Sales Onboarding as a Key Enabler of Sales Enablement Adoption

13 Jul

Sales Onboarding as a Key Enabler of Sales Enablement Adoption

By Thomas Barrieau
Director, Sales Enablement Practice
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One key success factor for any company’s sales enablement program that frequently does not get the attention it deserves is adoption. If your sales people don’t know how to, or are not inclined to take advantage of your sales enablement deliverables, the best strategy and assets in the world will not produce the impact on sales productivity you are seeking. Taking proactive steps to drive adoption can often be waylaid by a faulty mindset. Classic examples include “It’s their job to use these resources—why should I have to talk them into it?” or “We’ve built a great program; why wouldn’t they beat a path to our door?”

Unfortunately, adopting such a mindset denies a fundamental truth of working with sales professionals: they largely operate as independent businesses and will only adopt a behavioral practice if they believe it will help them succeed. When you examine the psychology underlying this truism, it becomes clear what should be expected:

  • Their focus on understanding and persuading buyers produces an orientation inherently external to the company
  • They are incented by compensation plans more tied to their individual performance than any other group of employees
  • Independent thinking and action by salespeople is highly regarded and rewarded by management
  • They are accustomed to persuasion, not mandates – the means by which you drive behavior change

Clearly then, if we want to see the adoption necessary for them to be effective, we need to sell enablement programs to our sales organizations. Alas, it is another axiom that salespeople are the toughest people to sell to. So, how and where can we encourage salespeople to understand and take advantage of our sales enablement offerings? Sales onboarding, as the means by which salespeople are introduced to a company’s sales methodology and practices, is a prime opportunity to do this.

Moreover, it’s vital that your vision for how sales enablement shapes and informs sales conversations be clearly communicated during the onboarding process. Aside from the most introductory sales positions, most new-hire salespeople have sold for other companies. While there, they developed habits regarding how and where to get the messaging they deliver to buyers. This includes how and when to engage prospects with specific components of your overall customer-facing story, and the role that marketing has played in teeing up their conversations. Buyer message sourcing, prospect engagement strategy, marketing-to-sales transition practices—these all fall within the domain of sales enablement and need to be a part of any effective sales onboarding program.

With this in mind, here are some tips for building an effective sales onboarding program that will encourage sales enablement adoption:

  • Provide a 360° understanding of what is necessary to succeed
    • Educate to the Offering (the “what”) of selling – facilitate a full understanding of what is being sold, its value proposition, the competition, and customer success stories
    • Educate to the Process (the “how”) of selling – make sure new hires understand your sales methodology, CRM, information resources, and how to access quota and compensation plans
    • Educate to the Audience (the “who”) of selling – explicitly define the characteristics of a good prospect, key buyer roles they need to know, contextual factors that shape the purchase journey (e.g., industry, company, job role), and business value drivers
  • Bring the right people to the task
    • Take a cross-functional approach to who you put in front of sales people during their onboarding training; help them understand the organization that will support them
    • Focus on roles & responsibilities and go-forward access to needed resources and information; who and how they should engage
  • Show them key resources before giving them those resources
    • All too often, valuable assets become something that collects dust on a shelf after training; prevent this by providing a clear walk-through on all resources that will be used following training
    • Use interactive exercises or use case scenarios to communicate a resource’s value and when/where/how to use
  • Bridge the gap between onboarding and coaching
    • Don’t look at your onboarding process as something that ends after a week of training; recognize that salespeople will be learning their jobs over many months and provide the ongoing support they need
    • Include front-line sales managers in the development and implementation of onboarding curriculum—their active and ongoing engagement is a critical success path for any sales onboarding program
    • Provide means for new hires to connect via social media to build a support network
    • Provide peer mentors to ease the transition to productivity
    • Provide opportunities for circling back to reinforce learnings as needed
  • Assess knowledge repeatedly
    • Respect that the knowledge transfer you are pursuing with any onboarding program is a process—not an event; the knowledge necessary to sell effectively will be gained over time and should be assessed periodically during the first six months on the job
    • It’s important to assess both knowledge retention and the ability to apply it in actual selling situations; the former can be done by the sales enablement organization as part of the onboarding program, the latter by the front-line sales manager as part of ongoing coaching activities
  • Assess time to productivity
    • This is a core success metric of your overall onboarding strategy and program
    • Assess this metric through quantitative (e.g., quota achievement) and qualitative (employee feedback & surveys) means.


  1. […] last two posts discussed key opportunities for driving sales enablement adoption: the sales onboarding process and sales kickoffs. In each of these, I highlighted the importance of front-line sales manager […]

  2. […] my last post, I talked about the importance of looking beyond the strength of your sales enablement strategy and […]

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