How to Fight Sales Turnover with Your Onboarding Strategy

Are you accepting the constant churn of sales force turnover as unavoidable? The truth is, you can radically reduce your sales turnover—by recognizing where the real issue begins. A tight onboarding process lays the tracks for salespeople to get up to speed quickly, and stay on course with your company for the long haul.

In 19, hyper-focused minutes, we’ll cover:
  • How to make sure you’re putting your money (and time, and energy) behind the right people
  • Why it’s important to involve your existing employees in the onboarding process, and ways to get them engaged
  • How to establish trust, and use onboarding as an opportunity for culture building
  • The secret to turning past turnover issues into a successful retention strategy

Read the Full Transcript of the Briefinar Below: 

Jeb Brooks:    Hello, and welcome to today’s Briefinar, where we promise to be bright, to be brief, and to be done in 19 minutes or less. Today we’re going to be talking about the topic of how to fight sales turnover using your onboarding strategy. We’re going to talk about how you can make sure you’re putting your money, your time, your energy, behind the right people, the people who are going to stick. 
Jeb Brooks:    Now, we’re going to talk about why it’s important to get your existing employees, your existing team members in on the onboarding process early, and here’s what’s key: how to get them engaged. We’re going to talk about using onboarding as an opportunity for culture building and so much more. My name is Jeb Brooks, I’m the CEO of the Brooks Group, so I have the opportunity to guide and direct the organization from a strategic level. 
Drea Douglass:    I’m Drea Douglass, Director of Talent Management Consulting. I lead a team of consultants that help organizations hire, develop, and retain top sales talent. 
Jeb Brooks:    So Drea, I know you have a poll question for our audience to get us kicked off, so what’s that question?
Drea Douglass:    Yeah, we wanted to ask you guys first. We’re all here today for fundamentally the same reason. We value retention. Organizations value retention for different reasons, so we want to hear from you. What’s the primary reason your organization values retention? You’ve got a couple of possibilities there. 
Jeb Brooks:    Are you all looking to reduce the cost of turnover, or perhaps look at succession planning? Maybe you’re thinking about how to improve your company’s energy or morale, and maybe improving efficiency or something else. We’ll give you just a little bit of time to answer, and then we’ll take a look at what brings you here. 
Drea Douglass:    Yeah, responses are rolling in. If you get a chance, go ahead and take a look at that. The question again, what is the primary reason your company values retention? 
Jeb Brooks:    Okay, so five, four, three, two, one. Let’s see what those answers are. What brings people here? Okay, it looks like number one, number one from the group is to improve efficiency. I hear you there. Number two is reduction of costs of turnover. Drea, what do you think? 
Drea Douglass:    I think that’s a very interesting result, actually. I would have guessed most people want to know or value retention to reduce the cost of turnover. It looks like it flipped towards improved efficiency. I find that interesting, personally. 
Jeb Brooks:    Well, the good news is, we are going to address all of these topics, but we’ll certainly spend a little bit more time on how the onboarding process can help improve efficiency. I think we’re talking there about probably time to productivity, which really brings us to the point here. 
Jeb Brooks:    Before we jump in the topic, I think it’s important to clarify the kinds of roles we’re talking about here. We are thinking about roles like sales, and customer service, inside sales, outside sales for that matter, administrative roles. Not necessarily the folks who are working in the warehouse or roles like that, we’re really talking about these kinds of positions, where efficiency, I’d submit to you, really matters. 
Jeb Brooks:    In other words, the faster we can get somebody to productivity, the better off we are. So Drea, I’ve got a question. As I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of the clients and organizations that we get to work with, who are probably represented in our audience, there are a couple of ways that onboarding isn’t working. 
Jeb Brooks:    One is where there’s no onboarding, and the other is where it’s perhaps too much. Tell us how it plays out in your experience for those organizations where there’s not enough, or no onboarding. 
