Sales Architects’ 2012 “Salesperson Onboarding Survey” illustrates how comprehensive onboarding programs can increase employee engagement and drive faster results.

Some of the most striking data in the survey, being released next week, details how long it takes new salespeople to generate the same revenue as tenured reps in companies with and without comprehensive onboarding programs: 251 days with a program and 381 without.

Click here to request a summary of the 2012 Salesperson Onboarding Survey

Key 2012 Salesperson Onboarding Survey Takeaways

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According to the survey, those who were satisfied with how fast their sales people got up to speed have a comprehensive onboarding program in place which leverages:

  • Mentors and in-person group training
  • Starting with a well-defined “first day program” that goes on for a meaningful amount of time
  • Testing results at the end of the onboarding period, and following through to help those that aren’t generating the same revenue as tenured reps

Other takeaways from the survey include:

  • Deploy a structured, comprehensive onboarding program. The most effective onboarding programs are highly structured and comprehensive in nature including testing, tailored coaching, one-on-one learning experiences and re-testing.
  • Pivot off a well-defined day one. That one change doubles participants’ satisfaction with the program.
  • Extend the onboarding period. The length of time to develop productive salespeople is significant. The onboarding program duration should be designed to reduce the amount of time it takes for new salespeople to produce at the same level as tenured ones.

Lee B. Salz, the Sales Architects’ sales management strategist who put together the survey, said:

The survey results remind us that top companies don’t view adding sales headcount as hiring, but rather as an investment in revenue. Onboarding is the key to a high return on that investment.

Implications For the Rest of Us

While salespeople are different animals than other employees, many of these ideas can be applied to other leaders and the broader organization.

Prepare in advance

Getting a head start is key – for all. As discussed in an earlier article, “Executive Onboarding, The Key to Accelerating Success and Reducing Risk in a New Job,” the basics of getting a head start, managing the message and building the team generally apply. Inherent in this is creating a structured, comprehensive onboarding program and planning in advance. This should take into account all aspects of onboarding from before the first contact through to accelerated results.

Manage the message

Part of why day one is so important is because it’s when new people really start converging with the culture. If culture is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage, which it is, then how you define day one, how you communicate your message, how you make people feel has ramifications far beyond that day. There’s much to be learned by how the Red Cross’s Charlie Shimanski inspires others with his message.

Follow through

There is no reason to believe that onboarding has any less impact on people in other functions. Thus, shame on people that don’t follow through on their onboarding programs beyond those first, early days. New leaders and new employees need more help longer than you think.

Take Onboarding Seriously

Whether you’re dealing with salespeople or others, onboarding is a crucible of leadership. The state of the art of onboarding continues to evolve, but this survey and the discussions at the recent Conference Board Onboarding Lab both drive to the same basic points. Having a comprehensive or systemic approach to onboarding makes a big difference. But personalizing what you do is critical. And remember to earn the right to lead before you start to lead.

Click here to request a summary of the 2012 Salesperson Onboarding Survey

Full disclosure: this survey was designed and implemented by Sales Architects with assistance from ES Research, HumanNature@Work, and PrimeGenesis (my firm).