The 8 best ways of onboarding distributed sales reps effectively

by | Sep 22, 2022

Newly joined sales reps can forge an affinity towards their new role and the company through an effective onboarding program. Basically, it entails marinating new hires in the company’s culture, training them to do their best, and making them understand your expectations. 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:

  • Effective onboarding sessions can improve quota attainment by 14% and increase win rates by 11%.
  • Ineffective onboarding sessions increase the 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.

More on 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. A sales system at its core is occupied by a principal who is the primary seller. The primary seller employs direct sales reps to sell products or services directly to the customer. Whereas, third parties employ distributed or indirect sales reps to sell products or services. Agents or resellers or dealers or channel partners are the other terms to refer to third parties. The primary seller does not interfere in the appointment of distributed sales reps by the third party.

Associating with already established resellers helps the primary seller 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 the customer base. Distributed sales reps employed by the resellers are an important part of the sales ecosystem. The resellers help the primary seller to 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.

Benefits of onboarding sales reps

Onboarding sales reps make them aware of the ethos of the company’s culture; product, services and leadership. Also, they gain knowledge of the concerned industry; and the skills required to be productive. It helps the newbies get comfortable in their roles with less stress, betters interaction with colleagues, and boosts confidence.

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

  • 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

Presently sales reps are churning up to 40% annually. This is worrying as it is more than an ideal expected attrition rate of 15% or below. One of the reasons for such a high percentage of churn happening could be due to the poor quality of onboarding training. The rot is more acute amongst distributed sales reps as they need more hand holding.

The challenges of onboarding distributed sales reps

Direct sales reps work in tandem with the primary seller where the setup works like a traditional, hierarchical sales team setup. Distributed sales reps find it difficult to catch the eye of the primary seller due to obvious reasons in the type of relationship. The issues are due to factors like visibility, connection, and communication. Hence, the primary seller has to contend with several challenges to onboard these widely distributed sales reps:

Geographically dispersed

It’s a logistical nightmare and extremely resource intensive to schedule the onboarding programs of distributed sales reps 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 of 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. After the weekly and monthly assessments, it is a task to collect and process the entire disparate information. The question of who will do it and how arises.

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? Tracking and implementing the agreed interventions is a big challenge.

Mental Health

Non-acknowledgement of the achievements of sales reps working remotely by sales managers leads to them suffering from disillusionment and depression. It is a human emotion to crave recognition and shine amongst contemporaries. Distributed sales reps are left to fend for themselves due to a lack of proper onboarding and experience loneliness too.

Onboarding distributed sales reps is like walking on eggshells. Be careful!

The effective process of onboarding distributed sales reps in 8 modes

Distributed sales reps can benefit from the following sales onboarding measures:

Standardized onboarding

Distributed sales reps working under various third-party employers not bound by a standard onboarding process could lead to confusion. The objective is to implement the practices. The best practices should be simple to understand and accessible to all. The onboarding program should address the know-how to find leads, correctly perform follow-up work, and close deals.

Synchronous & asynchronous onboarding methodology

Online video conferencing platforms like for example Zoom or Google Meet help in synchronous onboarding. This process benefits distributed sales reps who are in different locations and time zones. Whereas asynchronous onboarding does not occur at the same place or at the same time. Sales onboarding tools like pre-recorded videos, learning modules, and quizzes are at the center of asynchronous onboarding. The distributed sales reps learn as per their schedule making the onboarding flexible and agile. Sales enablement tools help to drip-feed sales reps with bite sized chunks of information during onboarding on a daily basis. Such micro-learning helps in better retention of information. Sales reps can revisit these videos repeatedly to refresh their memory as and when needed.

Onboarding tracking

If distributed sales reps complete their assignments on their online or mobile apps regularly it is a positive sign that onboarding is going smoothly. Whereas, if sales reps are evasive, it can be indicative of churn later. It is better to catch such behaviors early and press remedial measures to prevent waste of time, money, and other resources. The territory sales managers can offer assistance to sales reps if the latter finds the training challenging.

See Also: Speedup Sales Onboarding

Setting goals

Distributed sales reps would do well to reach prime goals like optimum sales, good productivity metrics or use time efficiently at speed after onboarding. If the sales reps themselves tick off all these goals through a checklist enabled by a mobile technology app it would be ideal. The core philosophy behind this is to encourage voluntary compliance from the sales reps. It helps them to tick off all the boxes on the checklist rather than force compliance. Automated reminders to do so would be beneficial.

Innovative tech-led training techniques

Sales managers can log in distributed sales reps into live virtual client meetings for training purposes so that they learn hands-on. Sales reps can also watch video recordings of successful meetings. These videos will also show how sales managers handle criticism and objections in meetings.

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.

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. Sales reps must know how to describe the organization’s value proposition succinctly.

See Also: Is your sales rep ready?

Mobile first training and afterwards

Mobile application based training is ideal for distributed sales reps who cannot train under physical trainers as the company may not have enough of them. It promotes self-learning from the palm of one’s hand. Thus the day a sales rep joins, the induction begins. Hence, a sales rep understands concepts 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. 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 the 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.

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. An anonymous survey of the sales reps about the onboarding program can get honest answers to improve the process.

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

Empower the territory sales manager

Territory sales managers have to take care of strategy, process management, and reporting about the onboarding of distributed sales reps.

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, and a comparative study of competitors’ products. Also needed are 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 that measures key performance indicators (KPIs) of the sales reps as the program progresses. KPIs must measure the completion of learning modules, skill development, prospecting, and proficiencies in the 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 also at what stage their skill accomplishments are present.

Wrapping Up

A comprehensive onboarding program is vital to set up newly joined distributed sales reps for success even before they initiate steps toward 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 possibility 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. Our data driven, AI enabled, mobile friendly, and gamified onboarding solutions will help each of your distributed sales reps. It empowers your sales managers by giving visibility to roadblocks faced by sales reps and helps resolve the same. StreamzAI is a specialist in keeping your channel partners and reps always sales ready.

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