Are you satisfied with how long it takes for your new sales hires to be productive?

In most cases, I’m sure the answer is no.

Ok, so you’ve hired a new rep or several new reps, now what do you do? One thing you don’t do is leave them to fend for themselves. It’s important that’s there’s a well thought out onboarding program to indoctrinate the new employees into the organization. The first day, week, and even month and longer are an important starting off point to have an energized, productive new Sales engine.


Well thought out onboarding helps with employee retention, improved sales performance, and how the new employee feels about their new company.

The sooner the new rep is fully on board and productive, the sooner the organizations starts making a return on that individual. The onboarding of sales people is taking on average of at least 9 months. In many places the timing is much longer. That’s an expensive hiring process. The more effective your onboarding, the sooner you get an ROI on your hiring.

In a study conducted by Equifax, it was found that 40% of employees who left their roles on their own accord, left within the first 6 months of starting in that role. A well thought out onboarding program can significantly reduce that initial turnover. (1)

The first few days and weeks in a new company can set the stage for a great experience and a positive fully engaged new employee, or it can result in a jaded negative employee very quickly.

In one of the last companies I worked for it seemed like it took 3 to 6 months just to have all the tools in place, it was a nightmare in terms of first impressions of the organization. It sent the message that I didn’t feel that important to them, or that they were a nightmare company to work for, or that they were simply just very unorganized. This is clearly not the way to start a new hire who you expect great performance from.

This organization had high turnover—No wonder!

A 2011 Conference Board of Canada Study found that “onboarding…. reduces the time it takes new hires to get up to speed, increases productivity by improving employee engagement, and lowers new hire turnover.” This is further evidence pointing to the critical nature of having as full an onboarding process as possible. Again, depending on the size and the resources of the company you can scale the program.

I would argue that even a 5 to 10-sales employee company can conduct an onboarding program at minimal cost. It just takes some planning and a focus to execute on it. The efforts are worth the payoff. More sales quicker, less turnover, lower cost of sales, I think that speaks for itself.

Step one, at least have all the tools ready before the new sales rep even starts if possible, laptop, systems in place, login ID’s, desk area if applicable, security if applicable, relevant tools and materials. Don’t have the rep fend for themselves to find all the stuff needed for the day to day. Of course, the manager should be present to greet them, introduce them to the team, show them around and spend time with them day one.

Give them a sense that they are in a well supported environment, an environment that is truly engaged and sincerely wants you to be successful. First impressions for a new employee are important and should not be relegated as an afterthought. It’s like welcoming a new member into a family, or at least I think it should be.

Secondly, ensure there is a solid, well thought out on-boarding process, the quicker you get the sales reps selling the better your sales results, the more motivated the rep, the longer he or she will stay and continue to be productive. On-boarding will be different in every company, it can be as simple as an overview of the company, its processes, HR, products or services being sold, sales processes, benefits, tools, and culture. Having a leader in the company come in to speak and answer questions is always a good way to say to the new employee that they are important and welcomed.

Example of topics to cover in an onboarding program;

  • Company Story/History/Strategy/Org Structure

  • Marketing Strategy

  • Sales Strategy/Company /The Differentiation

  • Communications Plan

  • Target Market/Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

  • Customer Case Studies/Business Cases

  • Human Resource Practises and Policies

  • Learning and Development Programs

  • Professional Development

  • Products and Services

  • Sales Intranet Site/Sales Playbook/Knowledge management/How to Navigate/Presentations

  • Territories/Accounts/Expectations/Best Practices/Support

  • Culture

  • Sales Process/Forecasting/Funnel Management/KPI’s/Best Practises

  • CRM Training and expectations

  • Sales Compensation and Quotas

  • Lead Generation Process/Prospecting

  • Operations Process/Delivery Cycles

  • Customer Expectations

  • Any sales training that is standard and requires common language i.e. Strategic Account Planning, Specific Sales Skills training

  • Proposal Templates/Quote Process

  • Pricing/Competitive landscape

These topics can be covered with backup material or references to web sites or playbooks over a dedicated 2 to 5-day period or introduced over time. We all know that too much information all at once is challenging to absorb so a timed-on boarding if possible makes good sense.

“Plan to learn”

In partnership with Human Resources we introduced a full onboarding program where none existed before in one organization where I led the Sales force and it contributed to increased sales productivity in the first year of a sales rep’s employment and it helped decrease the turnover rates.

We measured productivity and turnover very closely and after the hiring practises improved and we launched the onboarding program, reps were breaking records left right and center. We had reps bringing in new business within the first few month of employment which was unheard of before these programs were instituted.

The more effective the on-boarding and training process is, the faster the sales rep will become successful, the happier he or she will be, the longer you will typically keep them and the better the ROI.

It is also important that the sales manager stay actively engaged in this process to ensure the reps are taking in what they need, and being disciplined about their engagement in the process. This is of course also where the coaching starts. It’s important right from the start to be coaching and ensuring each individual is very clear on what is expected of them.

For more information and insights in regards to onboarding and other sales organization imperatives refer to my website,, or order my book, The Street Savvy Sales Leader, A Guide To Building Teams That Consistently Win New Business.

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Mark Welch | Founder
Street Savvy Sales Leadership

For individual sales or sales leadership coaching, workshops, contract work, advising, or speaking engagements