The Ultimate Guide to B2B Sales Onboarding
Nothing's worse than wasting time and money training a new sales rep who just isn't closing deals as quickly as you need them to.
Despite the importance of sales to a company's bottom line, it often takes weeks or months for a sales rep to reach full productivity. Even if they're a great candidate, a poor sales onboarding process can make it difficult for new hires to succeed on your team.
In this guide, we'll walk you through sales onboarding and why it's so important. We've also got a sales onboarding template, plus tips and best practices for onboarding in all kinds of work settings.
✈️ What is sales onboarding?
Like every onboarding process, sales onboarding is a structured way to get new hires up to speed quickly on the company and their role in selling its products and services.
Sales onboarding has a clearly defined start and endpoint. It begins with preboarding, or when your new salesperson accepts their job offer. The onboarding process should last until the sales rep is acclimated to the company and has received foundation role-based training.
📈 Why is sales onboarding important?
Sales is integral to a company's bottom line, making sales onboarding one of the most critical processes for your people ops team to get right.
Onboarding, in general, contributes to faster time-to-productivity for new hires, as well as higher levels of quality and productivity for the duration of their employment. You'll also see greater employee satisfaction and retention long-term.
These onboarding benefits take on even greater importance when applied to the sales team. The faster a sales rep can contribute to the bottom line, the better hire they are.
Of course, not all sales onboarding processes are created equal. If your sales onboarding is bogged down with slow-loading spreadsheets and inefficient manual checklists, it doesn't matter if you have a separate system for the sales team or not.
Take real estate software company Alasco as an example. They had a decently effective manual onboarding process filled with personal introductions to company and product topics throughout the first few weeks of employment.
But as Alasco grew its ranks rapidly while also navigating the transition to hybrid work, the manual approach just didn't cut it anymore.
So they came to Zavvy for an automated and adaptable onboarding solution that literally cut time-to-productivity in half.
👀 What does an effective sales onboarding process look like?
If you're trying to ditch the manual onboarding to get your sales reps productive faster, there are several key principles you can incorporate no matter what you sell.
📝 Sales onboarding 30-60-90 day plan template
You should create a 30-60-90 day plan for your new sales rep before they arrive on their first day.
While you'll customize the sales onboarding template to meet the unique needs of each employee, using a standardized plan helps people ops and managers alike feel sure that new joiners have all the information they need.
You can use this sales onboarding 30-60-90 day checklist to help you plan for your new hire.
Learning: The first 30 days
The first month on the job focuses on giving new sales reps all the information they need about your company, your products, and any sales tools they should use to do the basics of their job.
While information is the focus, this stage should still be highly interactive. Include hands-on learning and opportunities for early success and feedback as much as possible.
- Introduce onboarding buddy
- Provide company and product overview
- Set up workspace and accounts
- Introduce team and collaborators from other departments
- Assign sales onboarding and training journeys
- Shadow high-performing sales reps
- Conduct a practice sales call
- Continue learning about the company and products
- Set 30 day goals
Remainder of first 30 days:
- Begin attending internal meetings
- Check in with onboarding buddy weekly
- Set up coffee dates with other coworkers
- Make live sales and prospect calls
- Record and implement feedback
- Check on 30-day goal progress
- Set 60-day goals
Training: The first 60 days
After early success and feedback in the first 30 days of the new role, your sales rep is ready to work more independently. You'll still provide regular check-ins and feedback to help them reach their goals, but in the second month on the job, it's time for sales reps to demonstrate autonomy.
Continue to offer hands-on learning and training opportunities to your sales reps. Feedback should remain consistent, too, as there's still a lot to learn.
- Schedule regular feedback meetings
- Decide how often to meet with onboarding buddy
- Participate in meetings
- Run sales calls independently
- Record and reflect on feedback
- Develop a deeper understanding of company products and services
- Reflect on 60 day goals
- Set 90 day goals
- Address any significant areas of concern or improvement
Accountability: The first 90 days
In the last phase of sales onboarding, new joiners take on even more autonomy. They should be taking full responsibility for the outcomes of their work while also taking initiative in improving the team, product, or company.
