onboarding entry-level sales reps

How to Onboard Entry-level Sales Reps

Entry-level sales reps are bright, driven and full of raw potential. By channeling that enthusiasm through a streamlined onboarding program, you can give new hires the momentum they need to be successful. The alternative isn’t pretty, as a poor onboarding experience can turn even the most promising talent into burnouts.

Since most entry-level representatives who come to you are new to sales, it’s a great opportunity to mold them into effective salespeople. However, you need to provide comprehensive training for them to feel comfortable in their new roles.

You should at least cover these modules when onboarding entry-level sales reps:

1) General sales skills

Entry-level sales reps may be high in enthusiasm, but most won’t have much formal experience with selling. Start by helping them to master the basics. Go over best practices for these critical skills:

  • Prospecting effectively
  • Building a good rapport with a prospect on a phone call (or through email)
  • Actively listening to prospects’ needs
  • Qualifying prospects
  • Communicating ideas clearly and concisely
  • Demonstrating a product demo that’s engaging
  • Preventing and handling objections
  • Closing the deal

This is a lot to learn for even the most talented young sales representatives. So give them lots of opportunities to practice and observe these skills in action. Encourage young representatives to provide feedback to each other, as well.

Work on developing new reps’ general sales skills that aren’t necessarily related to your product. Starting off by giving a sales demo for a water bottle or razor blade is a great way to hone sales skills.

2) Industry and market

New representatives probably didn’t learn all of the ins and outs of your industry in college, so you’ll need to introduce them to industry basics. Fill them in how the industry works, the latest trends, and important decision-makers. If possible, bring in an industry expert to provide an insiders’ perspective.

Most industries are too complex to master in a few weeks. Instead of trying to cover everything, point new reps towards resources that can help them further their industry education. Teach them how to stay on top of industry news so they can knowledgeably enter conversations with prospects.

3) Customers and territories

Immerse new representatives into your customers’ world. Go over buyer personas in detail, bringing in videos and case studies that make your customers come to life.

While you might not have time to go over every territory and vertical in detail, reps should develop a general understanding of the different markets they serve. More specialized training for their role may be necessary.

Map out the buyers’ journey with new representatives in detail. They should know the reason buyers seek your product, who the key decision-makers are, and what potential stumbling blocks may impede a deal. Do exercises and role-plays that encourage reps to develop empathy for customers. For example, you might ask representatives to role-play a decision-maker discussing a potential purchase with co-workers.

4) Product

Your sales reps need to understand your product. Bring in product development and customer success team members to introduce them to the product, with an emphasis on how and why customers use it. Let them try it out for themselves.

The product may be too technical for sales reps to become truly fluent users, but they should be able to talk about its benefits—and your USP—with authority. Don’t back away from talking about your competitors’ products. Sales representatives need to articulate why your product is a better option.

The onboarding process is a good opportunity for new representatives to develop relationships with product development. Even if they won’t be working together closely on a day-to-day basis, understanding product development will only help representatives sell the product.

5) Sales process and methodology

Once your representatives have a decent grasp on the basics, you’ll want to delve into how the sales process works at your company. What are the stages in the process, and how does a rep successfully take a customer through to a sale? This part of the curriculum includes everything about prospecting, qualification, demos, closing deals, etc.

The good news about new reps is that they don’t have to be un-trained out of habits picked up elsewhere. But since they’re new to sales, you will have to go into a little more detail than for more senior hires.

6) Tools

Train sales representatives in how to effectively use your major tools, including the CRM and other pieces of your sales stack. Training sessions should be hands-on so the reps can really get a feel for the software.

Many software providers offer training videos and other materials. Take advantage of these resources, but make sure your training is individualized to the sales processes on your team. If you have team members with a knack for explaining the software effectively, bring them in for a tutorial.

Introduce new representatives to the people who are responsible for maintaining the CRM and other tools and point them towards resources for ongoing learning. Some things are best learned on the job, but you want to make sure they can learn efficiently.

Best practices for training and onboarding

With so much to cover, figuring out an effective method for training entry-level sales representatives can be tricky. Here are our top recommendations for a great training program:

  • Break down your curriculum into manageable chunks that are easy for new reps to digest. Learning about the sales process is daunting, but a unit on qualifying prospects is very manageable
  • Include plenty of interactive activities in your curriculum to engage representatives. Your new reps just graduated college—they don’t need more lectures
  • Provide low-pressure opportunities throughout the training process to assess how well your representatives are picking up key skills
  • Encourage collaboration during the training process. This helps build team bonds early
  • Offer ongoing training throughout the onboarding process. Even the most capable new hires can’t learn everything at once
  • Ask for feedback on how to improve the onboarding process

By following these best practices and monitoring the effectiveness of your onboarding process, you can set your new sales representatives up for success.

James Meincke

James is the Head of Marketing @ Demodesk, the intelligent meeting platform for remote sales. Previously he was the Director of Marketing at CloserIQ.