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The 8 Best Ways of Onboarding Distributed Sales Reps Effectively

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Effective Onboarding of Sales Reps

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Newly hired sales reps should be welcomed by an effective onboarding process to forge an affinity towards their new role and the company they have just joined. Basically, it entails marinating new hires in the company’s culture, training them to do their best, and making them understand your expectations. Ideally, they should be treated akin to your most valuable customer. After all, they represent the company and the brand to your valued customers, so why think of cutting any corners? 

According to the Korn Ferry Research 2020 Sales Talent Study, an analysis of the impact of effective onboarding programs for sales talent showed up remarkable findings like:

  • Effective onboarding sessions can improve quota attainment by 14% and increase win rates by 11%.
  • Ineffective onboarding sessions increase voluntary turnover rate from 10.7% to 13.7%.

The bottom-line is that the sales onboarding process is a success if the sales reps look forward to attending work after they wake up each morning. This underlying motive of onboarding holds good for both your direct and indirect or distributed sales reps.

Who are Distributed Sales Reps?

To better understand the role of direct and indirect sales reps let us study the basic sales ecosystem to shed light on these twin roles. Here, a principal is the primary seller, whereas the third party has been contracted to represent the principal. If the principal sells products or services directly to the customer via sales reps employed by the principal, then these sales reps are known as direct sales reps. They are usually concentrated in and around a particular location. Whereas distributed or indirect sales reps are of two kinds. They can be geographically dispersed sales reps of the principal. Or they can also be the ones who are employed by third parties. The latter are also called intermediaries or agents or resellers or dealers or channel partners. 

Associating with already established resellers helps principals enter new markets riding on the geographical reach of the resellers. It is quite an inexpensive endeavor than doing it alone. This sales channel strategy also helps to cleverly capture bigger markets and increase customer base. Distributed sales reps employed by the resellers are an important part of the sales ecosystem helping principals capture fresh or bigger markets and sell more products, thereby increasing revenue. The correct manner of onboarding distributed sales reps brings a host of benefits. 

See Also: Speedup Sales Onboarding

Benefits of Onboarding Sales Reps

Onboarding sales reps makes them aware of the ethos of the company’s culture; product, services and leadership; knowledge of the concerned industry; and skills required to be productive. It helps the newbies get comfortable in their roles with less stress, betters interaction with colleagues, boosts confidence and job satisfaction, plus enables superior performance.

According to research studies, a standard onboarding program for sales reps throws up positive results like:

  • A 54% increase in productivity 
  • Work efficiencies jumped up by 34%
  • The occurrence of new sales reps making their first sale was 77% more than sales reps without proper onboarding
  • 69% of employees stayed loyal for three years

It is seen presently that sales reps churn upto 40% annually which is worrying as it is more than an ideal expected attrition rate of 15% or below. A weak onboarding exercise causes under-prepared sales reps to get disillusioned and leave enterprises. This pattern has been observed in both direct and distributed sales reps. The essence of onboarding direct and distributed sales reps is the same, however the latter needs more hand-holding.  

The Challenges of Onboarding Distributed Sales Reps 

Direct sales reps work in tandem with the primary employer where the set up works like a traditional, hierarchical sales team setup. As you go lower down the hierarchy, the friction increases to provide visibility, connection and communication channels to the reps. This gets exacerbated as you go further down to the channel partners and to the reps employed by them. While the channel partners help the principal brand penetrate deeper geographically, their enablement is key to drive their effectiveness on the field. To begin with, the principal brand has to be contend with several challenges to onboard these widely distributed sales reps:

