Newly joined sales reps can forge an affinity towards their new role and the company through an effective onboarding program. Basically, it entails marinating new hires in the company’s culture, training them to do their best, and making them understand your expectations. After all, they represent the company and the brand to your valued customers, so why think of cutting any corners?
According to the Korn Ferry Research 2020 Sales Talent Study, an analysis of the impact of effective onboarding programs for sales talent showed up remarkable findings like:
- Effective onboarding sessions can improve quota attainment by 14% and increase win rates by 11%.
- Ineffective onboarding sessions increase voluntary turnover rate from 10.7% to 13.7%.
The bottom-line is that the sales onboarding process is a success if the sales reps look forward to attending work after they wake up each morning. This underlying motive of onboarding holds good for both your direct and indirect or distributed sales reps.
More on Distributed Sales Reps
To better understand the role of direct and indirect sales reps let us study the basic sales ecosystem to shed light on these twin roles. A sales system at its core is occupied by a principal who is the primary seller. The primary seller employs direct sales reps to sell products or services directly to the customer. Whereas, third parties employ distributed or indirect sales reps to sell products or services. Agents or resellers or dealers or channel partners are the other terms to refer to third parties. The primary seller does not interfere in appointment of distributed sales reps by the third party.
Associating with already established resellers helps the primary seller enter new markets riding on the geographical reach of the resellers. It is quite an inexpensive endeavor than doing it alone. This sales channel strategy also helps to cleverly capture bigger markets and increase customer base. Distributed sales reps employed by the resellers are an important part of the sales ecosystem helping the primary seller to capture fresh or bigger markets and sell more products, thereby increasing revenue. The correct manner of onboarding distributed sales reps brings a host of benefits.
Benefits of Onboarding Sales Reps
Onboarding sales reps makes them aware of the ethos of the company’s culture; product, services and leadership; knowledge of the concerned industry; and skills required to be productive. It helps the newbies get comfortable in their roles with less stress, betters interaction with colleagues, boosts confidence and job satisfaction, plus enables superior performance.
According to research studies, a standard onboarding program for sales reps throws up positive results like:
- A 54% increase in productivity
- Work efficiencies jumped up by 34%
- The occurrence of new sales reps making their first sale was 77% more than sales reps without proper onboarding
- 69% of employees stayed loyal for three years
Presently sales reps are churning up to 40% annually which is worrying as it is more than an ideal expected attrition rate of 15% or below. One of the reasons of such a high percentage of churn happening could be due to the poor quality of onboarding training. The rot is more acute amongst distributed sales reps as they need more hand holding.
The Challenges of Onboarding Distributed Sales Reps
Direct sales reps work in tandem with the primary seller where the set up works like a traditional, hierarchical sales team setup. Distributed sales reps find it difficult to catch the eye of the primary seller due to obvious reasons in the type of the relationship. The issues are due to factors like visibility, connection and communication. Hence, the primary seller has to be contend with several challenges to onboard these widely distributed sales reps:
It’s a logistical nightmare and extremely resource intensive to schedule the onboarding programs of distributed sales reps in cohorts dispersed across the territories. Also, sales managers would find it difficult to meet each of the scattered sales reps physically to coach them within the first few weeks upon their joining.
Lack of Consistency:
It is challenging to advocate a consistent and continuous onboarding process for distributed sales reps because of the very nature of their functioning in the sales ecosystem.
Recording the Progress:
There will be problems to document and store verbal and non-verbal communication emanating from onboarding as the origin of the same is disparate. This can affect reviews of the sales reps performance. After the weekly and monthly assessments, it is a task to collect and process the entire disparate information. The question of who will do it and how arises.
There are different stakeholders in this entire ecosystem of onboarding distributed sales reps. Who will track their shortcomings and issue remedial measures or warnings? Tracking and implementing the agreed interventions is a big challenge.
Non-acknowledgement of the achievements of sales reps working remotely by sales managers leads to them suffering from disillusionment and depression. It is a human emotion to crave for recognition and shine amongst contemporaries. Distributed sales reps left to fend for themselves due to lack of proper onboarding experience loneliness too.
Onboarding distributed sales reps is like walking on egg shells. Be careful!
The Effective Process of Onboarding Distributed Sales Reps in 8 Modes
Distributed sales reps can benefit from the following sales onboarding measures:
- Standardized Onboarding
Distributed sales reps working under various third-party employers not bound by a standard onboarding process could lead to confusion. The objective is to implement the practices. The best practices should be simple to understand and be accessible to all. The onboarding program should address the know-how to find leads, correctly perform follow-up work, and close deals.
- Synchronous & Asynchronous Onboarding Methodology
Video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Meet can help in conducting virtual onboarding seminars of distributed sales reps. This enables synchronous mass training online when the sales reps are at different locations, time zones or schedules. Care should be taken to conduct the sessions within time zone overlaps for the convenience of scattered sales reps.
On an individual level, onboarding can be carried out by sharing pre-recorded videos, learning modules and quizzes which can be accessed and studied by each sales rep asynchronously. Thus they learn as per their schedule making the onboarding flexible and agile. Sales reps may not remember if huge amounts of information are bombarded at them in one go during onboarding. Instead, they can be drip-fed regularly with bite sized chunks of information while on the job which refreshes key concepts. Such micro-learning helps in better retention of information. The training can be customized too. Sales reps can revisit these videos repeatedly to refresh their memory as and when needed.