Once the 90 days are up, formal sales onboarding will come to a close. From there, you transition into ongoing training and development to get your sales reps ready for continued success.
- Choose a senior sales rep or two to shadow during the month
- Brainstorm a sales battle card goal
- Schedule coffee dates and onboarding buddy check-ins
- Troubleshoot issues independently
- Contribute to meetings or working groups
- Develop a sales battle card for an area of improvement
- Identify prospects for an outreach campaign. (You can offer them access to an email verifier, which will help to maintain a healthy email list and increase the success of their email campaigns.)
- Assess 90 day goals
- Look at the big picture of performance so far
- Identify and discuss any areas of concern
- Set six month and one year goals
💪 Sales onboarding best practices
Initial onboarding period
In the first phase of sales onboarding, you have one mission: get your new sales rep closing deals quickly.
Because a short time-to-productivity is so critical in sales, the onboarding plan for this team should follow these best practices.
🏢 Intensive company and product training
While all new joiners should become familiar with your business and products, it's even more important for sales reps. With deep product knowledge, sales reps can address even the most obscure concerns for your prospects.
Don't forget to include company onboarding in your plan. Your sales reps aren't just selling a product — they need to sell your brand.
To do this well, sales reps should get a thorough introduction to the company values and culture by interacting with their colleagues.
👬 Onboarding buddies
To increase productivity and retention on your sales team, consider implementing an onboarding buddy program for new joiners.
An onboarding buddy program matches new hires with experienced employees in the early weeks and months of their role. The experienced buddy helps the new sales rep get comfortable in the office and with the role.
Onboarding buddies offer instant connection for nervous new hires. They're also an excellent source of informal knowledge about the role, product, or business.
Companies like Microsoft and Pinterest have successfully implemented onboarding buddy programs that reduce time-to-productivity even further while providing tons of other benefits to the entire organization.
↔️ Interactive training
Sales is highly interactive, so sales onboarding and training should be interactive, too.
Team meetings and one-on-ones with managers and onboarding buddies are excellent ways to foster new hires' collaboration and interaction. But if you stop there, you could be missing out on highly effective training opportunities for the sales team.
Incorporate activities like information hunts, role-play scenarios, and practice calls throughout the sales onboarding process. Make sure each activity is directly related to the sales role.
Moving your sales onboarding process to a platform like Zavvy can help you add and expand interactive elements for your team.
📝 Consistent structure with other teams
Sales teams benefit from an onboarding plan tailored to their needs, but that doesn't mean sales onboarding should look completely different from the rest of your company.
Instead, start from the general onboarding framework for your company. Modify this plan to accommodate the sales team's needs while staying as consistent as possible.
A shared onboarding experience is vital for establishing a sense of company culture among all new hires — even if they're from different departments. With this kind of consistency, onboarding is easier on the people ops teams too.
💡 As a communication channel, consider Slack, Teams or a WhatsApp shared inbox instead of email only. Why? Because it's where people actually spend their time.
⚙️ Employee onboarding software
Employee onboarding software is a great way to offer consistency across the organization and easily manage your department-specific onboarding processes. With an onboarding platform like Zavvy, all new joiners have similar experiences while absorbing the shared parts of your company onboarding.
At the same time, you can create custom journeys for specific roles. For sales onboarding, you may jump into role-related training earlier than you might for a new people ops team member.
Zavvy gives you an easy way to track and manage all of these journeys. You also get user insights to help you make better onboarding decisions to keep developing your employees as long as they work with you.
Ongoing sales training
Sales onboarding refers to a specific length of time, but training doesn't stop when onboarding does. Ongoing training and employee development are crucial to maintaining productivity and high-quality work.
After your formal sales onboarding ends, try some of these ideas for regular sales training.
