What's Your Sales Rep Onboarding Style?

What's Your Sales Rep Onboarding Style?

April 25, 2019

Shawn Parrotte

March and April have been tremendous months at Chorus. We’ve launched some amazing internal coaching programs that we’re very proud of, released some valuable insights and best practice content for everyone to benefit from, and spoke at some recent events on the topic of coaching.

Here’s a quick recap of some great sales coaching if you missed any of it:

A Coaching Culture Begins with Onboarding

Imagine it’s day one. The new rep walks in the door, brimming with confidence from his last quota-crushing job. She wants to hit the ground running, get hands-on with the product, and start talking to prospects.

"When can I get on my first call?" — Every new rep ever

So how do you make these new, amazing individuals, a part of your amazing coaching culture? On the one side, you have to explain to them what it means to be a part of it. In our experience, during onboarding, you have to set the tone that:

  • It is an environment of continuous improvement, no matter how high your quota attainment is.
  • It is based on sharing data and insights and learning from managers, enablement, peers, and on your own.
  • It is difficult to implement and everyone needs to commit to it.

Onboarding Training Methods

The Chorus Science team has used its advanced AI-based conversation intelligence platform to analyze more than 4 million sales conversations in 2018.

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We then identified the top 10 highest-growth companies (with an ARR > $15M) to understand what they do differently when it comes to onboarding and coaching.

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Data suggests there are two unique ways in which reps are onboarded. Both methods seem to be effective from the point of view of getting reps to perform. However, there is a key difference. But more on that later.

First, what are these 2 methods?

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Burn and Learn

We’re calling the first method “Burn and Learn”. Other potential names for it - the deep end of the pool, learning by doing, and on-the-job training.

These are reps who may have some background on the product, category, selling into the same/similar buyer persona, etc. They tend to move through the training and prep portion of onboarding fast and getting to their first prospect meeting much faster.

Call Shadowing

The other method is called “Call Shadowing”. In earlier years, shadowing calls wasn’t easy. You had only about 8 hours in the day, about 5 or 10 discovery meetings in a week, and only 1 or 2 reps willing to let you into some of their meetings. With call recording software this challenge is now completely eliminated.

In our research, we found companies employing both these methods effectively. There was no clear difference in the rep’s performance level, quota attainment, or sales cycle time that made one style more favorable than the other.

Team Moms do not challenge other teammates’ ways of thinking or decisions; they do not make tough calls; they are not instrumental in creating the strategic vision for the group.

While supporting roles are crucial to the efficacy of teams, it makes sense these particular descriptors would be of little use to advancing a career in sales.

So which style should we adopt?

There are some key differences in these methods that should help you decide which way to go.

Since “Burn and learners” adopt a trial-by-fire method, they start getting on to actual prospect conversations much faster - within 1 to 2 weeks of joining the team according to the Chorus Science team’s research. They only review 10 calls on average before jumping on their first call. As a result, they bank on Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) as a key resource and save on time spent in a learning-only mode.

The “Call shadowers” spend more than 2 weeks to a month in the learning phase and listen to about 20-30 calls so they can widen their learnings. They bank on time and call recordings as a key resource and save on expensive SALs.

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We did find one short-term advantage to the “Call Shadowing” style. Especially in the first few weeks/months, these reps needed relatively fewer opportunities and accounts to close their initial deals.

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This difference is especially pronounced around the 4th or 5th win i.e. Burn and Learners need more accounts and opportunities to close an additional new customer.

Compared to them, Call Shadowers deliver you an extra win at no extra cost. But why does this happen?

It is potentially because Call Shadowers reviewed a wider variety of deals, prospect pains, use cases, and value propositions that resonated with prospects. So every new conversation they faced was more familiar ground to them. Burn and learners reviewed fewer calls and jumped into new meetings sooner to experience them first hand. So their accounts to win ratio was higher in the short term.

Key tip: If you want to reduce your top-of-the-funnel or pipeline exposure during onboarding, ensure new reps take the extra time to review a wider variety of calls.

Are you ready to implement a coaching culture in your organization? You have to begin from day one, when you onboard a rep, but also carry it forward into every day, every sales role, and keep it going. Cultures take a long time to develop.