  • Geographically Dispersed: The sales reps are scattered across geographies. They would have joined the dealers at different times too. So, it’s a heterogeneous mix out there. It’s a logistical nightmare and extremely resource intensive to schedule their onboarding programs in cohorts dispersed across the territories.  Also, sales managers would find it difficult to meet each of the scattered sales reps physically to coach them within the first few weeks upon their joining.  
  • Lack of Consistency: It is challenging to advocate a consistent and continuous onboarding process for distributed sales reps because of the very nature of their functioning in the sales ecosystem.
  • Recording the Progress: There will be problems to document and store verbal and non-verbal communication emanating from onboarding as the origin of the same is disparate. This can affect reviews of the sales reps performance. The question is who will be incharge of collecting and processing the entire information generated, once the weekly and monthly assessments, if and whenever those are done? How is the central repository updated? And, be accessible to the managers on the field  in time for the next reviews?
  • Course Correction: There are different stakeholders in this entire ecosystem of onboarding distributed sales reps. Who will track their shortcomings and issue remedial measures or warnings? Ensuring the agreed interventions are implemented and tracked to completion is a big challenge. 
  • Mental Health: Sales reps working remotely are prone to depression especially if their presence or achievements are not acknowledged properly. That they crave for recognition from the sales leadership to shine amongst their contemporaries is an often encountered negative situation. They experience loneliness too if they are left to fend for themselves when bereft of proper onboarding, and subsequently being in regular contact with the principal brand.

Hence, onboarding distributed sales reps is like walking on eggshells. The procedures have to be handled with care and clarity to get good results.

See Also: How Does a Solid Sales Rep Onboarding Program Reduce Churn?

The Effective Process of Onboarding Distributed Sales Reps in 8 Modes 

Sore points encountered during onboarding must be addressed as quickly as possible. Distributed sales reps can benefit from the following sales onboarding measures:

  1. Standardized Onboarding

The sales process must be outlined in detail and established in nature during onboarding. The best practices should be accessible to all, have simplified instructions, and be well-defined. If the sales reps are distributed across geographies and are working under different third-party employers they must be bound by a standard sales process. This prevents confusion during interactions. The objective is to implement the practices. It should detail how sales reps should interact with prospects to increase the possibility of more deals being closed. They must be guided on FAQs like how to find leads, correctly perform follow-up work, how to close deals and what to do when facing obstacles. 

  1. Synchronous & Asynchronous Onboarding Methodology

Distributed sales reps can be brought together for virtual onboarding seminars using video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. This enables synchronous mass training online when the sales reps are at different locations, time zones or schedules. Care should be taken to conduct the sessions within time zone overlaps for the convenience of scattered sales reps.

On an individual level, onboarding can be carried out by sharing pre-recorded videos, learning modules and quizzes which can be accessed and studied by each sales rep asynchronously. Thus they learn as per their schedule making the onboarding flexible and agile. Sales reps may not remember if huge amounts of information are bombarded at them in one go during onboarding. Instead, they can be drip-fed regularly with bite sized chunks of information while on the job which refreshes key concepts. Such micro-learning helps in better retention of information. The training can be customized too. Sales reps can revisit these videos repeatedly to refresh their memory as and when needed.  

3. Onboarding Tracking

To predict if your onboarding for distributed sales reps will bear fruit soon, the regularity of sales reps completing their assignments on their online or mobile apps should be monitored from the beginning. This instills discipline within the sales reps and creates the awareness that they are being monitored despite being remote. If sales reps are evasive, it can be indicative of churn later. It is better to catch such behaviors early and press in remedial measures to prevent wastage of time, money and other resources. The territory sales managers can offer assistance if they find the training challenging. Knowledge checks should then be conducted on them to assess their absorption of the onboarding content.

  1. Setting Goals

The effectiveness of onboarding can be gauged to be positive if the new hires turn into high-performing employees speedily. This end-result can be experienced if expectations which are time-bound are set during onboarding itself. The goals to be achieved can be: reaching optimum sales objectives, attaining certain metrics for productivity or how time is used efficiently.

A mobile technology app which provides a checklist to tick-off all the goals to be achieved in an onboarding program in the hands of the sales reps itself is ideal. The core philosophy behind this is to encourage voluntary compliance from the sales reps to tick off all the boxes in the checklist rather than forced compliance. Automated reminders to do so would be beneficial.

  1. Innovative Tech-led Training Techniques

Direct sales reps are usually asked to accompany sales managers to meetings with prospects or clients so that they can learn by example seeing how their seniors interact with customers. Similarly distributed sales reps can be logged into virtual client meetings for training purposes so that they learn hands-on. If this is not possible, they can be given access to audio or video recordings of successful meetings of sales managers with clients to fast-track skilling up. How sales officers handle criticism and objections in meetings can also be shown.

