New Account Executives are coming to your company with more sales experience than SDRs. So it’s tempting to think that the onboarding process just isn’t that important. In fact, it is still critical for AEs’ long-term success.
According to a study conducted by Click Boarding, new employees who go through a formal onboarding process are 58% more likely to remain with the organization for three years or more. Early hires who get onboarded are 50% more productive on average in the first months.
Remember: Even if your new AEs have sales experience, they’re new to selling your product. In order to become effective members of the team, they need to gain familiarity with your company, product, and sales process.
Here’s how to establish an onboarding process that works for AEs:
1. Show AEs the plan for onboarding early on.
On the AE’s first day (or even before), provide a schedule of the onboarding process with details of your sales training program. This should include major training activities, short-term goals, and any scheduled meetings. Consider putting this plan in the form of a Google Document that can be easily viewed and modified by anyone, including the new AE.
After showing the game plan to the AE, give them the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions. This shows them that they’re a partner in the process, not just a passive participant.
2. The entire team should welcome new AEs on day 1.
New AEs want to know that they are welcome. To that end, make sure that your team members personally greet the new AE as early as possible. This doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just walking by the new AE’s desk to say “Hello, my name is [X] and I’m glad to have you aboard” can make a difference.
3. Provide comprehensive training that includes—but isn’t limited to—your product and buyer profiles.
Product training and buyer profiles are part of any comprehensive program. Since this will be new info for your AEs, it’s important to give these topics good coverage so that they can be comfortable with your product.
Still, it’s also important not to overlook foundational sales skills, methodologies, and industry know-how. Even though your AEs are coming in with prior sales experience, the methodology at their previous company may quite different from yours. They might also be new to your industry; don’t assume they already know how things should work. Give them the tools they need to succeed at your company.
4. Give AEs the opportunity to give mock sales presentations and calls during training sessions.
Role-playing activities remain one of the most effective training tools, even for hires with previous experience. Sales training sessions should include numerous opportunities for role-playing. Take care in crafting these exercises so that they actually bear some resemblance to real-life scenarios AEs are likely to encounter.
Then, provide honest and encouraging feedback so that the new AE is ready to go on a real sales call soon.
5. Make use of call coaching in the early days.
Sales coaching works best when it’s highly specific. Live call coaching is a useful tool for telling new AEs what they’re doing right and what needs further improvement. Incorporate this into the onboarding schedule so it doesn’t come as a surprise for the AE. It’s also helpful to record a sales call and then ask a more experienced AE for feedback.
Use an established structure for providing feedback, such as a rubric or standard evaluation form.
5. Use an LMS and other tools to enable new AEs to learn on their own.
Automating some parts of the onboarding process isn’t just more efficient. It also sets up the expectation that AEs will work autonomously and be held responsible for their own professional development. To that end, invest in a good LMS that new AEs can use to complete training modules. This can also help you to optimize the onboarding process in the long term.
At the same time, make sure they’re getting human contact in the training process. Assign a partner that new AEs can go to with their questions.
6. Go over the SLA between AEs and SDRs
For a new AE, taking over an existing account can be one of the most nerve-wracking tasks. To make the process go smoothly for both AEs and customers, put a transition plan in place. New AEs should have access to all relevant client information before jumping into a call or meeting. Ideally, someone known to the customer should introduce the new AE.
7. Set ambitious yet reasonable milestones during the onboarding period.
AEs are ambitious, and they’ve had past success. To help them get off to a strong start, the onboarding period should include ambitious (but achievable) goals, as well as a timeline for meeting them. This can really help AEs get comfortable in their new position.
8. Introduce AEs to people outside of the sales team.
During the onboarding period, introduce AEs to people from marketing, customer success, product development, and other teams. Then when the AE needs to consult with someone from another team, they’ll already have a connection in place to help. Doing this with all new sales hires is a great way to break down internal silos at your company.
9. Show AEs the bigger vision for your company.
Training shouldn’t just focus on product and sales process. New AEs have some business experience, and they’re ready to learn about the larger picture. Include training modules and activities that get AEs excited about the company’s mission and long-term aims. This helps send the message that AEs are valued as strategic thinkers, and encourages AE engagement.
10. Create opportunities for AEs to meet with managers and team members outside of the office.
For AEs to really feel acclimated, developing meaningful relationships with coworkers is critical. Help facilitate this by creating opportunities for socialization outside the office. This is a small thing that helps achieve the overarching goal of onboarding: Integrating the new AE into the larger team.