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Talent & Recruitment
Canadian Professional Sales Association lock

In this episode of the CPSA Recruitment and Talent podcast we'll discuss the importance of successfully onboarding new salespeople into the enterprise.  

We'll consider why keeping an onboarding checklist is so important, why immersing new salespeople into the company immediately is critical, and how the right onboarding technology can help empower your salespeople from day one.

Our guest is Jay Goldman, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Sensei Labs, creating data-driven digital workplace solutions for high-growth companies to engage teams at work, manage complex problems, and drive innovation.

Listen to this episode of the CPSA Recruitment and Talent Podcast and discover:

* Why onboarding is where you want to get a new sales team off on the right foot.

* What three things will help them succeed once they start.

* What technologies and software platforms are recommended for onboarding in the enterprise.

Want to hear more? Check out these bonus insights:

* Top tips for implementing successful onboarding in the enterprise.

* Why should you start immersing new sales people into the company culture before day one?

* What technologies and software platforms do you recommend for onboarding in the enterprise?

Read the edited transcription:

Kevin: Jay, thank you so much for being on the CPSA recruitment and talent podcast. Before we dive into the rest of the show, why don't you tell us more about who you are and what you do today.

Jay: Thanks Kevin, it's a real pleasure to be here. I am the co-founder and managing director of Sensei Labs. We make enterprise software solutions that help companies to evolve and execute faster in a way their people will love.

Kevin: And love is the operative word, right?

Jay: We hope so. Certainly. We're also probably one of the only software enterprise vendors that claim that people will love our software, but it's based on genuine real emotion that people have when using it and not just some empty marketing claim.

Kevin: Now, we're gonna talk about onboarding today in this particular segment. So, and as it relates to sales teams in particular. So onboarding is where we wanna get those new sales teams off on the right foot. So, from your perspective and your experience, what are three things that will help new salespeople succeed in the onboarding process and beyond.

Jay: That’s a really great question and I think, just as a quick general statement, most companies don't spend enough time thinking about onboarding. They think of it either purely as a logistical function: "We need to make sure we get a phone and a desk and a laptop depending if somebody's based in the field or based in headquarters and we need to get some paperwork signed." And often depending on the sales role, there's some compliance training that needs to get done because otherwise legal will yell at us. And they don't really think about it as a set-up for success moment. The way that you're going to help your new salesperson to achieve their maximum possible outcome. And there's a very short period after somebody joins a new organization in which their initial impressions of the organization are formed and in which you can very quickly engender the loyalty and engagement that you want to see from those people. And in order to unlock those, you really have to think about that onboarding experience. So it's not just really the purely logistical piece. I think the three things that people should think about are those moments of first impressions. And that applies to whether you're onboarding salespeople or not. A lot of the way that we think about this is we do some job interviews, we extend an offer to somebody, hopefully they sign the offer, and then we shake their hand and say, "welcome aboard." There are some critical moments in there where you have the opportunity to surprise and delight those people. And when you think about salespeople, particularly, they're highly motivated about their ability to earn, that's one of their big things. They're highly motivated about competitiveness, definitely. And so you want to find those things that are really gonna appeal to them in that first surprise and delight opportunity.

For example, when new people are joining our organization, we look for things where we could maybe send them something to say, "thank you for joining us." Or even, in the lead up to them accepting the offer, we can stay in touch, we can make sure that we're meeting their expectation about how quickly we respond to people. That's one of the number one complaints that you hear from job candidates. When you get to that actual onboarding moment though, this is your opportunity to welcomed somebody to the family. Things you can send them to read in advance, ideally through a system or mechanism that allows you to track whether they've done that. There's a high correlation between the people who take the time in advance of the job to do the reading and pre-reads and everything else that you've sent them, and their ultimate success on the job. So use it, not just as a way to onboard them, but potentially as a way to filter out the people that you think might be your future rock stars.