☎️ Call coaching
Coaching a new sales rep through a call or demo might seem like an obvious training step. But what might not seem obvious is holding regular call coaching sessions with every sales rep on your team.
Everyone can use on-the-job feedback. By conducting call coaching every year or even quarter, your sales reps know they'll have regular guidance from their managers on their performance. Managers can catch problem areas early for each sales rep, reducing the need for turnover.
Call coaching is also an excellent tool for changing sales tactics or adding a new audience or product. The test calls allow sales reps to fine-tune their pitch for the nuances of every sales conversation.
💬 Microlearning journeys
Sales reps are busy identifying prospects and closing deals. They don't want to spend hours per month in mandatory training sessions.
At the same time, regularly reinforcing skills and concepts learned in onboarding and training helps employees retain knowledge longer. To get the best of both worlds, you can leverage the power of cognitive science through microlearning.
Microlearning consists of "bite-size" training sessions delivered in a flexible format. Some early versions of microlearning were delivered through email; with Zavvy, you can conduct microlearning via Slack or MS Teams.
Here’s an example of how Freeletics leveraged microlearning to train their leadership team.
👥 Job shadowing
Job shadowing is useful during sales onboarding, but don't underestimate its power for employee development.
You can assign less experienced sales reps to shadow veterans on important calls or meetings. This offers insights into how the next level of the job works, letting the sales rep see what skills they'll need to develop to succeed at that level.
Pairing employees with counterparts from different teams or departments is also an effective way to cross-train workers. Sales reps can shadow product experts or sales reps in charge of other service areas.
Overall, you want your job shadowing program to provide career enrichment for the employee while preparing them to meet the company's future needs.
🗃️ Sales battle cards
Sales battle cards were originally developed to countersell against the competition, but they have many adaptations for ongoing sales rep development.
To create a development-oriented battle card for your sales rep, start by asking them about their biggest challenges in the role. Maybe it's selling a specific product add-on or relating to a particular customer segment.
No matter what the challenge is, turn it into a concrete goal your sales rep can work toward with the help of the battle card. Work with the sales rep to find the right sales battle card template to work from and begin filling in information about the product, customers, and more.
Battle cards are living documents, so empower your sales reps to make the battle cards useful in their own sales calls. Review the cards regularly with your sales reps to ensure they're up to date. You can even build a sales battle card journey in Zavvy to incorporate it into your ongoing sales rep training.
💻 3 Tips for remote sales onboarding
As hybrid and remote work becomes more prevalent across industries, it's key to adapt your sales onboarding plan for remote workers.
Thankfully, employee onboarding software like Zavvy was developed to meet the challenges of remote offices too. Use these tips to adjust your sales onboarding template for new hires joining you virtually.
1. Lean into automation
With your team dispersed across the country or globe, managing a sales onboarding process manually becomes close to impossible. There are just too many people in too many time zones for an informal and unmonitored onboarding process to be successful.
When you develop your sales onboarding process with a platform like Zavvy, you can keep new joiners on track no matter where you are in the world.
Here's how it works.
- First, you'll organize all of your onboarding materials into a cohesive journey. Zavvy journeys can include articles and videos, interactive task lists, shadowing calls, and more to give new joiners a thorough and varied overview of your company and their role.
- When you assign the onboarding journey to a new sales rep, they'll receive daily notifications reminding them of their next tasks.
- Each employee's Zavvy dashboard displays their progress and next steps right at the top.
With this setup, new joiners get a smooth onboarding experience that creates an excellent first impression. Plus, managers get instant insight into how the sales onboarding process is working for their new hires, offering plenty of opportunities to course correct when needed.
2. Use live training sparingly
Live, interactive training can be highly effective in reinforcing concepts and sharing informal knowledge with new joiners. But as the past few years have taught us, you need to plan carefully to translate a live workshop to a remote setting.
