SDR Onboarding: 5 Key Elements For Training New Sales Reps
by Mohammed Shehu
You’ve just hired a new sales rep. Congratulations! You probably want them to be successful in their new role, and the new hire is just as eager to hit the ground running as you are. But what’s the first thing they should know about your company, products, and customers? In what order should they learn about these things, and how can you ensure they are able to practice what they learn?
The process you follow to bring a new rep up to speed is immensely important. Managing expectations and providing support right from day one keeps new hires engaged, focused on results, and interested in a long-term career with you.
This article will outline 5 key elements to include in your sales rep onboarding program, as follows:
- Section 1: Company and industry
- Section 2: Target market and ideal customers
- Section 3: Common pain points and objections
- Section 4: Case studies
- Section 5: Tools
Let’s dive in!
Section 1: Company and industry
New sales reps need an overview of how your business operates and the specific challenges it faces. No company operates in a vacuum, and new sales reps might not fully appreciate what a competitive marketplace you’re in. They’ll need to brush up on the following things:
- Your company history: Whether you’re a recent startup or an long-established player, sharing your company history with new sales reps gets them thinking strategically about where you’re headed and helps them build credibility with prospects in the right way.
- Your company’s mission: Your mission is your raison d’etre, and this plays directly into how your team communicates with customers and external stakeholders. New sales reps need to be clued up on the kind of impact you’re looking to make.
- Your company’s culture and values: Your company culture is how you live out your values, and every employee’s behavior matters towards building that culture. New sales reps need a good grounding in how to behave both with their customers and colleagues.
- Your company’s growth plans and KPIs: Success in sales boils down to working on the right metrics to achieve bigger goals - whether that’s revenue, expansion, or more. KPIs and rewards motivate new sales reps to outperform their peers, and by extension, your competitors.
- Your company’s products: Every new sales rep needs to know how your products fit into the company’s growth plans and customers’ needs, the full feature-set and use-cases of each product, and upcoming product updates.
- Your company’s sales cycle: Sales reps need to understand how to find and engage prospects and what they can expect during the sales process, from the initial discovery call all the way through to deal closure.
- The competitive landscape: A large part of the sales process is knowing how to counter a competitor’s offering. Highlighting your current competition helps new reps think about how to make your product more attractive to prospects, as well as to identify new opportunities for monetization. Go beyond your direct competitors and talk about market opportunities you are either currently exploiting or looking to exploit soon.
Section 2: Target market and ideal customers
Your target market is the group of customers you want to sell to. There are several ways you can segment your target market and ideal customer profile, including:
- Niche: Do you prefer selling to general retailers or specialist boutiques? How about accounting firms vs. sole proprietorships? Your customers’ niches can play a role in how you position your product and craft your messaging, and playing directly to your desired niche helps you disqualify clients who aren’t a good fit.
- Location: Do you prefer selling to customers who are local, or can you handle national or international clients? While focusing on a specific location might narrow the pool of potential customers, it weeds out customers who are a bad fit and raises your success rate dramatically.
- Size/Headcount: Do you prefer selling to businesses with 500+ employees or are you gunning for early-stage startups? Your approach changes depending on your target market, and new sales reps should grasp this as early as possible.
- Revenue: Do you prefer selling to companies that have hit at least $1m in ARR or is your product targeted toward brand new startups with <$10k in MRR? How can your sales reps quickly figure out if a customer meets this financial threshold?
It’s important that new reps fully understand your target market to not only pursue best-fit prospects but also to spot new opportunities. For example, if you sell process documentation software (like Waybook), your target market would be startups and enterprises that need a way to document their internal processes in an easy way. But this set of customers includes every type of business from Silicon Valley tech startups to medical laboratories and even academic institutions. When sales reps understand the range of customers you’re targeting, they can adapt their approach to each prospect accordingly.
Section 3: Common pain points and objections
It’s essential for new sales reps to learn the common pain points your customers face and the objections they might hear during a sale.
Common pain points
Customer pain points are typically connected to lacking or losing time, money, insight, or capacity. These pain points manifest in a number of ways, such as customers not being able to track their SEO rankings (the basis of Ahrefs), not being able to streamline remote hiring (the basis of Remote.co), or not being able to communicate through a secure, collaborative platform (the basis of Slack).
Your entire business model is predicated on solving a specific pain point for your customers, and your sales reps need to deeply understand these pains so they can address them effectively.
