10 Common Mistakes Made when Onboarding Inside Sales Reps

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In my previous blog post, I talked about  “8 Mistakes Inside Sales Managers Make While Hiring New Sales Reps”. If you have tried to avoid the hiring mistakes, you are on the road to perfecting your hiring process. But that won’t cut it. Inside sales managers (humans after all) end up committing mistakes while onboarding the new inside sales reps.

As an Inside Sales Manager, do you often think “why my new sales reps aren’t delivering and closing the deals that I expect them to do?” The root cause could be found in their onboarding program. A structured onboarding program is essential for their learning so that they can deliver results as efficiently and effectively as possible. Onboarding is all about developing behaviors that will be the foundation of an employee’s long-term success.

The cost of not investing in the development of an effective onboarding program is much greater than losing and replacing new employees.

The International Institute for Management Development reports that some of the greatest expenses come from employees who remain at an organization but do not understand their roles.

Below I have listed 10 mistakes to avoid when onboarding new Inside Sales Reps:

Mistake#1 Developing a One-size-fits-all Onboarding Strategy

Do not make the mistake of developing just one onboarding program for every sales rep that you hire. It is a short-sighted approach and will not help all the reps in achieving their potential. Sales professionals who join a company possess different backgrounds and expertise-within the industry, outside the industry, just passed out of college and so on. The onboarding program should vary in order to accommodate the various backgrounds. For example

  • The new sales rep from within the industry probably does not require the industry basics but needs development in the USPs and advantages of your company’s offerings.
  • The sales rep from outside the industry would need complete knowledge about the industry and product but might have strong sales skills to build upon
  • The new seller just out of college requires a comprehensive onboarding program that addresses both insights into the industry and products as well as sales skills.

Mistake#2 Failing to Set Clear Sales Metrics- Based Goals

It is crucial to set specific goals during their onboarding process and these should be metrics-based. Otherwise, the reps would not head into the right direction as they are not sure of their goals and against what they are getting measured. For example, if an inside sales representative job is to make 10 outbound calls per day during the first month, demonstrate them how to keep a track of their own metrics. And if someone is not delivering as per the set target, then provide them with additional training.

Mistake#3 Not Making the Training Process Interactive

Simply providing the new reps with a few sales books and product brochures to read is not going to prove effective. Rather, sales managers should ensure that the new reps listen to their conversations when they pitch a prospect. Or else, make them listen to the previous customer call recordings and ask for their inputs such as to point out where improvements can be made or which was the best part of the call.

Mistake#4 Leaving the New Sales Reps to Learn On their Own

Assign a “learning buddy” with each of your new sales rep. The buddy can be a more experienced person who can share his experiences with the new rep and answer all his/her questions about sales processes and clarify all doubts. Allow new reps to be with their buddies for around a month and learn as much as they can.

Mistake#5 Not Making the Program “Customer-Focused”

Selling is all about satisfying customer needs. The new sales rep must have a complete knowledge of the customer persona. Product features and competitive advantages should be related to the buyer’s persona. They should have a clear understanding of all the individuals in the buying decision.

Mistake#6 No Proficiency Assessment

Once the onboarding program gets over, all the new sales reps are sent to sell in the market. But something goes missing here. At the end of onboarding program, the reps should be made to undergo a proficiency assessment test so that they can show their stuff. This could be in the form of a written exam, group presentation, a simulated sales pitch or a CRM practical. This would ensure that the rep has gained the ability to achieve success in the field.

Mistake#7 Not Defining a Clear Career Growth Path

Presenting the sales reps with a clear career path is one of the best ways to improve retention. They should understand that there is room to grow and that efforts will be made from top down to facilitate their career growth. Just paying a good salary is not enough. In order to get the reps to genuinely care about your business, have a career development plan in place. This showcases that your company values them and they will definitely serve your organization long-term.

Mistake#8 Infrequent Follow-up Meetings

Simply finishing the 10 days training program successfully doesn’t mean that the onboarding process is over and new reps have learnt everything. Inside Sales managers must schedule frequent follow-up meeting with the reps and monitor their progress from time-to-time. Without regular coaching and training, they will not be able to remember what was taught.

Mistake#9 Setting Expectations that are Unrealistic and Unattainable

As the reps are new to your company and might as well to the industry, it will be not be fair to set unrealistic expectations. A Sales Manager should make sure that the goals are attainable and you have provided the reps with all the necessary tools and technologies and the required training to meet your expectations.

Mistake#10 Not Soliciting Feedback

Conduct participant survey at the end of the onboarding program to get the information required to improve and enhance the whole process. They will be the best people to tell you if the program delivers the value it is meant for.

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