Onboarding new sellers has become increasingly important AND difficult due to 3 business trends:
- Information Explosion: Information doubles every 2 years, but sellers’ capacity to handle said information does not.
- Increased Competition: Today, competition isn’t just your direct competitors, it’s the hundreds of other interesting choices buyers have chasing their time & wallets.
- Solution Revolution: The migration from selling products (tactical & short) to solutions (strategic & long) has made selling significantly more difficult for rookie sellers.
Are you accountable for ramping sellers to quota? What took months now takes years – and the gap is widening.
Ask yourself how much longer it takes today to get a new seller to 100% of quota.
Our world is changing exponentially, but we react in a linear fashion. This makes it impossible to get anything but incremental improvements. Sales hiring and onboarding are good examples of linear thinking – step 1, step 2, step 3, and so on. Linear thinking works when external change is slow and predictable. But, in an age where information doubles every two years, it won’t net you the double-digit growth you require.
Stay with me – here’s where it gets interesting.
The opposite of linear is exponential. Leaders who think exponentially position themselves to gain a future advantage by thinking of how they can leverage information technology today to yield radically better results tomorrow.
Ray Kurzweil, the techno-futurist, gives the example of walking paces to illustrate the point. If you were to take 30 linear steps, it would be one, two, three, four, five – one step at a time. After 30 linear steps you’d end up 30 paces away from your starting point. But, if these were exponential steps – one, two, four, eight… – you’d end up a billion steps away after 30 paces, twenty-six times around the planet!
So, how do you take onboarding from the linear to the exponential?
In a word, datasets – specifically, the type of data that can be collected as you hire, onboard, and steward reps to success. But here’s the rub – the data you collect today may not have much immediate impact – early on it will feel like you’re still stuck in a linear world. But remember, when you collect data every day, it has a compounding effect over time.
Here are examples of datasets that can be collected today as you hire and onboard:
- Assessment Datasets: Personality, Cognitive, & Aptitude Instrument Data
- Sales Conversation Datasets: Conversations captured on tablets whether field or phone
- Growth Mindset Datasets: Online & learning courseware engagement over time.
We are seeing it now. The most forward-thinking companies we talk to are building datasets that deliver insight. Sometimes the insights are surprising & counter-intuitive. For instance, United Rentals – who has nearly 1,000 commercial salespeople – found that sales success was correlated to matching personality to actual locations (they have over 30 geographic locations). Applied Industrial, a rust-belt company in the unfashionable Industrial Distribution industry, had similar findings. Both were surprised by the data generated by a service called Moneyball for Selling – a sales diagnostic/online learning tool built by Careerbuilder. The initial findings ultimately led to faster time-to-proficiency. I will speak more to these use cases in later posts.
Another example is sales conversations. Hyland Software & RECALL – both fast growing technology companies – are capturing and analyzing sales conversations by simply having their salespeople use digital (instead of paper tablets) during sales conversations in the field. The tablets are equipped with a Commercial Conversation Management solution that automatically structures conversation data as it is captured. The process helps Salespeople & Specialists as they collaborate & debrief later on – but, now on factual data. A library of conversations in the cloud also helps sales managers do more coaching without having to travel, enabling more performance feedback to line sellers.
This is exponential thinking by Hyland & RECALL leaders. Turning an analog process (sales call data capture) into a digital one is like hitting the trifecta – sales tool, sales coaching, and dataset capture all in one pass!
Of course, to create insight, one first needs data. Sales conversations are a good place to start if your goal is to improve onboarding and effectiveness. It requires some boldness to break out of linear processes and thinking, and the rewards will be enormous.
Now, go be exponential!