Onboarding: 5 Steps to Get New Salespeople Up to Speed

The first day on the job is just the beginning.

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By Dave Mattson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most companies exert a Herculean effort to recruit and hire the best people. As they should.

Recruiting the best players for your team is the foundation for winning, which is why your HR staff spends considerable time and resources working to identify and engage prospective employees who will maximize profitability and make you shine.

The process can be a lengthy one and typically involves applicant testing and interviews, background checks and even more interviews. While emphasis on the recruiting process is understandable, the mistake so many organizations make is believing that hiring ends the moment the new employee commits to coming aboard.

This is especially true for sales professionals when, in fact, the hard work is just beginning. The process of onboarding is critical and, when done right, protects your investment by getting your new stars selling while simultaneously identifying duds much more quickly.

Here are five steps for placing new employees on the best path to success:

Related: 3 Key Questions You Must Answer When Hiring Salespeople

1. Take them to task

Create a list of tasks that you expect new salespeople to be able to master. The list can include baseline duties such as learning how to make an outbound cold call, mastering a 30-second commercial about the product or studying the product so much that they know it inside and out.

But put everything in a comprehensive list.

2. May I take your order?

You need to help the new hire prioritize tasks.

Let's say that your list of tasks numbers more than 60 different items -- some will logically be more important than others. Don't make them guess which ones they are. Help them identify a sense of order to all that's in front of them.

3. From time to time

Now that they understand what's most and least important, create a timeline to master each task.

If, for instance, you've set a goal that within nine months, the new employee should know the product backward and forward, then determine what they need to know by the end of each week. Let's say that by the end of their first week, they should have their elevator speech down and, by week two, they should be able to make an outbound cold call.

Make sure your timelines are realistic and, importantly, ensure that senior employees who provide the training are aware of what you're trying to accomplish. When the employees doing the mentoring are dismissive of any part of the process, the net impact could undermine everything.

Related: Quit Relying on Your Intuition When Hiring Your Sales Team

4. For example

Don't make new employees reinvent the wheel. Provide examples of what excellence looks like for each of their tasks.

If you want them to be able to recite an exemplary elevator pitch, show them what one looks like. This will cover the what and the when, which is so important for employee psychology and morale.

While many companies provide an enthusiastic welcome, smart organizations give new employees a concrete sense of what is expected of them -- and when it's due.

5. Do you validate?

It's not enough to assign and prioritize tasks and provide deadlines and examples. You must validate that new employees are getting it.

If their elevator pitch is due, make a point to have them recite it to you and then give feedback. There's no other way to assess whether your new hire is on track and making the progress expected of them. This step also gives a sense as to how ready the new salesperson is to interact with clients, prospects or even other employees.

For many managers, these five steps are sensible, even intuitive. But all too often, new employees are simply thrown into the mix. Proper onboarding lays the foundation for new employees to be more successful, and to do so more quickly than they otherwise would.

The steps are set up with a culture of accountability built into the onboarding process, giving managers a clearer sense as to what kind of talent they're working with. Generally speaking, salespeople who thrive in this system also shine once they have the greater autonomy that comes down the road.

For the most part, managers should be able to tell whether or not a new employee is a "keeper" within the first four months -- not after the typical 15-month sales cycle.

Putting together successful sales teams starts with recruiting the right players, but it also requires providing those players with the right training to be successful -- and right from the outset. A systematic onboarding process is a critical -- and too often overlooked -- part of a winning formula.

Related: How to Hire Your First Salesperson

Dave Mattson

CEO and President

Dave Mattson is the CEO and president of Sandler Training, a global training organization with more than three decades of experience in providing training to companies of all sizes throughout the world.

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