Why Onboarding Sales Reps Should Be Your First Focus

September 4, 2014
min read time
Sam Aparicio
Sam Aparicio
Co-founder & CEO,
Why Onboarding Sales Reps Should Be Your First Focus

Hiring inexperienced salespeople is never going to be an exact science. No matter how trained your eye for talent, there will always be surprises. The person who blew you away in the interview might burn out quickly, while the quiet, unassuming person ends up being a team leader. While you may not be able to predict perfectly who’s going to thrive, there’s plenty you can do to make sure new team members are given the best possible shot at success.

That’s why onboarding sales reps should be your first priority. For brand-new team members, that means comprehensive training. Even experienced hires, though, will need instruction on your company’s unique vision and sales principles. Sure, it takes time and effort, but the investment is well spent. Create an onboarding process that gives new hires the tools they need to succeed, and you’ll ultimately spend less time interviewing replacements in the future.

Train with Focus

Too often, training and onboarding are used interchangeably, as if they describe the same thing. Teach new salespeople the ropes, hand them a thick manual on company policy, and set them loose on the world. That’s simply not enough. No matter how perfect a fit your new team member’s personality is for the job, they’ll still have much to learn about the finer points of making sales.

Where should you look for leads? How do you make an effective cold call? Where do you find phone numbers to call in the first place? How can digital marketing help drive individual sales? These are easy questions for an experienced sales rep to answer, but we’re not talking about experienced salespeople. Covering the little details keeps new recruits from feeling lost on the job.

Training shouldn’t be limited only to general sales tactics. Be sure to explain the unique way that your company chooses to do business. Get specific, and dive into the key philosophies that guide the company from top to bottom. When salespeople are forced to make judgment calls on the job, this information will give them a reference point on which to base their decisions.

Technology Tools and Training

The internet is a great resource for inexperienced salespeople, but it can also be an overwhelming one. As you’re onboarding sales reps, show them which resources are the real deal. Teach them how, and how not to, use social media for lead generation. If you favor purchasing leads, tell them which outlets offer the best value. Basically, don’t assume a new hire will already know how to use familiar tech tools in the context of sales.

If you’ve got proprietary software, that’s a big bonus. Whether it’s CRM or something more specific to your company, an intuitive tech suite eases a new hire’s transition to the job. Even without dedicated software, you can guide them toward the basics of online advertising, and setting up a personal website. All of these tools increase efficiency, and ultimately boost sales.

Product/Service Training

It’s one thing to teach someone how to sell. It’s another to teach them how to sell your product or service. When you’re onboarding sales reps, make sure they know what they will be selling inside out. Nothing inspires confidence going into a pitch like full knowledge of what you’re trying to sell, and why your prospect should want to buy it.

Make this type of training an ongoing thing, and provide the resources your team needs to succeed. This makes for a better pitch, and allows reps to answer questions confidently in those crucial post-pitch conversations with prospects.

Coaching and Playbooks

While the “basic training” part of onboarding sales reps ends eventually, your people need to know they can lean on you and other trusted management voices for advice throughout their tenure. Keep an open door, and coach team members up regularly. Be constructive, but honest. If you’ve created resource materials like sales playbooks, make sure they’re clearly worded and easily accessible, ideally in digital form.

Sometimes, coaching is just about boosting confidence. The right words at the right time can pull an experienced rep from a rut, or help a new rep who’s having trouble getting started. By having ready answers for questions, you show reps you’ve done the same research you expect of them.

As you can see, a quality process for onboarding sales reps incorporates many key elements beyond simple training. It takes work, but ultimately leads to more successful employees and more sales. Don’t be afraid to get experienced team members involved with helping new hires, either. It doesn’t have to be major involvement, but a trusted ear who’s not the boss can be very valuable for new team members. Once those new members become vets, they’ll be sure to pass it on to the next generation.


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