This idea does not just make intuitive sense — it also makes financial sense. Companies with a strong new hire training program enjoy “up to 3.5 times the revenue growth and as much as 2.1 times the average profit margin” as companies with less effective training, according to research gathered from more than 4,000 managers in a BCG study.
Statistics like this, however, are well known to most organizations; they understand both the personal and financial benefits to new hire training for sales professionals. Yet, despite this, up to 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment, according to additional research in Forbes. If the importance of new hire training is so important, then why do so many companies falter in their efforts?
The answer, for many, is that new hire training often addresses only the most immediate needs. Effective new hire training for sales professionals goes further by addressing long-term capabilities with a holistic approach to skill development. Here, we examine the three critical parts of a strong training program for new sales professionals,
Train New Sales Professionals with a Blended Learning Approach
Blended learning is a form of instructional design that combines online learning with traditional classroom experience. This approach to new hire training brings together independent and collaborative learning. As a result, learners gain a deeper sense of engagement.
Blended learning solutions must generate buy-in at the beginning. Sales professionals are a demanding audience. They understand the value of their time. They often view non-selling activities as a direct cost. Therefore, the blended learning solution must include a baseline assessment of the learner’s specific, personalized growth opportunities. This step ensures that the sales training content is right-sized to the learner’s existing capabilities and builds on what they already know. This initial exposure is more resonant when learners use video scenarios that allow them to engage with the material in a way that minimizes time out of market.
However, sales professionals also need the role play exercises afforded by an instructor-led classroom experience. A group setting is ideal for this kind of work, which encourages sales professionals to respond to simulated challenges like facing customer demands. Facilitators leverage their experience by coaching in the moment and offering redirects the minute a participant makes a misstep. Doing so allows sales professionals to back up the dialogue and let the participants try again.
Make Sure Your Outline for a New Hire Training Sales Training Plan Includes Sustainment
Your sales rep onboarding plan should include a plan for sustainment. Sustainment requires structure. Therefore, leaders should consider the following five steps, in sequential order, as the basis for their sustainment plans.
1. Set Expectations
Communication is critical. Sales professionals need to know that sustainment is a priority for leadership. These expectations should be expressed in clear, actionable language that contains no ambiguity. Additionally, leaders should underscore the urgency of the expectations by expressing them in the right medium. This typically means your outline for a new hire sales training plan should start with a meeting where expectations are outlined in person.
2. Connect Skills to Challenges
Sales skill training often unfolds in the controlled environment of a classroom. Scenarios are clearly defined, and outcomes are hypothetical. Converting learned selling skills to the real world is more challenging. Leaders need to help sales professionals bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world by encouraging skill adoption immediately after training when it’s still fresh. When sales professionals see the effectiveness of the skills in real selling situations, they’re more likely to continue using them.
3. Prevent Relapse
Change takes time, and most of us are impatient. If people don’t feel like they are making progress with the new behaviors, they are much more likely to return to their pre-training behaviors. It is important to break up behavior change into incremental steps so that people feel that they are making progress. In addition, success, even partial success, is important so that people feel the benefits of putting in the effort to master the new knowledge and skills.
4. Create Accountability
Hold people accountable for their behavior change. Doing so helps people to take personal ownership of change management. Without accountability, sustainment can feel like a “top-down” approach in which sales professionals take directives from leaders. This approach puts distance between the sales professional and the outcomes of their work. Sustainment requires sales professionals to see the connection between their efforts and results. Create this setting by communicating that each person is responsible for sustained skill adoption.
5. Shape a Culture of Sustainment
If professionals go through training, but their work environment does not support the implementation of desired behaviors, people will think that the behaviors are optional or, worse, that management is not serious about them. On the other hand, if people go through new hire sales training and work in an environment that is aligned to support the desired behaviors, people will see that management is serious.
Build a Support Network for New Sales Professionals
Being a new hire on a sales team is difficult. There are volumes of information to learn. At the same time, there is a new culture to navigate and relationships to build. For these reasons, new hires need a support network. They need a group, or at least one person, who can serve as a guide through the process.
HR managers and data analysts at Microsoft examined results from a cohort of 600 new hires enrolled in a “buddy” program and learned that having a partner throughout the process offered considerable benefits in three ways.
- The program showed that the buddy offered valuable context. That is, they gave a clear explanation of why the new hire was being asked to do whatever it was they were doing.
- The relationship between the buddy and new hire boosted productivity. The more a new hire met with their buddy, the faster they were able to learn the job and produce results. The study reported that “56% of new hires who met with their onboarding buddy at least once in their first 90 days indicated that their buddy helped them to quickly become productive in their role.” However, when new hires met with their buddy eight times in the first 90 days, that figure jumped to 97%.
- New hires reported greater satisfaction with the onboarding process when they had a buddy to help them through the transition.
Additional studies echo these findings. Work from former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy uncovered the pervasive sense of loneliness in the workplace of today. He explained that “we live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.” He traces part of the source to the workplace. Having a support network present during the onboarding process prevents this problem from taking root.
Creating a new hire training program and outline for sales professionals represents a critical first step in a long journey. Therefore, making the effort to get it right is time well spent (you might even consider putting together a sales rep onboarding checklist to ensure the process goes smoothly). Moreover, a focus on building an effective program for training new sales professionals does more than prepare the sales professional — it illustrates the business’s commitment to the individual’s success. This, in turn, inspires the sales professional to succeed.