There’s a big problem in B2B sales right now.
The sales cycle for nearly half of all B2B sales is at least 7 months. The average tenure of a sales rep in 2018 is 18 months.
So, what’s the problem?
Because it takes time to get a new rep up to speed, the actual productive time you gain from those 18 months is far less. In fact, it’s often less than the average 7-month sales cycle.
What’s the solution?
You need to help your new hires reach full productivity faster. To do that, you need to make sure the first 90 days are amazing.
Lucky for you, I’m going to give you some tips on how to smash the onboarding process, and get your hires from “in the door” to successful sale before the first 90 days are up.
Let’s dig in…
The problem starts to become clear when you look at the numbers more closely.
- The average ramp time for a new hire is around 3 months.
- It typically takes 8 months for a new hire to reach full productivity. (That’s without a formalized orientation.)
- Now take into consideration seasonality.
- We gotta get a vacation in there.
- Then there is a holiday season at the end of the year when no one’s buying.
- Then you add in the fact that the overall turnover for B2B sales in 2018 was around 34%, reaching as high as 55%.
Where does that leave us?
18 months average tenure – 3 months ramp = 15 months
15 months – 5 months of sub-par productivity (8 months to full productivity – 3 months ramp) = 10 months
10 months – 1 month holiday + PTO time = 8 months
8 months x 34% potential of turnover = 6 months of productivity (low turnover)
8 months x 55% of potential turnover = 4 months of productivity(high turnover)
Oh. My. Gosh…
At a low point, we have 4 months, and at a possible high, maybe 6 months? If this doesn’t freak you out, I wanna know who your therapist is.
That’s shorter than the average B2B sales cycle — remember, we just talked about it being 7 months. (Let that simmer for a moment.)
Now that I’ve thoroughly scared you with the problem, let’s get to the solution: smashing the first 90 days.
Having a formalized orientation and coaching process is one of the best ways to get the most out of this critical time.
Now is the time to set expectations about what is going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and what standards of performance the hire is going to be held to.
To beat the numbers, you need to avoid the “average sales culture” where the generally agreed-upon method of orientation includes some marketing messaging and a quick, “Here’s your annual quota. Good luck!”
Instead, you need to guide your new hires.
Give them a clear path to follow, with little check-ins along the way to make sure they’re not getting lost or overwhelmed.
For instance, an individual contributor may have an annual quota of a million dollars.
An average sales culture will tell the sales rep, “Here’s your quota. We’ll check in 3 months from now and find out where you are.”
With this approach, you’re telling new hires the goal, and then hoping they have the skill to execute that goal.
Above average sales cultures will take that yearly quota and break it down to help the new hire know how they’re stacking up week-by-week and month-by-month.
$1M/4 quarters = $250k per quarter
$250k/12 weeks in a quarter = $21k per week
You would be surprised how much more confident your new hires will feel if the scale of what you are asking them to accomplish is narrowed down to what they need to worry about right now — this week, this month, and this quarter.
You’re telling them the goal, but you’re also showing them how to accomplish that goal.
Seems simple right?
It should be. However, as a sales or enablement leader, there is a TON of planning, sweat, and tears that go into making it feel and appear effortless.
Two things in particular will help you do this…
Teach the day-to-day of selling
It’s not enough to just break down the quotas your new hires will be held to. You also have to prepare them for the ups-and-downs of selling every day in your org.
New hires need extra help and attention because markets will be new, account books will be wonky, and rules will be confusing.
People will flake, contacts will leave, and emails will bounce. These are the daily trials of selling, and you need to make sure they’re ready for that.
Instead of just setting the goal high and hoping your new hires know how to reach it, lay out the method of how your are going to:
- Reach the number
- Measure it
- Report it
- Coach those who are new on how to get there
As a sales manager or sales enablement leader, you cannot rely on other departments/teams to magically supply you with that whale of a deal to close a quarter strong.
Any seasoned salesperson knows that, at some point, you need to get out there and put in the hours to snag those big fish yourself.
There is a reason the word hustle is used to describe the superstars of sales. A large part of success in sales is determined by the volume of work produced.
You, as a manager/leader, MUST be willing and able to teach your new hires how to hustle. You should also be helping them measure, tweak, and adjust how and where they hustle, so they don’t burn out.
The average sales organization might just tell a new hire, “You’re OTE (on target earnings) for the first month. Thereafter you’re on a sliding scale until you’re in your first full quarter. You can figure out the rest, right?“
If you want your employees to be closing sales in the first 90 days, you need to take the initiative.
Prepare a book of accounts with some warm-ish leads. Put together a plan to gauge their abilities at building rapport and solving problem. Take notes, and then devise a coaching plan to help them improve.
Here are two keys to kicking off the first 90 days right…
Set activity metrics
You don’t want your sales managers to have to crack the whip come quarter’s end when the numbers don’t look positive.
To avoid this, you need to set activity metrics, communicate what they are, and then measure them on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
The mean, median, and mode for key leading indicators should be published and communicated daily, weekly, and monthly in forecasts, stand-ups, and end-of-quarter reviews.
Every individual contributor should know what they have to do to meet the median, and they should receive coaching on how to exceed that goal.
Curiosity is often the most overlooked personality trait for new hires, but it’s one of the most desirable traits for sales competency.
You must help your new hires to develop curiosity by asking probing questions about their progress, their abilities, and their shortcomings.
You’re not there to berate. You’re there to guide.
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules as to how to do this.
The best advice I can give is to draw a comparison between your new hire and a stellar performer. Then it’s up to you, as the enablement/sales manager, to guide them.
Encourage reps to be curious about:
- What they’re lacking
- Where the differences are between them and that high performer
If you are telling someone to just regurgitate a script, you are not coaching them to be curious. You have, instead, hired a parrot.
Performance improves in increments, not landslides. Keep that in mind when you are coaching. During this time, you need to be consistent and supportive of their learning and their failures.
Set small attainable goals that are visible in the short-term but add up to big wins later.
The key to coaching a novice (regardless of profession) is to give them just enough information — not all of it.
Orient your new hire by setting expectations early and often. Measure them, provide them with goals, and guide them on how to get there.
Teach them the day-to-day of selling in your org, and make sure the metrics they need to succeed are easily accessible.
Finally, coach them to be curious about themselves, their accounts, and how to creatively solve problems.
Do this, and you’ll have a new hire “banging the gong” in 90 days or less.
- INC: https://www.inc.com/guides/2010/12/how-to-make-an-employees-first-90-days-successful.html
- SHRM: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/onboarding-key-retaining-engaging-talent.aspx
- Clickboarding: https://www.clickboarding.com/18-jaw-dropping-onboarding-stats-you-need-to-know/
- Gallup: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/235121/why-onboarding-experience-key-retention.aspx
- Sapling: https://www.saplinghr.com/blog/10-employee-onboarding-statistics-you-must-know-in-2019
- HBR: https://hbr.org/2015/04/whos-your-most-valuable-salesperson