Drea Douglass:    Right, well, and folks in our audience may have had this experience theirselves throughout their career, where for example, you show up on the first day, and you spend the whole day filling out paperwork, or no one’s there to greet you at the front door, and walk you to your desk, or give you a tour of the office. These are very simple, basic things right now, believe me, we’ll get to the meat soon. We have to cover these things at first. 
Drea Douglass:    For those who may not be thinking about these things, these are really important, and they have a huge impact in a person’s impression of your organization. Another thing that happens oftentimes when there’s no onboarding are that people are dropped into their work without being prepared, so for example, you’ve got a sales rep who’s starting, and the organization says, “Okay, we hired you. We hired you because of your vast experience, you’ve been doing it for a long time. Here’s your list of leads, now go.”
Jeb Brooks:    And the functional result of having no onboarding or I mean, let’s be practical here, very little, is turnover, right? If people aren’t made to feel at some level welcome, and then beyond that, empowered to do their work as quickly as they possibly can, turnover increases, which of course eats into that efficiency. Let’s look at the other side of the coin, as it were. What happens when there is too much onboarding? 
Drea Douglass:    Right, and I think this is a concept that many people probably don’t think about, but oftentimes when an organization does set their sights on onboarding, it can go a little overboard, if you will. That looks like significant time spent in training, especially classroom setting. 
Drea Douglass:    A person’s sitting in a chair looking up at a screen at slides that are very content-heavy, and expected to acquire a lot of information, and really stuff that in there in a very short amount of time without really allowing the opportunity for them to really marinate on that, process that information, or to apply it in ways that are small, but significant. 
Jeb Brooks:    Yeah, I think that’s key, right? It’s about the opportunity to process and then critically apply what’s learned, so in other words, using that information. We work with a number of organizations whose onboarding process can last many weeks, and certainly there’s a lot of material to cover, and important topics to touch on, but if new employees aren’t given the chance to work with the material, to process it, we’re just not being as effective as we could. Let’s take a look at what a sample agenda might look like. What should we be covering?
Drea Douglass:    If you’re going to build in time too, there’s a place for that. When we’re talking about setting your new hire up for success, here’s one way you can do that. It’s by building out an hour by hour agenda. This is a very basic or simple pared-down version of what even at Brooks Group that might look like. 
Drea Douglass:    So day one, they know they’ve got a team huddle, or a team meeting. Then they’ve got their office tour. So basically, this acts or serves to set the expectation for them, so they have a full and productive first two days, not just, “Where do I go? What do I do? Who should I talk to? What are my resources?”
Jeb Brooks:    Great, and there are a couple of key points here. Number one, and we’re going to get into some aspects here. I see a question coming in right now, and the answer is … the question is, “Is it two days and you’re done?” No, not necessarily, it depends on your organization, is our answer. This is just a sample. 
Jeb Brooks:    The most critical element on this agenda by far, is something I don’t want to gloss over, and that is the role of a mentor. The research clearly shows the more engaged a mentorship program you have is, the less the turnover you experience. 
Jeb Brooks:    The reason for that is fairly straightforward, I think it’s pretty obvious. If people who have somebody who’s not their manager, who’s perhaps not even a direct peer, but somebody who’s been in the organization for a period of time and can help them navigate the hallways to understand what appropriate/inappropriate looks like, where those questions can be answered in a safe environment, their time to productivity and their likelihood of sticking around is key. 
Jeb Brooks:    So you see, on this sample agenda, we have a couple of opportunities for lunch and meetings with a mentor. I didn’t want to move past that, but let’s dig in a little … Go ahead, Drea. 
Drea Douglass:    Just to be clear, we don’t expect their day to end at 2:30. I don’t want anybody to think that that’s the case. This is just a sample snapshot of what one of those might look like. 
Jeb Brooks:    Good pick up. That’d be a good opportunity though, good couple of days. 
Drea Douglass:    You get to go home now. 
Jeb Brooks:    You’re done. 
Drea Douglass:    They’d be very happy, I’m sure. 
