New Rep On-Boarding Guide

Recent research data highlights substantial challenges related to new hire productivity and ramp-up: 

  • CSO’s are challenged with an average time to productivity of new reps of 9.2 months (Source: CSO Insights – Sales talent Study, 2018)
  • ​Many sales teams have upwards of 5 generations working together (Source: 5 Generations + 7 Values = Endless opportunities, SHRM)
  • ​CSO and sales managers are pressured to do more with less, while their tenure is declining on average (Source: CSO Insights Sales Manager Enablement Report, 2017)
  • ​Sales talent gaps continues to be a challenge for organizations (Source: CSO Insights Sales Talent Study, 2018)

Particularly in healthcare, how often do we take non-clinical people and placing them in roles where they need to sell value to clinical people? Additionally, we need them to build up the acumen and skill to engage with senior hospital and health system administrators as they learn about our company, its products and services and the selling landscape?

It’s not surprising then, that our clients consistently communicate how challenging it is to bring new people on board and make them as productive as possible, as quickly as possible.

With an increasing amount of pressure of improving new hire time to productivity, we have observed an important distinction between organizations who have positively impacted new-hire ramp up times and those who have not; a distinction that seems to be reinforced through some recent research (CSO Insights Sales Best Practices Study, 2016):

Organizations who arm their reps with immediately-applicable resources that enable knowledge of their customers and good sales skill and strategy that enables the specific and customer-focused application of the organization’s value proposition outperform those who do not.

Unfortunately, what we see far too often, is a skewed focus on a company’s own products and services. The result is a huge dump of information onto a new rep who doesn’t know how to apply and communicate it effectively. This results in throwing “features against a wall” that does not endear customers to the new rep, does not assist in building up their credibility and trust and results in the bad kind of differentiation in the customer’s mind.

So, what makes an effective and efficient rep on-boarding program in healthcare sales?

We see 4 fundamental elements that need to be considered:

  1. ​Reps need to know their customers
  2. Reps need to know their stuff
  3. Managers need to coach the right behaviors
  4. Companies need to find ways to streamline the on-boarding process

Reps need to know their customers.

This isn’t a platitude. This is a fundamental flaw in the vast majority of healthcare sales organizations we have encountered. Let’s get specific – for example, your new rep needs to know:

  • The broad industry trends impacting your customer, as well as
  • The specific external trends that impact their specific accounts
  • How to identify, understand and effectively engage with the specific buyer personas that represent strategic points of entry / relationship development with their accounts
  • How their accounts actually make buying decisions – process, stakeholders, milestones and criteria
  • Why their customers buy and why they don’t buy; why they leave competitors to join their organization and why they leave their organization for the competition
  • How to segment their territory effectively and prioritize activity that exceeds ramp-up quota expectations

There are many things to consider in helping reps know their customers:

  • Have we prepared training to bring someone who may be new to the industry up to speed on how our business operates?
  • Do we spend time and energy working with our customers to understand and document how they make buying decisions?
  • How have we designed our sales process to align to our customers’ buying process?
  • Do we have written account and relationship strategies for our key accounts?
  • Do we have playbooks that incorporate buyer personas into our sales methodology?
  • Do we have pre-call planning as a critical behavior of new-hires and how effectively do we coach this?

Reps need to know their stuff.

When asked, buyers indicate they are interested in engaging reps earlier in their process if the rep brings insight and expertise valuable to them and what they need to accomplish (Source: CSO Insights – Buyer Preferences Study, 2018).

This pre-supposes a number of things:

  1. Reps know the industry and their customers
  2. Reps can sort through vast corporate knowledge and zero in on the specific benefits of their solutions and connect these things to their customers’ situations
  3. Reps know how to articulate these connections in a way that is engaging, collaborative and differentiating

Unfortunately, far too often what really happens is some form of a new hire boot-camp that is weighted heavily towards learning things that don’t provide direct and immediate value to the customer when the rep is let loose into the field.

Managers need to coach the right things, the right way, at the right time.

Easier said than done, right? Sales managers are exceptionally busy and unfortunately, don’t always have the training, resources and systems in place to enable the kind of coaching and mentoring that delivers behavioral change and business results (Source: CSO Insights Sales Manager Enablement Report, 2017 ).

​Consider this, a holistic enablement program that connects sales enablement and coaching frameworks have been seen their win rates climb by 12.9 percentage points (an actual improvement of 27.9%). (Source: CSO Insights – Sales Manager Enablement Report, 2017). A benchmark on-boarding program needs to incorporate mentoring and coaching, particularly at a time when new reps are relatively vulnerable.

​There are many elements in creating a culture of coaching and it starts with executive commitment and it also starts from day one, when the rep is hired.

Some things to consider:

  • ​How have we identified the critical behaviors of our new hires? In other words, the behaviors that correlate to quicker and increased performance?
  • How is sales management compensation and performance measurement aligned to both the culture and requirement to coach their reps?
  • How well have we trained our managers how to coach?
  • How have we enabled them to make time for coaching?
  • How have we enabled simple and consistent measurement? How do we use this data to identify the what good coaching looks like?

​Companies need to streamline and automate the on-boarding process.

We find the sales leaders with whom we work are consistently challenged with achieving a better, faster ROI on newly acquired sales talent and quite often feel constrained by existing processes and organizational culture.

With increased complexity in business, we see that traditional 30-60-90 programs have now morphed into 6-12 month runways. It’s even more painful to watch when so few healthcare sales organizations know why their top performers leave (Source: CSO Insights – Sales Best Practices 2017).

There is a better way.

​Once sales organizations have identified an optimal on-boarding path that incorporates reps knowing their customers, knowing their stuff and enabling coaching, they can leverage technology to streamline and automate things, while incorporating analytics and even artificial intelligence to gain insight into what’s really important, what’s working and what’s not.

​Specifically, we are very excited to work with firms who are open to shifting knowledge transfer online into self-paced sales enablement programs, where organizations are shortening the on-boarding process, while increasing new sales rep revenue.

​Even more exciting is how they are enabling coaching through mobile devices, incorporating good sales methodology and using data to focus on the critical behaviors and coaching that actually matter.

You don’t need to guess anymore.

​You also can feed the data back into the on-boarding program to develop best practices and incorporate continuous improvement.

​In summary, modern, optimized sales rep on-boarding programs in healthcare orchestrate the right training, coaching and measurement that enables the rep to focus on their customer and generate and support change in the customer organization. The result is faster ramp-up, increased revenue and reduced churn.

We welcome an opportunity to speak with you about optimizing your on-boarding program.

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