Sales Executive Onboarding: Professional Services

On-Boarding New Outside Sales Executives at a Growing Professional Services Firm

Client Case Study

Situation

This technology industry service start-up grew quickly as a forerunner in a new and quickly expanding market segment. Infused with external capital and charged with quickly growing revenue, the company embarked on a strategy to hire senior level Sales executives that would bring demonstrated success with large, complex sales.

In addition, a large part of the company’s success to date was attributed to their proprietary business practices which are an integral part of the sales process and highly interdependent with multiple functions within the organization. Given the breadth and complexity of the sales process the company’s original plan called for a 12 week on-boarding process that would “certify” a sales executive’s knowledge and understanding of how the company sales and does business.

The goal of the On-boarding program was to ensure that new sales executive attained productive, on the job performance as quickly, effectively, and efficiently as possible in three areas:

  1. Ensure that participants could demonstrate their understanding of company’s sales process and business practices
  2. Establish a cross-functional orientation to selling and build relationships with key sales process partners
  3. Reduce the formal On-boarding learning process form 12 weeks to 5 weeks

 

Complications

  • Compression: Create the experience and learning of a 6-9 months sales cycle in 5 weeks
  • Information: Communicate a significant amount of company information that directly influences the executives performance in this program and in the field
  • Individual Just-in-Time: Conduct the Onboarding program for one Sales executive at a time and/or multiple staggered executives
  • Senior Executives: Hold the attention of experienced senior level Sales executives in the learning process when they want to be out selling

Approach

The senior new hire on-boarding program approach blended various learning methods within a structured framework of eLibraries, presentations, meetings, real-world tasks, shadowing, mentoring and apprenticeships.

The underlying context of the On-boarding approach was a Sales Cycle Simulation based on the sales process used to acquire one of the company’s largest clients. Sales Cycle activities, deliverables and presentations were blended into the 5-week learning process and provided realistic “performance tests” at each phase of the Sales Cycle. Areas covered within the Sales Cycle included:

  • Performing due diligence on a perspective client
  • Creating perspective client account plans
  • Developing a pitch and several contextual value propositions
  • Delivering the pitch and value propositions to a panel of experts
  • Designing an implementation solution with the account service team
  • Recommending a pricing scheme for a specific solution
  • Crafting and delivering a proposal presentation to the perspective client (played by company executives)

Approach (cont)

Participants were also immersed into “on the job” learning contexts in numerous functional organizations such as, Marketing, Inside Sales, Account Management to meet key counterparts and learn about the different functions, roles, responsibilities, challenges, targets, and key projects.

Within account management new sales executives:

  • Worked with an assigned primary account team
  • Participated in account-specific training
  • Conducted research and quote preparation
  • Shadowed reps making calls
  • Prepared team analytics with Team Leads
  • Presented an overview of the account to the account leadership team
  • Worked with a channel account team to understand the nuances of the channel business
  • Worked with “support team” members from across the company to participate in cross-functional meetings and activities

In the late stages of the new hire On-boarding program new sales executives worked as an apprentice to an experienced Outside Sales Executive, slowly weening off until both the new hire and the Outside Sales Executive agreed that the participant was ready to call on clients and lead his/her team.

Participants moved through the On-boarding process as quickly as they were able to demonstrate pre-determined learning objectives by completing varying types of performance tests. Most performance tests involved being observed performing a task or presenting back to a subject matter expert or group. In these cases the primary focus was to give and receive feedback to aid the learning process.

Performance tests associated with key steps in the Sales cycle were evaluated more critically by company executives using several client focused presentations during the Sales cycle simulation.  The program culminates with a full proposal presentation to the perspective clients executives (played by their senior executives). While the On-boarding program was not intend to develop sales skills, the performance test did allow company executives to assess sales skills of new hires.

Results

  • 89% decrease in speed to productivity (from 36 weeks to 4 weeks)
  • 97.3% participant satisfaction
  • Early termination of 10% of new sales hires saving time and money on new hires that did not meet expectations

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