Jeb Brooks:    All right, but you’re really talking about starting the process well before that first day. You’re looking at two weeks before the first day. Tell us a little bit about how that plays a role, if you would, Drea. 
Drea Douglass:    Right, so we encourage organizations to think about onboarding well ahead of time, before the new hire gets there. The first thing you want to do is make sure that you announce the new hire to the team.
Drea Douglass:    Depending on the size of the organization, this could be your whole company, this could be just the team that they’re directly working on, a department, what have you, that the team members should know this person’s name. It shouldn’t be the first time they’ve heard their name when they first walk in the door. 
Drea Douglass:    They should also know the role they’re going to play, so what is this person’s position, and what’s their purpose in the organization? What gap are they filling? How are they going to help us meet our goals? The relevant parties that you might consider doing this for are their managers, obviously, or relevant managers that they would touch, and their peers, things like that. 
Jeb Brooks:    Yeah, all of the folks who are playing a role. There’s a key element here too, and that’s the idea of setting expectations with those existing employees about what role they’re going to be playing with the onboarding process. 
Jeb Brooks:    For example, here at the Brooks Group, there’s sort of a cross departmental team that we put together that takes a new member of our organization out to lunch on that first day. So just setting that expectation, making sure that people are aware of that role. Let’s talk about what happens a week before the first day, Drea. 
Drea Douglass:    All right, so now you’re counting down, and this is a really good time to send out a package to your new hire, and to reach out to them. You could have an executive reach out, either at two weeks or one week before to personally tell them how excited they are that they’re joining the organization. If they get that personal touch from the top people in the organization, that makes them feel welcome, and like a valuable member of the team. 
Drea Douglass:    In the package that you might send them, you would want to include that agenda, so they know what to expect, and they can prepare, as well as any materials. In that welcome package, you might consider answering questions like, “What time should I arrive?” Even at the Brooks Group, it’s not necessarily obvious to somebody if they should be super early. That might not be the best thing either. 
Drea Douglass:    I remember when I was hired, I was asked to arrive 15 minutes late, which I would never have expected, because they had last minute things they needed to put in place to make sure they were ready for me. Things like, “How should I dress?” If it’s a business formal environment, more casual, just to make sure that they know those things. Who will greet them, and where should they park or enter the building? Basic stuff like that. 
Drea Douglass:    It should also include any paperwork so they can fill that out and have it ready to hand you, and they’re not spending that first day on the job doing that stuff. Then of course, the agenda should be a part of that as well. You’re setting the expectations for both the new hire and current employees regarding the onboarding process, and you’re doing that in the lead up to that new person starting. 
Jeb Brooks:    Perfect. This time before the person starts is also a great opportunity for perhaps a key executive to reach out and touch base with a new hire and say, “Hey, welcome aboard. We’re glad to have you.” That really goes a long way in terms of building that sense of camaraderie and that sense of community, and you know, continuing … Look, let me put it this way. 
Jeb Brooks:    Very often, a new hire who’s joining your organization is as enthusiastic about working with you and for you during those first few moments before they join, and right after they get there, as they ever will be. They’ve been romanced through the interview process. They’re excited about what’s to come.
Jeb Brooks:    To maintain that, look for opportunities, as I said, whether it’s a key executive reaching out, or the way the welcome package is put together. Onboarding begins, and reducing turnover begins well before that start date. But let’s get to it, Drea. Tell us about these first two days. 
Drea Douglass:    Well, of course now is the time where things are really easy. They execute that agenda, so they show up, they know exactly what’s expected of them, they know where to go, who to talk to, who they can ask questions of, they’ve been assigned a mentor, and you can start executing that agenda. 
Jeb Brooks:    This is a great opportunity for us to highlight an element that I think can certainly make a difference in the way you onboard your sales professionals, and that’s to execute and to have in place a strong sales process. 
