As the launchpad for new hires on your sales team, onboarding plays a big role in whether sales reps rise to success or sink to mediocrity. Research tells us that a much greater number of sales reps reach full productivity faster in organizations with formal onboarding.1 Estimates show that companies with a standardized onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity.2 In fact, firms with effective onboarding are less likely to experience high levels of salesperson turnover.3
While the numbers speak for themselves, it’s important to note the emphasis on effective and structured onboarding in many of these studies. One of the most significant failings of most onboarding programs is their inability to be tailored to the specific needs and skill gaps of individual sales reps. After all, as the Sales Management Association study cited above shows, companies with the highest onboarding effectiveness ratings show high levels of onboarding customization based on individual salespersons or by sales roles.4
That’s where relying on a learning management system (LMS) alone may lead onboarding programs to fall short of expectations.
Why effective onboarding needs more than an LMS
It’s undeniable that LMSs contribute significantly to improving the efficiency of onboarding programs. An LMS allows sales organizations to efficiently create and distribute onboarding materials virtually, saving on the costs and time required for physical sessions. Virtual onboarding also allows for asynchronous, on-demand training, allowing new customer-facing reps to learn at their own convenience. An LMS also provides crucial data on course completion as well as assessments of information consumption and recall. Finally, an LMS can also be used to create a variety of training paths to diversify the content provided.
However, LMSs only serve the task of transmitting information but cannot contribute to the experiential learning that is a major component of onboarding. Experiential learning refers to the process of learning by doing; participants perfect their learning by continually practicing and applying what they have learned, refining their techniques through a process of trial and error. Studies show that experiential learning contributes to knowledge retention levels of as much as 75% as against passive teaching methods, such as reading, audio-visual, and demonstration, where knowledge retention levels never rise beyond 30%.5 In other words, experiential learning helps sales reps prepare for the various possible shifts and changes in real-life sales conversations and ensures that reps master their sales pitch before talking to prospects live.
LMSs are also unable to evaluate at scale the performance of individual sales reps across multiple key factors at a granular level and suggest personalized learning paths for each rep to assist in their learning. Moreover, an LMS only focuses on content consumption but cannot measure and impact skill integration. Hence, the crucial aspect of integrating learned skills into actual sales conversations is missing.
All of this means that LMSs cannot fulfill the requirement for deeply customized, personally relevant, and practically-oriented training that sales reps need to hit the ground running.
AI-based sales readiness platforms to the rescue
Bridging the gap between the passive information consumption provided by an LMS, on the one hand, and the continually shifting terrain of real-world sales conversations, on the other, requires an AI-powered sales readiness solution, which focuses on delivering experiential, skills-based training that is necessary for sales roles. Here are three ways an AI-powered readiness platform, when integrated with an LMS, can help you supercharge your onboarding program:
- Agile and customized journeys:
- Virtual pitch practice:
- Comprehensive AI-powered analytics:
One of the most effective ways to onboard new hires is to align their training with actual sales processes in an agile manner. Building up the onboarding program as a series of sprints focused on different skills ensures that sales reps master each skill before moving onto the next. Using machine learning algorithms and embedded learning activities, a readiness platform can build custom roadmaps of the necessary knowledge and skills required of each new hire and provide them with relevant, bite-sized content suited to each learning stage.
Just as airline pilots must log hundreds of hours in flight simulators before they fly actual planes, it makes sense to put sales reps through their paces before they come face-to-face with actual prospects and customers. This allows sales organizations to discover whether they are able to fluently and competently weave the knowledge received during onboarding into their sales conversations.
However, in the new normal of mostly remote sales teams, physical practice and coaching are not possible. Sales readiness platforms allow sales reps to easily record and share practice sales pitches, virtual demos, role plays, and so on, and to rapidly receive feedback from managers and coaches on what they are doing right and wrong.
Experiential learning often flounders because of a lack of quality coaching. This, in turn, results from a lack of time and resources for managers to comprehensively evaluate sales reps' performance across critical parameters at scale. A sales readiness platform can make up for this by providing AI-powered analytics at scale to rapidly analyze practice pitches on a variety of factors such as keyword usage, topic coverage, tone/mood, delivery speed, and so on. This provides managers with ready data and insights on the skills that sales reps need to work on and allows their onboarding journeys to be optimized accordingly.
Onboarding is a crucial first step for any sales organization. The sooner sales reps are able to feel confident and competent, the more productive they become and the more satisfied they are in their roles. Rapid and effective onboarding requires a clear roadmap of sales skills and knowledge and customized training that imparts these in a systematic manner. An AI-based sales readiness platform ensures that companies can make the most of their LMS-powered onboarding programs by providing agile and customized journeys, virtual pitch practice, and comprehensive AI-powered analytics.