The Science of New SaaS Salesperson Onboarding: Breaking the Process Down Into 4 Key Phases

Published on May 4, 2021

Having a streamlined, structured onboarding process for new SaaS salespeople can have a dramatic impact on both productivity and retention. To quantify, businesses with effective sales onboarding see a 6.7% improvement in quota attainment and 50% higher new rep retention. 

Not bad! 

But how exactly do you accomplish this? And what are the exact steps you need to take?

That’s what I’m going to discuss in this post. Here’s the science behind new SaaS salesperson onboarding broken down into four key phases. 

Phase 1 – Introduction and Acclimation

One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is overwhelming new reps by bombarding them with information right from the start. You obviously want to get SaaS salespeople up-to-speed quickly, but you don’t want to throw too much at them at once. 

That’s why the first step involves a basic introduction and acclimation phase where you do the following:

  • Make introductions to sales leaders and team members
  • Familiarize them with your company, industry, and mission 
  • Let them know about your philosophy and culture
  • Explain your unique value proposition (UVP)
  • Articulate what differentiates your brand from key competitors
  • Provide reps with training materials like product info, sales scripts, and demo examples

This is also the time to take care of formalities like tax documents, software platform logins, and so on. The main goal here is to reduce the chaos and make it easy for new SaaS salespeople to get their bearings. 

Think of it as letting them dip their toes in the water but not taking a full plunge. Don’t worry about getting into the real nuts and bolts just yet. This will come later. 

Phase 2 – Initial Development

Once a new SaaS salesperson has had some time to digest the materials from phase 1 and get a basic feel for the position, it’s time for phase 2 where you focus on initial development. This largely revolves around providing them with a standardized training program — one that’s uniform among all sales reps. 

“If you expect your team members to meet their goals, you must also give them the knowledge and tools they need to succeed,” explains Michelle Richardson, VP of Sales Performance Research at Brooks Group. “A training program that teaches new sales hires a consistent sales process is a must.”

While the specifics will vary from company to company, some common sales training content objectives include the following:

I personally suggest starting with product knowledge, as this is integral for creating context for new reps and should help them connect the dots as they move into other areas like customer use cases and communication. Teaching them how to give a powerful product demo is especially important because it has such a strong impact on their conversion rate. 

I also recommend reading this previous post I wrote for creating a streamlined checklist for this process. In it, you can get tips for:

  • Creating a single orientation resource
  • Training reps on the software they’ll be selling (and using)
  • Educating them on buyer personas

The goal isn’t for new SaaS salespeople to perfect their skills here. It’s simply to lay down the core foundation so they’ll have the base level of knowledge to sell your products and be in alignment with the rest of your team. Incremental improvements, which I’ll discuss in a minute, will come later on. 

Phase 3 – Ongoing Support

By this point, a SaaS salesperson will have gotten the hang of their initial skills development and have a firm command of the sales process. They should also be adept enough at nurturing leads and delivering demos that they’re comfortably meeting their sales quotas. Once they’ve hit that mark, it’s time for phase 3 of providing ongoing support, which is designed to keep salespeople engaged and refine their skills

This graphic from sales enablement platform MindTickle pinpoints some specific strategies that go into providing ongoing support. 

In particular, I suggest:

  • Competency assessments to determine a rep’s overall level of comprehension
  • Remediation to see which areas could use improvement
  • Metrics reporting for analyzing KPIs

Then, as you unearth information, provide new reps with either one-on-one support or relevant training materials to help them get better. This leads me to the final phase of SaaS salesperson onboarding. 

Phase 4 – Continual Improvement

Phase 4 is about one thing — sales mastery, which serves two main purposes. One is to get the absolute most from each rep. By helping them maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, for example, they should become more productive and consistently reach (if not exceed) quotas. 

The other main purpose is to increase your retention rate. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of salespeople would remain with a company longer if it invested in their career. 

And it’s easy to see why. After all, who wants to stick around in a dead end job where there’s no opportunity for growth and advancement. Following a continuous improvement cycle, which looks like this, is critical for helping reps reach their full potential and motivating them to stay with your company. 

Perfecting Your SaaS Salesperson Onboarding 

Unfortunately, the onboarding process of many SaaS companies merely involves a cobbled together plan that’s barely fleshed out. “While you want salespeople to be resourceful, it’s a mistake to simply throw them into the pool and expect them to swim,” notes Michelle Richardson

By having a clear, repeatable, long-term process in place, you can get new SaaS salespeople up-to-speed quickly without overwhelming them, while ensuring they reach major milestones. The 4 key phases I’ve outlined here should provide you with a tangible game plan so that you get your onboarding down to a science. 

Want to hire better sales talent, faster? Learn how HireDNA can help you recruit elite SaaS salespeople while reducing 96% of hiring mistakes. 

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