Account Executive Sales Hire Onboarding: Modern Performance Expert Roundup
The onboarding process is a crucial and often undervalued aspect of creating and fostering team chemistry. The more quickly and effectively a manager is able to assimilate new team members and establish the importance of team culture, the better a new hire’s chance for success. Modern Performance asked managers at top firms like Lever, Lending Club, Datanyze, Intercom, and Affirm to weigh in with some of the methods they’ve found to be effective in getting new hires up to speed.
“About a week before their first day, we create a 4-week ramp plan for every new team member, and send it out to the new hire as well as the rest of the team. So the new hire knows exactly what is expected of them for the first 4 weeks, and the team knows what the new hire will be working on and how they should help. We then outline a specific task that the new hire needs to complete every week. For instance, a new account executive might shadow 4 or 5 different team members as they do demos, first locating upcoming demos on team members’ calendar and then asking to join.
“We have what we call a ramp camp for the first two weeks. New hires, whether they’re engineers, or marketing, or sales, all come together to be brought up to speed, based on a schedule that’s outlined in the onboarding document. As part of the ramp camp, we give every new hire a project. Not a huge project, something like competitive intel or finding an approach to a challenge that we’re facing, that requires them to interview lots of other team members with whom they’ll need to develop relationships.
“At the end of their second week, we have them present that project to the group. I think it’s really helpful for the new hires, because they’re not coming in and just sitting at their desk waiting for someone to tell them what to do. They actually have, for the first month at least, a real detailed project map and a great idea of what their day will look like.”
“I think it’s also important to get your managers and subject matter experts involved in the training early and often – training should not be delegated. Once you scale your team large enough where you need to hire a full-time trainer or build out a LMS system, your management should still heavily be involved in the training program. You need to invest heavily in a strong employee onboarding experience. New hires only have one first day so it’s really important to make it special for them. It’s having little things in order like getting the desk all set up and organized, maybe balloons, take them out for lunch with your management team and some top performers.
“I also like to write a handwritten note welcoming them to the team and just reiterating how excited I am for them to join our team. That first day, that first week really matters and it’s what sticks with them and can often set the tone for the rest of their experience with your company. That’s really important. A lot of people get that wrong. Involving them in the training, I found that while it’s really time consuming initially, that efficiency gain you get with your new hire is tremendous. If you only get a 1% efficiency gain, that’s still significant over the course of 50 plus weeks of a year of people working for you.”
“There are two aspects to effective onboarding. First, you definitely need to have an onboarding document, which takes shape and evolves organically. It’s probably a Google document, so it can be crowdsourced and modified easily by team members. Each person is responsible for a particular module and its maintenance. Salespeople will tend to compete with those around them on the quality of their module.
“By allowing the team to co-create and co-own an onboarding document, you get a beautiful byproduct of creating a competitive environment around learning, and as individuals hand the module to the next person in that role, that sense of ownership is passed on.”
“I put one person in charge of wrangling all these modules, usually someone that’s looking to take the step into management. This gives them the opportunity to manage people without actually managing people so they can test the waters of management without the full responsibility of, ‘You own this person’s number, don’t screw it up, otherwise you’re fired.’
“But a document doesn’t create a successful person, otherwise we’d be back in school right? The other part of the onboarding schedule is collaboration with the team. I usually set up a couple of exercises. For new hires in sales development, I have them meet with every member of the sales team for 30 minutes, go through a set of questions around pre-call, during call and post-call issues, and document it all. So this person who’s coming on board is going to meet with maybe 20 people over a 2-week period. Not only does it integrate them into the team extremely quickly, they’re also extracting all this knowledge in those critical areas within sales. I’d look at ‘Before you have a conversation, what do you do? When you’re having the conversation, what type of questions do you ask? After the conversation, what are your steps for success?’ I ask them to take notes to keep them on task and make sure they get value out of each 30 minute session, and to send those notes to me along after every meeting with a revised pitch on our company and what it does. We’d do this every day for the first 2 weeks, revising the pitch using a Kaizen approach. Each day, the pitch gets better, both in email form and over the phone, I ask them to leave me a voicemail for the first 2 weeks of their employment. There’s a feedback opportunity and feedback as people are learning is a beautiful thing. If someone’s willing to give you feedback, that’s actually saying they want to invest in you.”
“There are a lot of things that are going to be present in any onboarding, like training and peer shadowing. Those are important aspects of getting a new rep up to speed. What I think shifts the trajectory toward effective onboarding is how quickly you’re able to iterate and create a feedback look for the person who’s onboarding and get them to demonstrate the skills that they’re supposed to be learning.
“You can do some of that through peer shadowing. The earlier you get them on mock calls with clients, and get them feedback on live client calls, the quicker they’re able to ramp up. The shorter the feedback loop, the quicker the people are able to ramp. I try to get people on the phone with clients within three or four weeks, depending on the role, and get them with a veteran rep and can give them structured feedback. We record calls and pass them to the veteran rep to give feedback immediately. Then they’re able to adjust their approach and learn much more quickly.
“I draw a distinction between onboarding, orientation. and continued education. For me, onboarding involves making sure their computers are set up, they know where the bathroom is, they have access to our CRM. Orientation is knowing our products, understanding how we communicate our values to our customers, learning about the competitive landscape. Continuing education is methodical reinforcement of the lessons of orientation in one-on-ones, team meetings or on a deal-by-deal basis.
“For me, there’s the stuff that you have to do, the stuff that you need to do, and then, the continuous education piece, which is the most important aspect of professional and personal development.”
Onboarding should never become stagnant, and one should always be working to improve it. Whether it’s the actual modules, the way you teach people, or what you’re teaching them—your approach should always be changing because you’re selling a product that’s always changing. Assign new hires a partner to help them with the little questions that can be really important. One should also think about the seating schedule.
“New hires should be able to spin their chair around and ask questions. They should be learning not just from one person, but from different people and different departments across the organization.”
It brings people into the culture of the company faster and they feel more at home. You also get to say, “Hey, Ryan, you are are best presenter of our deck. You should definitely be teaching this module to our new sales team. It leans into your strengths.” Then of course you get that tertiary benefit of new hires having a one-on-one relationship with Ryan, who’s really good at this skill set.
Learn more from our experts, and see full profiles, here:
Justin Roberts, VP of Sales at Lever:
Jeff Rothenberg, Senior Manager of Sales for Personal Loans at Lending Club:
Daniel Barber, VP of Sales at Datanyze:
Chris Schwass, Head of Relationship Management at Intercom:
Alexis Zhu, Director of Revenue at Affirm:
Annelies Husmann, Director of Sales at Mode Analytics:
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