Sales forces that are effective in salesperson onboarding – getting new salespeople up-to-speed efficiently – enjoy surprising productivity advantages over their peers,
our recently-concluded research shows. These firms have 10% greater sales growth rates, and 14% better sales and profit objective achievement. But onboarding isn’t easy – just 40% of firms with formal programs believe they’re effective – nor is it consistently practiced.

Of clear importance is onboarding programs’ degree of structure and consistent application. Programs highly rated for structure and consistent application outperform those with low ratings in these attributes by 37% - lopping 3.4 months from the average time-to-productivity for new-hire salespeople, and improving average ramp-up time to 5.7 from 9.1 months.

We also learned that onboarding efforts are best at delivering content knowledge – company or product information, for example – but fall short when it comes to developing core selling skills. One-third to one-half of sales people completing on-boarding lack proficiency in the 12 core selling skills included in the study.

Selling skills judged hardest to achieve proficiency in for newly-on-boarded salespeople are reengaging stalled deals (with just 49% of respondents’ salespeople proficient after the onboarding period), selling new products (53%), upselling (54% proficient), closing prospects (54%), and closing deals (without regard to customer type; 54%). Firms had better success in teaching new recruits how to utilize internal resources (66% achieved proficiency), identifying prospects (62%), and retaining customers (62%).

Onboarding links strategically with overall sales force capacity and staffing. Inefficient onboarding, our research suggests, may affect hiring and turnover in unanticipated ways – by delaying firing decisions, and slowing hiring while new salespeople get up to speed – and many firms report poor onboarding results along with both staffing and turnover rates that are too low. Solving for onboarding offers management the confidence and flexibility to speed hiring, and more quickly replace low performers.

Interested to learn more? Read the full research report here.

This post originally appeared on the Sales Management Association (SMA) blog.  Visit the SMA web site to learn more and become a member.

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