Lesson 3: You’d Better Onboard Your Sales Hires Well


Success! Your first sales hire just signed her offer letter and there are high-fives around your small, but growing office. Visions of millions of dollars of revenue pouring in are dancing in everyone’s minds and you’re ready to head out and celebrate over a few beers!

I’ve been through the excitement of making your first sales hire before and it’s an amazing feeling when they accept your offer and join your team. But what happens when you get a call a week later from the new hire explaining that she’s accepted a counter offer or doesn’t feel comfortable moving for the new role?

It happens and it sucks. You’ve invested a lot of time, money and resources into finding and hiring your first salesperson and now it’s all lost. It’s going to take another month to replace her and your path to hyper-growth is now that much further away.

How do you keep this scenario from happening to you? You need a process that improves your chances to close your new reps on joining your business and getting them ramped and ready to rock fast. That’s why I used a sales onboarding checklist when bringing on my first sales hires at PatientPop. This ensured they would be extremely excited through the hiring process and into the job. I’ll preface this by saying that not all of these things are scalable, but your first sales hire is the most important, so I recommend a particularly high-touch approach to ensure success.

Don’t Lose Communication

This scenario comes directly from my own experience. It was 2014 and I was working at PublicStuff in New York City and I made an offer to a promising salesperson who accepted on the spot. I had a sense of great satisfaction when I crossed hiring for that role off of my to-do list and turned my attention elsewhere. Five days later he called and turned down the offer. Like most negative experiences, I learned a tremendous amount about what to do and what not to do.

The first big lesson is to keep communication consistent from the moment a great candidate leaves your office after their interview. All interviewers should send a brief note to the candidate expressing how much they enjoyed meeting her. It’s important to feel wanted when salespeople are looking for a job, and this provides a high level of comfort.

Once the offer is made, I recommend making contact every 48-72 hours until the candidate has shown up for the first day of work, excited and ready to begin. The easiest way to maintain consistent communication is by sharing training materials, asking for their opinions on all things sales related, and sharing big wins that are happening even before they start.

I recommend delivering a really personal gift to the new hire and their significant other. When I was hired at PatientPop, I received a great bottle of wine from the CEO, who knew how much I love champagne. It was an awesome gesture that meant a lot to me and my wife. I remember drinking the wine and connecting that great experience to PatientPop.

If there is a lag period between accepting the offer and the start date, company happy hour is a must. Tell the candidate that the executive team members are headed out for drinks after work and that you would love for them to attend. If they have a significant other, please encourage them to attend as well. Having buy-in from their partner will make the transition much smoother and help ensure the new employee feels supported from the beginning.

Walk Through the “Why”

Ok, so your first sales hire has shown up at work ready to deliver an all-star performance. I recommend building on that first day excitement by connecting them to the “why” behind both your business and their role.

This is a perfect time to introduce the new employee to your company’s Mission, Vision and Values. These should be hand-delivered by the founder or CEO in a 1:1 setting where the passion can be seen directly

At ZocDoc, all new hires ate lunch with the CEO on their first day and spent time memorizing the company values. It’s been nearly five years since I worked there, but I still know all of them by heart. They greatly influenced the way I made decisions, and I thought through them before taking any action.

Even more important is connecting their actual sales role to the mission, vision and values of the company. How does their particular role meet each value? When they succeed, how it will help achieve the company’s vision? When new hires understand this, they feel personally accountable.

A great way for new sales hires to learn how their role impacts the mission, vision and values is through customer testimonials. If you can, bring in a happy customer to talk to the new sales hire about how your product or service has transformed their business. If you can’t get someone local, have a few customers record a video, and watch it with your new hires.

Create a Welcoming First Week

Part of an effective onboarding experience is showing the new hire how organized the business is (even if it’s really not yet!).

Make the employee feel like part of the team by announcing their hiring on social media. Share a photo of the new employee with your team on LinkedIn and make sure that everyone comments on the post with welcoming words. Social media is extremely important, especially to younger hires and they will love how welcomed they feel, and their friends and family members will comment on how awesome their new company is. Win for everyone.

New sales hires should show up and have a neat and tidy workspace with all of the electronic accessories already hooked up and in place. Their computer should be loaded up with all of the software you use, with all relevant links bookmarked and files loaded into Google Drive. Email should be set up and any necessary certifications should be ready and waiting to be completed.

I recommend having some great swag available for your new employees so they can start evangelizing your business in public. A great t-shirt (sized right), hoodie, coffee mug and mouse pad are always great gifts. If the employee has a favorite hobby, don’t be afraid to get creative. The investment you make here will pay off.

Part of welcoming the employee should be getting to know the leaders of each department. I recommend a daily lunch with a new executive team member so the sales hire feels a strong connection to your marketing, customer success and product teams. Keep these lunches more informal and save the formal sessions for at the office.

Set Great Expectations

At this point, it’s highly likely that your new sales hire feels extremely welcomed and completely supported. It’s important to have that foundation in place when you walk the new sales hire through the expectations of the ramp period. Note: This should have already been covered throughout the interview process, so if you haven’t, please do so now.

Clearly define what success and failure looks like for your new sales hire. How much revenue do they need to bring in each week/month/quarter/year to be considered successful? What metrics will you be tracking to ensure that the sales rep is moving in the right direction?

All of these metrics should already be plugged into a dashboard in your CRM for easy tracking. Spend a few hours talking your new hire through the different dashboard components and be very clear when you describe what metrics you’ll be monitoring and when. If you’ll be looking at new calls made every day, then you need to tell them that.

Show Them the Ropes

As you begin to wind-down onboarding, it’s time to have formal meetings with each department head. The executive team members should schedule time to walk the new sales hire through what each department does, how they do it, relevant team members, and how their department generally interacts with sales. It’s also necessary for the new sales hire to understand how their role influences other departments.

The new sales hire should get an engineering overview, and technical look at the product. They should meet with customer success and understand how our customers get taken care of, and through what channels. How does selling the right way make a CS person’s role easier?

If you have a marketing team, now is a great time to share messaging, ideal customer profiles and any campaigns that are currently being run. It’s important that marketing and sales have one consistent message and talk track. Now is the time to cover it.

As the final step to a great onboarding experience, I highly recommend showing the new sales hire the ropes as the founder. Spend a few days or even a week out in the field or on the phones with your new sales hire. You should know what works by now and the best way for that salesperson to learn is by watching and doing. After a week, time to take the training wheels off and watch your new hire take off.

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