Whoever said that 3.1 months was an acceptable sales onboarding ramp time must not have realized the implications of that statement, and they weren’t aware that many sales teams experience much longer ramp times. The reality is that this outdated standard is costing companies valuable time and money. Sure, it may have been unavoidable in the past, but with the advent of new technology, we can now cut ramp time in half.
It’s not just about productivity and revenue, either. Sales managers are constantly burdened with the responsibility of trying to train their new hires while also juggling the neverending quest for pipeline growth and revenue.
But here’s the thing: shorter ramp times are not just about making life easier for sales managers. It’s also the key to more revenue, lower churn among reps, and a better work-life balance for everyone involved.
So why are we still settling for 3.1 months? It’s time to shake things up, challenge the status quo, and demand more from ourselves and our industry. Let’s cut those ramp times in half and see what kind of real results we can achieve. It all starts with a proper sales onboarding blueprint and training plan.
Before you jump in, keep in mind that this isn’t the time for a trial by fire. While more experienced reps can benefit from a hands-off management style, new SDRs typically need as much support as possible. Keeping this in mind, we recommend daily check-ins for the first two weeks, moving to weekly check-ins after that.
Our six-week plan is designed to go from being highly structured at the beginning to less structured by the end, with the inflection point occurring when reps start to perform quota-carrying activities like cold calling and email outreach.
There’s also a built-in review of previous material throughout the plan, so that reps retain information in their long-term memory. This review is crucial to make sure reps don’t lose the benefits of their training later down the line, so we encourage you to schedule regular review sessions or exercises if you add additional material or adjust the later weeks to your needs.
In week one, your main focus should be on product knowledge, competitor awareness, and intros to demos and calls. When laying out reps’ daily schedule, make sure to include other sales onboarding tasks that will vary based on your company, such as signing up for payroll and security or bias training. Also note that this week accounts for deep-dives on three main competitors, but this can be adjusted depending upon your unique competitor landscape.
Week two ends with a cold call certification, so the main purpose of this week is to prepare your reps to pass it with the practice and knowledge they’ll need to sound confident in front of prospects. Having new reps shadow experienced reps on calls or listen to recordings from call libraries is particularly useful here. There’s also an emphasis this week on reviewing past information (reinforcement is key!).
Sales cadence software can provide additional support once your reps are at a place where they’re calling and emailing prospects. These technologies will provide a list of tasks for reps to accomplish each day (ex: call this person; research that company), arranged and prioritized according to rules you set.
Now that your new reps have proven they’re ready to start making cold calls, it’s time to introduce quota-carrying duties to their days. Choose a set number of calls you’d like them to make per day, and have them accomplish that along with their training. Beyond that, the emphasis this week is to make sure they’re confident in using all the sales tech they need to do their jobs — both in terms of your tech stack, and in terms of prospect-facing materials created by your marketing team.
When we mention “tech stack exercises,” these will vary based on what sales tools you use at your company. But at Revenue.io, here’s what we teach SDRs at this stage of sales onboarding:
So You Booked a Meeting… Now What?
It’s critical that SDRs understand exactly how to properly route meetings to Account Executives, based on criteria like: segments, territories, who’s on vacation, time zones, locations of headquarters, and so on. When SDRs create an opportunity for Account Executives at Revenue.io, we ask them to include the following information:
Week four is all about how to get inside the head of the customer and be a compelling communicator over email. Whenever your reps communicate with prospects, they’re representing your company as a whole, so their ability to communicate well in all mediums is paramount.
For reps to be knowledgeable consultants (and for them to have things to write and speak about that your prospects will relate to), they need to have an understanding of your industry that goes beyond your products and direct competitors. The number of cold calls your reps are placing should also go up this week.
Customize the Experience to Training Ratio
Now that your reps can both place calls and send emails, they’ve reached an inflection point in the sales onboarding journey. While our plan covers a full six weeks, weeks five and six in particular are easy to adapt based on what makes the most sense for your company. You could use these last two weeks in one of three ways:
As of this week, your reps can do both call and email outreach. Give set numbers for calls and emails, and raise the number of calls from last week. The amount of time they’ll spend on prospecting each day will be going up vis-a-vis the time they spend onboarding. For this week, the goal is to zoom out and give your reps a better understanding of their role within the company, and the career paths they have open to them as they mature as SDRs.
To start, raise the number of calls and emails expected for the week. The number should be at or close to the amount you would expect from a fully ramped SDR, since they’re about to conclude their training.
Beyond that, there are two primary goals for this week:
If you’re onboarding a group of reps, put each one in charge of recapping a specific principle for the group that you went over in onboarding. If you’re only onboarding one or two, have them each choose the topic that they struggled with the most.
Over the course of the week, also ask each rep to become an expert on something new that you didn’t go over in onboarding. Have them present what they learned to the group in the Onboarding Graduation Ceremony.
Here’s where the magic happens. Once your SDRs have worked through the initial onboarding plan, you can continue to reinforce previous lessons and introduce new ones with ongoing training. More experienced reps will also benefit from ongoing training, so you can and should involve the whole team in these exercises. You could even have them lead peer-to-peer training, which will help reps develop their leadership skills. Here are some ideas for what this ongoing training could focus on:
Moments™ by Revenue.io uses proprietary AI technology to reinforce ongoing training in real-time on calls, using nudges and notifications to help SDRs with competitor mentions, objection handling, relevant content suggestions, etc.
Find out more in our eBook AI-Powered Conversation Guidance.
Reinforcing good behavior and catching bad behaviors early is key in sales onboarding, and also in ongoing training. But the earlier you can do this in a rep’s training, the more they’ll benefit from it. If you’re wondering which behaviors to reinforce, focus on outreach, messaging, and communication skills. These are the most important tools in a rep’s toolkit. Reinforcing these behaviors is simple:
You can review more calls and catch problematic behaviors faster if you have a dialer or other platform that transcribes calls. For another step up, there are some technologies that can also notice patterns in calls with AI and flag issues for you. Conversation AI by Revenue.io offers this capability.
Here at Revenue.io, there was a rep who would have very long conversations with prospects but still had trouble figuring out who should be qualified or disqualified in the sales process. For a prospect to qualify, they had to use Salesforce, since Revenue.io uses a native Salesforce integration.
The rep’s manager didn’t understand what was going on until they went back through the call recordings and realized that the rep was genuinely connecting with prospects (great!) but getting so caught up in the conversation that they forgot to ask them if they used Salesforce (not so great).
Now that the manager knew what was going on, the solution was clear. They reinforced the rep’s behavior of forging authentic connections with prospects, but also set up an alert in Conversation AI (the Revenue.io conversation intelligence solution) to track all mentions of Salesforce on their calls. So the rep was able to track their progress and see how many calls they mentioned Salesforce on each day.
By the end of the first week, they were mentioning Salesforce on every single call, and easily qualifying or disqualifying every prospect. Problem solved!
Heather Bakire is the Content Marketing Manager at Revenue.io, the complete RevOps platform for conversation guidance, sales engagement, and live call insights and analytics. Heather loves a good story, and she is passionate about international travel and all things outdoors.