards to keep employees motivated to learn and keep progressing to the next section.
An example of sales onboarding gamification in action is operational training. Divide the new sales hires into teams and do quizzes where they have to put the sales process in the correct order or match the right manager’s name with the job position and department hierarchy. The winners can receive points or rewards such as gift cards.
Just about any onboarding task can be gamified as long as there is an element of competition involved, and even when it’s not. For example, game-like incentives, such as badges or leveling up, can be awarded on an individual basis, and individuals can receive rewards when incremental milestones are reached or the sales onboarding process is complete.
Particularly when it comes to the training aspects of sales onboarding, job shadowing can be invaluable. This refers to pairing a new hire with an experienced sales rep for a day (or week, or even longer) to watch the topics that are covered during operational, product or service, and sales training being performed in action. In addition to training, it’s an excellent way to provide new sales reps an environment where they can easily ask questions.
Job shadowing can also develop into a full mentorship program where veteran sales reps mentor new and less experienced (or underperforming) sales agents. Just as with job shadowing, it gives the new sales rep access to guidance, information, and coaching from an experienced sales professional.
Since the mentor is not their direct manager, it can also be less stressful for the new hire. Plus, as an added benefit, it can be used to seek out potential leadership talent of your veteran sales reps based on how effective they were in teaching and mentoring an onboarded employee.
Reverse Shadowing Following Sales Onboarding
After most of the sales onboarding tasks are completed, experienced sales reps or managers may shadow a new sales rep. This is known as reverse shadowing. It’s used to gauge whether the new hire has the training and skills needed to work more independently, or whether more training or resources are needed.
Reverse shadowing involves anything from sitting with the sales rep while they complete various sales tasks, listening in on cold calls or sales presentations, or generating and listening to recordings of sales conversations. Reverse shadowing can also become part of your sales team’s ongoing periodic check-ins for all agents to identify opportunities for performance or process improvements.
Technology Tools for Sales Onboarding
Technology enhances sales onboarding productivity and progress through tools for managing and monitoring the process. Common sales technology used for onboarding includes CRM systems, messaging applications, and project management software.
HubSpot, for example, offers free collaboration tools that help teams communicate with one another on sales opportunities and tasks. This can be automated so that, during a trigger action such as a new lead generated or an opportunity gained from a lead nurturing campaign, a new sales rep can be notified and assigned that lead or sales opportunity.
Some CRMs like Bitrix24 also have free project management tools built into their CRM system. This is useful for managing sales onboarding tasks and for keeping the onboarding process on a set schedule. The project management tools allow teams to collaborate and keep track of items that need to be completed on Kanban, Gantt, or timeline-style boards. Tasks can be assigned to certain personnel and indicate deadlines.
Trello can also be an accessible, low-cost solution for managing onboarding tasks, tracking progress, and viewing it all on a calendar view. Trello uses “cards” that can be incorporated as tasks to be assigned to certain people depending on their role in onboarding sales employees.
During any part of onboarding that involves remotely presenting information or talking to a group of new sales employees, you can use Zoom. Zoom is a video conferencing platform where hundreds of participants can be in a conference at once. While in a meeting, Zoom allows you to talk face-to-face with everyone as well as share your screen to present a presentation or show a video.
Benefits of Having a Sales Onboarding Program
Designing and implementing a sales onboarding program can be a long endeavor that seems tedious when it has to be repeated for every new sales class. However, when it’s viewed as an important investment, it will award your company with solid benefits.
Here are the primary benefits of having a robust sales onboarding program:
- Better sales performance: Having a sales onboarding program can improve the individual performance of new reps. In fact, data shows that effective onboarding can improve a new rep’s sales quota attainment by more than 16%.
- Higher employee engagement: Onboarding helps improve employee buy-in and commitment to the organization. In fact, employees who felt they had a great onboarding experience were 18x more likely to feel committed to their organization.
- Better perceptions of your organization: Having an onboarding program creates a positive perception of your organization to your employees. Eighty percent of employees who had effective onboarding rated their organization’s performance as “strong” and were 113x more likely to rate their human resources department’s capabilities as “high.”
It’s essential for sales managers to understand the benefits of sales onboarding when implementing a program into their sales operation. On top of onboarding, sales leaders need to recruit, develop, and motivate their sales teams to set them up to do their best work. Our ultimate guide to sales management shows you how to put your sales team in the best position to succeed.
Sales onboarding is an exciting time for a new rep. The process should be planned thoughtfully to ensure they have the best experience possible and get the most out of the training. By completing each item on your sales onboarding checklist and making a thorough investment in the success of your new hire, you can expect better performance and higher employee retention, as well as increased productivity, sales, and profitability.