Jeb Brooks:    What we find, is our clients who have implemented the IMPACT Selling System, which is a linked sequential, customer-focused sales process, see onboarding that is faster, that is more efficient, that is easier to replicate, simply because the steps inside that sales process, what you expect your sales team to perform when they are working with your prospects and customers, is more easily repeatable.
Jeb Brooks:    If that sounds like something that’s interesting to you, certainly reach out and let us know. We’ve got a program coming up the 7th and 8th of December in Atlanta, and it certainly would make a difference as you’re looking at onboarding new sales people. Let’s take a look here, Drea, at the importance of continuing this idea of onboarding. 
Drea Douglass:    Sure. 
Jeb Brooks:    Teaching culture. 
Drea Douglass:    I think that’s really associated with this first two days. Right when a person walks in your front door, they’re going to start gathering information, or taking notice of what your culture is. It’s always there, it always exists, so you want to make sure that it is clearly defined. You don’t want them to be vague about what the culture is, and one way you can do this is to recognize others inside the organization who model those behaviors.
Drea Douglass:    For example, here at the Brooks Group, we have seven core values. They are very well defined, they’re very tight and specific, and I believe Jeb, you yourself worked very hard with the executive team to think about folks inside the organization who really exemplify those characteristics, who had done something recently to illustrate those things to everybody else, so that everybody knows and understands really what’s to be expected. 
Jeb Brooks:    Yeah, absolutely. I think this idea of encouraging managers to deliver targeted coaching kind of speaks to this. The best way to introduce that on the front end of a relationship with a new employee is through story, and to tell stories about what existing employees have done to live and breathe those core values. 
Jeb Brooks:    Here’s what we mean. Look, people leave organizations whether they voluntarily turn themselves over, or they’re asked to leave, because of a mismatch of company values, core values. The better job you can do on the onboarding process of introducing them to those core values, what I like to call the Rules of Engagement, they’re at a much higher likelihood of sticking around. 
Jeb Brooks:    Look, if you don’t introduce those core values early and completely in that onboarding process, you’re asking people to play a game without having told them the rules of it. That’s really not fair, and it holds you back. As you said, tightly define those core values. 
Jeb Brooks:    It’s not about just simply saying, “We have a core value of integrity.” What does that mean? It’s about defining it with specific examples, with stories about what people have done, and weaving that throughout the onboarding process, spending as much time as it makes sense in your process to do that. So let me, Drea, pass it onto you. 
Drea Douglass:    Yeah, you know, and there are some other things here that I found interesting, that I’ve noticed other organizations do to help facilitate a culture of retention, really. That is to conduct not only exit interviews, which a lot of organizations already do, but if you don’t, an exit interview is a great idea. When people leave, asking them to take the time to sit with somebody and have an interview about their experience working at the organization, and why they left is helpful information to have.
Drea Douglass:    But also, stay interviews, so with those folks who have been with your organization for a couple of years, and have assimilated well, and fit well within your organization, and have performed well, consider conducting stay interviews with them, and asking them, “So what are the deal breakers? What would be a deal breaker for you here at the organization? Or what do you love about working here? What keeps you here?” to help you define more clearly what it is exactly that gets people to stay. 
Jeb Brooks:    All right, so we are right up against the time here, and so I’m afraid that these questions that have come in, we will have to answer directly via email. There are a couple here, so if you’ve sent one in, we will get it out to you via email. 
Jeb Brooks:    With that said, we want to say thank you so very much for taking the time to spend a brief 19 minutes or less with you. It has been a pleasure having you today as our expert, Drea. Thank you for your time. 
Drea Douglass:    Thank you, Jeb. 
Jeb Brooks:    And thank you, of course, to our audience. We encourage all of you to stay in tune for our next Briefinar, and between now and then, take a look at the IMPACT Selling Public Seminar scheduled for December 7th and 8th there in Atlanta, Georgia. With that said, I’m Jeb Brooks, CEO of the Brooks Group. 
Drea Douglass:    And I’m Drea Douglass, Director of Talent Management Consulting. 
Jeb Brooks:    Thank you for joining us. 

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