New Hire Training Sucks – And What to Do About It

05 Jun New Hire Training Sucks – And What to Do About It

In today’s “Do more with less” economy, senior executives are taking a step back and looking at many of their programs and asking their teams, “What’s the business impact?” From sales kickoff activities to enablement programs and new hire training programs, they’re looking for justification on why they should fund such programs. A consistent program under the microscope by sales leaders is the new hire sales training program.

Here’s what’s going on. Sales leaders are looking to their training and HR colleagues to help improve new hire sales training execution. A major catalyst for this push is the need for more globally consistent programs that:

  • Get new hires up to speed more quickly
  • Drive costs out of fragmented global execution
  • Create a more consistent output of skilled new hires
  • Provide a higher quality mechanism that helps reps overcome complexity

Last month our team had a conversation with a sales enablement leader in a large financial services company. She was asked to rebuild and relaunch their global new hire training program. She had done a lot of work to identify the work already going on across the globe and determined what appeared to be working or not working. But she admitted they were stuck on how to move forward. The challenge as she defined it? “Getting everyone on the same page so they could all move forward.”

We see this a lot these days. A clear challenge exists, but unified action doesn’t.

Creating unified action across a variety of different groups and moving forward together is a challenge I see a lot. When you look at new hire sales training, there are a lot of people with a vested interest. For example, product groups want to make sure product knowledge is covered, marketing wants to make sure the brand is covered, HR wants to make sure engagement happens, sales operations wants to make sure compliance happens, sales management wants processes followed and sales enablement wants to make sure reps have the right skills. That’s a lot of perspective coming into one program. This is a new reality that many sales enablement professionals have to learn to deal with. In the case of this most recent conversation about new hire training, the concept of improving new hire sales training wasn’t foreign to any leaders in those groups. What was foreign, however, was the idea of coming up with specific actions to take, priorities to tackle and content to create. These tactical elements were hard to wrangle in.

So, we took a step back and took some time to think things through. To help, she sent us the 450+ files that composed the global “view” of new hire sales training and we reviewed them. She also shared more details about where she was “stuck” on their new sales training decision-making process.

When we reconvened, we shared what we were able to glean from her content.

And then we asked a simple question: “So, at what point will new hires be learning about their customers?”

“Ummmmmm,” she said.

We continued. “Sorry, we just couldn’t find much detail about the customer as we were working through all the information about who your company is, when it was founded, what products you have, what your vision is for the way products need to be used, the innovations you’re looking to bring to the market, the processes that reps need to follow and the technology they’re supposed to use.”

“Yeah,” she said. “It’s a lot about us, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” We said. “Perhaps we should start there?”

To us, there is a key lesson to be learned in how to balance more with less when it comes to enabling reps to sell more successfully. What salespeople need MORE of are services from internal groups that are designed to help them embrace their reality and help them have more valuable conversations with clients. What they need LESS of is a random activity designed to “help them sell” that actually puts more burden on their backs and requires them to figure out what to do on their own.

In other words, if your new hire training program is all about your company and its products, how exactly is that program helping reps have conversations with senior level buyers in the first two weeks on the job? So, if you’re looking to revamp new hire training, remember it’s not about more product, process or program training with the goal of cramming information into the heads of salespeople. It’s about enabling new hire reps to have the right sales conversations with their buyers on day two of their job.

Here are some tips to get in front of the sales new hire training challenge:

  1. Define the interlock between employee onboarding and new hire training. While HR typically handles onboarding, what’s the focus and business reason for investing in new hire training? Clarify that design point and get sales leadership buy-in on what the program is designed to accomplish.
  2. Determine if new hire training is tactical or strategic. If sales leaders are asking you to revamp sales training, why are they asking? For example, do they want to talk about all the tasks involved, or do they want to talk about the role of new hire training in achieving the sales strategy?
  3. Move new hire training from an event to an experience. Too many sales new hire training programs are built as siloed activities instead of an end-to-end enablement service designed to help reps get critical traction in the first 90-120 days on the job. If everyone in marketing, sales, training and management takes that approach, the design point and objective of the program become less fragmented, and the program becomes more about your company than the client’s reality.
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