Every top sales team knows that great sales performance begins with the right onboarding process. As the most fundamental part of training, sales onboarding lays the foundation for new hires to develop key skills, reduce ramp-up time, and make an impact.
This is definitely the case for Google. Fortunately for you, we’ve partnered with Google’s Head of Sales Training, Brendan McGeever, to take you inside the company’s sales onboarding techniques in our MasterSaaS series: a sales training masterclass for SaaS companies.
In this week’s lesson, Brendan has six ways to create an excellent sales onboarding process that gives your incoming reps the tools they need to hit the ground running.
Every company’s sales culture is different. You have your own particular values and norms, and your own proven techniques for attracting new customers. Learning these values should be step one for new reps. After all, you might have attracted the best talent in the market, but if your reps can’t work as a team in line with your unique culture, they won’t succeed in the long run.
As Brendan explains, the key to setting people up for success is to structure your sales onboarding to reflect this culture. “At Google, we’re fortunate to draw from a very diverse pool of candidates. With so many different kinds of experience coming in, we use our onboarding process as a chance to level-set. We want to establish how Google does business, how our products work, and how we talk about those products to our customers.”
This involves an intensive month-long process structured around Google’s distinctive culture. “It all comes back to our strategy about what makes a great salesperson. We structure the onboarding process to line up with that, and we tailor different weeks of training to speak to different parts of Google’s way of selling.”
"With so many different kinds of experience coming in, we use our onboarding process as a chance to level-set. We want to establish how Google does business, how our products work, and how we talk about those products to our customers.”
In sales teams, new hires tend to arrive amidst a lot of excitement. As Brendan explains, this is definitely the case at Google. “By the time new hires arrive, the hiring managers are very eager to introduce them to their new customers and get them integrated into the sales cycles.”
While this eagerness is helpful, it can distract from the onboarding process. “What we need to do is have a conversation with the manager,” says Brendan. “We need to say, look, we hear you, and we want this person to be effective. But to do that, they need to take this first month to understand what it takes to be truly successful as a Google salesperson.”
“We want new hires to learn from their peers, practice core skills, and make mistakes in a safe environment. Then, when they finish onboarding, they’ll be more confident in their own skill-set. We need to protect that time upfront and make sure people can hit the ground running.”
Protecting this onboarding time can be a challenge, especially when you’ve got sales metrics to reach. But if you can free up new hires to build their capacity, it’ll pay off in the long run.
In busy workplaces, getting buy-in for sales onboarding is easier said than done. One proven technique, according to Brendan? Show your teams the value of the training with quick wins.
“The best method to get new employees to commit to the onboarding process is quite simple,” says Brendan. “The training itself has to be very effective. Word will travel very quickly amongst employees and hiring managers if the training you’re offering is only so-so.”
On top of creating training activities that have immediate impact for new hires, Google is also committed to a process of continuous learning to make sure sales onboarding is engaging and effective. “We hold ourselves to a very high standard,” explains Brendan. “We’re always gathering feedback and continually optimizing the process. If you can deliver great training, it’s a lot easier to convince everybody to dedicate time to onboarding.”
"Word will travel very quickly amongst employees and hiring managers if the training you’re offering is only so-so.”
Being a sales rep is a very hands-on job. Unsurprisingly, sales onboarding needs to be hands-on, too.
“At Google, we used to bring speakers in from different parts of the business to talk about what they do,” he says. “Over time, we’ve evolved our approach to focus on specific use cases. We have a combination of hypothetical cases, as well as discussing actual customer needs and upcoming challenges. That way, it’s a much more integrative approach.”
Tailoring the onboarding process to reflect these real-life use cases doesn’t just make for better content - it also leads to a more engaging experience. “Focusing on use cases keeps people’s attention,” says Brendan. “It makes people connect the dots quicker, and leads to a better overall training experience.”
For companies offering a range of services to customers, incoming sales hires have a distinct set of learning needs reflecting their particular area of focus. As Brendan explains, it’s important to personalize onboarding to reflect these needs.
“We carve out the second week on the job for our hires to work with their managers around specific business needs. That way, when they return to the classroom in the following week, they’re thinking about the specific needs they’re going to be asked to address.”
“We also have a week during onboarding dedicated to the specific role the person is coming into. This involves account managers, account executives, and other parts of the organization coming together to focus on how that role fits into the bigger picture.”
Personalizing the onboarding experience is a great way to make content more engaging and relevant. It also illustrates your commitment to continuous learning in the onboarding process.
In sales onboarding, you can’t know what you don’t measure. As Brendan explains, measuring impact within your training is the best way to boost confidence in your approach.
“We’ve made a lot of changes to our onboarding,” says Brendan. “Now, we’re looking at how to measure the impact of these changes. In order to justify the investment in onboarding, we have to make sure the training is having the desired impact. It’s not just a question of confidence, but also one of capability.”
Measuring impact with your onboarding helps you to know where you’re creating the most significant benefits for new sales hires, and where you can make further improvements.
Related read: 6 Steps to a Great Remote Onboarding Process - and What to Avoid
Stay tuned for next week’s lesson on how to produce your sales training material!
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Would love to know what you think about this MasterSaaS with Brendan. Share your reactions and thoughts in the comments section!