Simply moving what used to be an in-person meeting to a video-based format tends to lose any value the live training may have had. From tech issues to poor peer interaction, live virtual training can quickly become the bane of your remote office's existence.
Still, there's something about interactive education that's powerful. Think about what aspects of your training process could benefit from an expert perspective or a conversational period with trainees.
Then, develop remote training with your very specific goal in mind. Leverage the interaction features in your video meeting platform to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for everyone.
3. Incorporate coworker connection
Remote workers miss out on the casual colleague interactions of getting coffee in the break room or stopping by someone's desk to ask after their weekend. But that doesn't mean remote workers just miss out on the camaraderie of coworkers.
To alleviate this problem from the get-go, add coworker connection tasks to your sales onboarding plan. This could take the form of an onboarding buddy program, information hunts like the one below, or virtual coffee dates with coworkers from around the company.
No matter what approach you take, the goal remains the same: foster a sense of connection for your newest sales rep so they are more effective and more satisfied in their role.
🚀 3 Ways sales onboarding software gets new reps productive faster
1. No more information overload
Manual onboarding processes tend to feel like a bombardment. New hires see information flying at them from every direction, and it gets overwhelming fast.
Sales onboarding software gives your reps a single place to go for anything related to onboarding. Company and product information, points of contact, or even a basic refresher on concepts or policies live in a single platform — not scattered through a dozen emails or packets of paper.
An employee enablement platform like Zavvy takes sales onboarding software a step further to provide ongoing training and development for the sales team and everyone else in your organization.
Without the information overload, it's easier for new joiners to see what's most important for their job.
2. Streamlined experience for everyone
Investing in sales onboarding software creates a unified employee experience from day one. This shared experience creates a basis for a strong company culture while also mitigating the stress managers and new hires alike often feel about the onboarding process.
Once you've developed your sales onboarding template within your software, you can automate many parts of the process.
New joiners can always access their onboarding and see what's next, eliminating delays from waiting for instructions and assignments. Managers and people ops can be confident that everyone is receiving the same training, ensuring quality across the company and mitigating any disparities from the get-go.
3. Immediate progress tracking
How do you know when your sales onboarding process is over? If you have a manual onboarding process, you might not have an answer.
With sales onboarding software, you can see exactly where every employee stands with their onboarding and training needs. Each employee can track their progress on each journey with a per cent completed bar over the table of contents.
Administrators have a higher level of access, with a dashboard that shows every employee's onboarding progress at a glance.
Progress tracking keeps new joiners motivated while also providing higher-ups with the insights they need to guide their team.
➡️ Create your sales onboarding plan today
Sales onboarding is vital to the health of an organization. Creating a sales onboarding plan with employee onboarding software saves time and money, as it gets new sales reps closing deals faster than a manual process does.
With Zavvy, you can customize your sales onboarding plan from our starting template. You'll be able to track new hire progress, automatically send onboarding journeys, and include interactive features throughout the process.
Once onboarding ends, Zavvy helps you smoothly transition into ongoing training and development for your sales team.
➡️ Learn how our automated onboarding tool works here.
How is sales onboarding different from other onboarding processes?
Sales onboarding holds special importance in most businesses because sales is so integral to the company's bottom line. Sales reps need to reach full productivity faster than most other departments to maintain their efficacy.
To reduce the time-to-productivity for new sales hires, sales onboarding should focus early and often on role-related training and provide plenty of opportunities for early successes and feedback.
What are the most important features of sales onboarding software?
When you choose a sales onboarding software, it's important to choose a platform you can customize to your needs. Whether you need robust automation features or specific tool integrations, the right sales onboarding software for you is the one that fits seamlessly into your existing workflow.
What should sales onboarding include?
Sales onboarding should cover everything from preboarding to the first six months of a new joiner's employment. Your sales onboarding plan should include company information and policies, role-related skill training, and product deep dives. Also, don't forget to incorporate coworker connections like onboarding buddies or virtual coffee dates.