Videos of stellar senior sales reps sharing their pitches or how they solved problems in their territory serve as eye openers to junior sales reps. Recordings of national sales meets and product launches serve to educate sales reps about the larger picture.

Distributed sales reps can also be trained in best practices by involving them in online webinars headlined by industry experts. The advantage here is that multiple disparate sales reps can be trained at the same time. On the other hand inexperienced sales reps can record videos of themselves role playing pitches to potential buyers, so that their seniors can watch, review and provide feedback. Recommendations can be made on the manner of speaking, proper language to be used, and description of the organization’s value proposition. 

  1. Mobile First Training and Afterwards

If the onboarding of the sales rep on day one can be administered through a mobile based application, it promotes self-learning from the palm of one’s hand. It is ideal for distributed sales reps who cannot train under physical trainers as the company may not have enough of them. Thus the day a sales rep joins, the induction begins.

The app can contain chunks of information that can be imbibed by the sales rep in a staggered fashion on-the-go. This method can make a sales rep understand the context of the training and helps be prepared by the time he or she gets a slot for physical or live online training. The absorption of information during this Instructor Led Training (ILT) is then faster. Later the sales reps can be assessed. Once the procedure is over, the new joinees can undergo On-The-Job (OTJ) hand holding which culminates with detailed tests. Thus, the newly minted distributed sales reps can minimize the time to first sale amazingly. 

Gamified mobile based onboarding content and contests can make learning for distributed sales reps more self-paced, interactive, fun and competitive. Gamification builds capability and competency amongst the sales reps, if it is exciting, engaging and educative. It helps them to find out their own priorities and weaknesses in learning. It should enable the sales reps to build end-to-end readiness within themselves to face any potential customers and convert them. 

  1. Mentoring & Support

Distributed sales reps often feel they have to figure it out all by themselves and feel depressed. It is then vital to pair a new joinee with an experienced sales rep so that he or she can have a ‘buddy’ to ask questions and get advice. Sales reps should be encouraged to provide feedback regularly to the sales managers so that both are on the same page when it comes to any ambiguities during onboarding. Employee surveys can be initiated anonymously to receive honest answers on how the onboarding process can be improved.

  1. Empower the Territory Sales Manager

Your territory sales managers should be empowered to take ownership of mentoring distributed or third party sales reps representing the dealers during their onboarding. They need to take care of strategy, process management and reporting. 

The territory sales managers’ job is very challenging because they have to trigger the motivation of distributed sales reps over whom they don’t have direct influence to sell. To counter this situation it is advisable for them to develop content resources for the sales reps during onboarding to familiarize themselves with product knowledge and sales techniques. The content must include detailed product specs, testimonials, comparative study of competitors’ products, email templates, written scripts for calls, and particular agendas for different types of meetings. This will boost the awareness, confidence and motivation of the distributed sales reps to sell. 

Territory sales managers can create an actionable onboarding program which measures key performance indicators (KPIs) of the sales reps as the program progresses. KPIs must measure completion of learning modules, skill development, prospecting and proficiencies in usage of tools like CRM. Also, the territory sales managers can collect data from the dealers about which of their sales reps have completed onboarding, and at what stage their skill accomplishments are presently.

Wrapping Up

A comprehensive onboarding program is vital to set up newly joined distributed sales reps for success even before they initiate steps towards their first sale. In fact, they ramp up to their first sale faster with the right onboarding mix. With a thorough understanding of the products and services of the company, and its value, these sales reps acquire a go-getter attitude. This helps in confident interaction with prospects and increases the possibilities of closing deals by a huge margin. 

If you are keen to onboard a distributed salesforce adept in the latest practices and policies of your organization, contact us through the StreamzAI Sales Onboarding Platform. We ensure that each of your sales reps will get personalized, milestone factored, data driven, AI enabled, mobile friendly, gamified, transparent and scalable onboarding solutions operated from a centralized single platform that you control. It empowers your sales managers by giving visibility to roadblocks faced by sales reps and helps resolve the same. StreamzAI is hyper-focused on distributed sales teams and is a specialist in keeping your channel partners and reps always Sales Ready.

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