3. Onboarding Tracking
To predict if your onboarding for distributed sales reps will bear fruit soon, the regularity of sales reps completing their assignments on their online or mobile apps should be monitored from the beginning. This instills discipline within the sales reps and creates the awareness that they are being monitored despite being remote. If sales reps are evasive, it can be indicative of churn later. It is better to catch such behaviors early and press in remedial measures to prevent wastage of time, money and other resources. The territory sales managers can offer assistance if they find the training challenging. Knowledge checks should then be conducted on them to assess their absorption of the onboarding content.
- Setting Goals
The effectiveness of onboarding can be gauged to be positive if the new hires turn into high-performing employees speedily. This end-result can be experienced if expectations which are time-bound are set during onboarding itself. The goals to be achieved can be: reaching optimum sales objectives, attaining certain metrics for productivity or how time is used efficiently.
A mobile technology app which provides a checklist to tick-off all the goals to be achieved in an onboarding program in the hands of the sales reps itself is ideal. The core philosophy behind this is to encourage voluntary compliance from the sales reps to tick off all the boxes in the checklist rather than forced compliance. Automated reminders to do so would be beneficial.
- Innovative Tech-led Training Techniques
Direct sales reps are usually asked to accompany sales managers to meetings with prospects or clients so that they can learn by example seeing how their seniors interact with customers. Similarly distributed sales reps can be logged into virtual client meetings for training purposes so that they learn hands-on. If this is not possible, they can be given access to audio or video recordings of successful meetings of sales managers with clients to fast-track skilling up. How sales officers handle criticism and objections in meetings can also be shown.
Videos of stellar senior sales reps sharing their pitches or how they solved problems in their territory serve as eye openers to junior sales reps. Recordings of national sales meets and product launches serve to educate sales reps about the larger picture.
Distributed sales reps can also be trained in best practices by involving them in online webinars headlined by industry experts. The advantage here is that multiple disparate sales reps can be trained at the same time. On the other hand inexperienced sales reps can record videos of themselves role playing pitches to potential buyers, so that their seniors can watch, review and provide feedback. Recommendations can be made on the manner of speaking, proper language to be used, and description of the organization’s value proposition.
- Mobile First Training and Afterwards
If the onboarding of the sales rep on day one can be administered through a mobile based application, it promotes self-learning from the palm of one’s hand. It is ideal for distributed sales reps who cannot train under physical trainers as the company may not have enough of them. Thus the day a sales rep joins, the induction begins.
The app can contain chunks of information that can be imbibed by the sales rep in a staggered fashion on-the-go. This method can make a sales rep understand the context of the training and helps be prepared by the time he or she gets a slot for physical or live online training. The absorption of information during this Instructor Led Training (ILT) is then faster. Later the sales reps can be assessed. Once the procedure is over, the new joinees can undergo On-The-Job (OTJ) hand holding which culminates with detailed tests. Thus, the newly minted distributed sales reps can minimize the time to first sale amazingly.
Gamified mobile based onboarding content and contests can make learning for distributed sales reps more self-paced, interactive, fun and competitive. Gamification builds capability and competency amongst the sales reps, if it is exciting, engaging and educative. It helps them to find out their own priorities and weaknesses in learning. It should enable the sales reps to build end-to-end readiness within themselves to face any potential customers and convert them.
- Mentoring & Support
Distributed sales reps often feel they have to figure it out all by themselves and feel depressed. It is then vital to pair a new joinee with an experienced sales rep so that he or she can have a ‘buddy’ to ask questions and get advice. Sales reps should be encouraged to provide feedback regularly to the sales managers so that both are on the same page when it comes to any ambiguities during onboarding. Employee surveys can be initiated anonymously to receive honest answers on how the onboarding process can be improved.
- Empower the Territory Sales Manager
Your territory sales managers should be empowered to take ownership of mentoring distributed or third party sales reps representing the dealers during their onboarding. They need to take care of strategy, process management and reporting.
The territory sales managers’ job is very challenging because they have to trigger the motivation of distributed sales reps over whom they don’t have direct influence to sell. To counter this situation it is advisable for them to develop content resources for the sales reps during onboarding to familiarize themselves with product knowledge and sales techniques. The content must include detailed product specs, testimonials, comparative study of competitors’ products, email templates, written scripts for calls, and particular agendas for different types of meetings. This will boost the awareness, confidence and motivation of the distributed sales reps to sell.
Territory sales managers can create an actionable onboarding program which measures key performance indicators (KPIs) of the sales reps as the program progresses. KPIs must measure completion of learning modules, skill development, prospecting and proficiencies in usage of tools like CRM. Also, the territory sales managers can collect data from the dealers about which of their sales reps have completed onboarding, and at what stage their skill accomplishments are presently.
A comprehensive onboarding program is vital to set up newly joined distributed sales reps for success even before they initiate steps towards their first sale. In fact, they ramp up to their first sale faster with the right onboarding mix. With a thorough understanding of the products and services of the company, and its value, these sales reps acquire a go-getter attitude. This helps in confident interaction with prospects and increases the possibilities of closing deals by a huge margin.
If you are keen to onboard a distributed salesforce adept in the latest practices and policies of your organization, contact us through the StreamzAI Sales Onboarding Platform. We ensure that each of your sales reps will get personalized, milestone factored, data driven, AI enabled, mobile friendly, gamified, transparent and scalable onboarding solutions operated from a centralized single platform that you control. It empowers your sales managers by giving visibility to roadblocks faced by sales reps and helps resolve the same. StreamzAI is hyper-focused on distributed sales teams and is a specialist in keeping your channel partners and reps always Sales Ready.