There are many obstacles to closing an enterprise deal. These include wrong timing, a limited budget, security concerns, implementation concerns, doubts about your credibility, or the offer of a competing product in their sights.
Your sales reps can counter each of these objections in the following ways:
- Timing: Sometimes you’re the right solution for the right customer at the wrong time. If a customer isn’t ready to buy right now, keep in touch with them through a nurture campaign until you can revisit the conversation later.
- Budget: If money is the roadblock, consider tailoring your solution to accommodate their budget constraints. Can you offer multiple pricing options to accommodate varying budgets? Can customers pay quarterly instead of monthly? Do they qualify for a discount? These are all questions new sales reps will need to address throughout the deal.
- Security: Customers might get anxious about the security of your platform. Let them know that your solution adheres to the most stringent security protocols and that their data remains private and protected. Of course, work towards all of those ideals *before* you start selling your product.
- Implementation: Larger customers might have more complex implementation needs. It’s your reps’ job to assuage these concerns by highlighting the different deployment strategies you’ve got in place for your product. For example, if you’re deploying server software for an industrial client, you might highlight your agency partners in their different locations who can avail themselves for installations and maintenance.
- Credibility: To establish your credibility, highlight any testimonials, reviews, awards, or case studies that prove your ability to deliver on your promise.
- Competition: You’re almost never the only vendor vying for a customer’s business, and it’s safe to assume that your prospect is checking out competing offers and comparing them to yours. This is where understanding the competitor’s products comes in handy. When your reps can highlight the features and benefits that your product has which the competition doesn’t, they stand a better chance of closing the sale.
Section 4: Case studies
Case studies show prospects how your product or service has helped previous customers. They can also help your reps understand how your product applies to different scenarios and sell your solution more effectively.
The best case studies contain the following elements:
#1 The customer
Start your case study with a profile of the customer and their context. What was their headcount, revenue, product line, and list of locations? Who was their main competition? Paint a picture of who you were dealing with for your audience.
#2 The challenge
Next, illustrate the challenge that the customer faced. What problem were they trying to solve, and how was it impacting their business before you came along? Was it affecting their time, revenue, profit margins, or growth rate?
#3 The solution
Describe the solution you delivered and its features. For example, if you helped your customer to source better hiring candidates, describe how your solution maintained a real-time database of suitable candidates in their industry, or how it let them create email nurturing sequences for each vacancy’s application process.
#4 The results
Show the impact your product or service had on your customer’s bottom line - e.g. increased productivity, reduced costs, more efficient workflows, higher conversion rates, etc. Include ‘before’ and ‘after’ metrics to strengthen your case, and add relevant graphics for visual impact. Finally, add an endorsement from the customer for credibility.
Section 5: Tools
The right tools can vastly improve your sales process and help your reps close deals faster. New sales reps should get an overview of the most common tools you use for the job, and this should be supplemented by ongoing training on how to use those tools. For example, your tech stack might look as follows:
Lead scoring to ensure that every contact you pursue is of high value. Tools like MadKudu can assist with this.
Deal desk coordination software to help your team stay on top of their deals. You can use Momentum to help you sync your data between Salesforce and Slack quickly and easily. Here’s what that looks like:
There are plenty more tools you can add to your tech stack, but the key is to give your sales reps an overview of your primary tools and provide the training and support they need to master them.
How to maintain learning momentum
Now that you’ve established a strong foundation for your sales reps, how do you ensure continuous learning? There are a few ways to accomplish this:
Create learning resources: Your first step is to create a repository of resources for new reps to search through and learn from at their own pace. This self-serve model reduces the time and effort it takes to teach each new rep how to accomplish certain tasks within the business.
Mentorship and shadowing: By pairing new sales reps with seasoned veterans, you can accelerate the learning curve of your new hires and ensure they are prepared for the most common sales situations.
Sales contests: Monthly or quarterly sales contests can motivate new reps to improve their performance over time. The competitive nature of these contests forces them to upskill themselves faster to close more deals.
Regular feedback: Provide space for ongoing feedback from new reps to find out what they’re struggling with and how you can improve the onboarding process for all future reps.
Nail your SDR onboarding and training
Onboarding is a key element of the sales rep hiring process. It’s the first thing that new hires experience when they join your team and sets the tone for their entire career with you.
In a perfect world, new sales reps would be fully prepared to hit the ground running from Day 1, but this isn’t often the case. The good news is that you can provide your reps with a comprehensive sales onboarding and training program to help them succeed.