The second piece, I think, is really around the cultural side of onboarding, less than the logistic side. It's an opportunity to indoctrinate somebody into the culture of your organization and I don't use that word lightly. I think it can be both overused and a bit scary sounding, but every company has a culture and somebody joining it needs to figure out that culture on their own, if you're not out there providing the opportunity for them to learn it. It's really important for sales teams, if they're gonna be field-based rather than headquarters-based, because when you're based in headquarters and you're sitting in a room full of other people, it's easier to learn those small cultural cues. When you're out in the field on your own, it's very easy to not learn them. To feel like you're left out there and you're not supported by headquarters. So, the second thing is to really think about culture. For our field team, whether they're customer success coaches, or whether they're sales teams, we bring them into headquarters at the beginning, because it's really important for them to experience the culture first hand, and form those face-to-face, real connections, that means when they need something from somebody back at HQ, they know who to reach out to and that person knows who they are. They're not just a face that appears in an email inbox, they have some actual rapport and connection back to people.

The third thing is really about education. We don't often provide enough training for people at the beginning or we provide the wrong kind of training. And we think about training a little bit differently. In The Decoded Company, which was the book that we wrote, we talk about the concept of teachable moments. The idea is that our traditional corporate training approach is these giant monolithic training programs. We think, 'okay, we have a new cohort of sales people starting, we're gonna have them start all on the same day so that it's more economical, and then we can put them through three weeks of classroom training and it's just cheaper for us if everybody does it at the same time." So maybe we have everybody start once a month on the same day, and then we force them through this classroom training. The rate of retention on that type of learning is often below 60%. So you're actually wasting at least 40% of the training budget by forcing people to sit down and just go through this monolithic training program that tries to teach them everything that they're gonna need to know.

Onboarding can be a very progressive experience. It starts on day one, but it doesn't need to be complete within the first 21 days of somebody being hired through an aggressive training program that tries to stuff their head. When we think about teachable moments instead, what we're looking for are ways, ideally through technology, but not necessarily, to identify the moments when somebody actually needs to know something. That's when you're gonna get your highest return rate on that learning. So if you can intervene at those moments with a small training intervention or a teachable moment, and you can teach somebody something, just when they need to know it, instead of way in advance, then you can give them exactly what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Kevin: One thing that I got from that that I kinda beat the drum on regularly, is that I run a research organization that's all about candidate experience, and that whole experience, from a candidate becoming an employee and beyond, it's a continuous, never-ending process. It should be. And it should be constantly be improved upon, because we're having to be re-recruited to be retained on a regular basis as well, so I really like everything that you just said there. I like how the surprise and delight theme kinda, for me, really kinda rounds out those three things that you highlighted. Excellent advice in that regard. The last question I want to ask is related to what technologies and software platforms that you recommend for onboarding in the enterprise, Best-of-Breed or TalentSuite, or what do you think?

Jay: Well, I can't possibly not answer our own platform.

Kevin: I know, of course, right? I know- this is where we're going, it's alright.

Jay: So, our number one recommendation is definitely SenseiOS and so you can obviously learn more about it at and you can learn more about hiring there, specifically. We have a hiring guide that takes you through hiring for fast growth companies and a whole bunch of tips and techniques for doing that. You can download that guide for free, so end my plug there, but I would say that if you think about this as a process that needs to be managed, or a process that needs to be managed, depending on where you're from, then you can find any solution that allows you to follow through a checklist will really work in this situation. When we think about this, our checklist for a new hire, has actually over 100 things that need to happen for that successful start. And that was really a big surprise. When we sat down and really documented this and said, "okay, which teams need to be involved, what do they need to do, which pieces of information do they need, etc, etc." So, if you think about that as a set of things that need to get done, you can model this out even in something as easy as Google sheets and Google forms. There's a bunch of information that you need to collect up front about that new hire. If you build that a Google form that collects that information, then it's gonna populate it into a Google sheet for you, if you want to put it there, then you can create a sheet where you have the 100, or whatever it is, steps that you need to take to have a successful onboard, and if you create one for every new hire, if the first tab of your spreadsheet is all the information collected from the form, and the second tab is the 100 things that need to get done, and people use that as their tracking mechanism, then you've got a whole base for being able to make sure that people are following the checklist and getting through it. And it doesn't have to be Google, you can obviously do the same with Excel and whatever your productivity suite of choice is.

So this isn't really a tool-based question so much as it is a process question. The hard part about those solutions, rather than something like Sensei, is that the ongoing maintenance of that, if you think of it using kinda old-world language, it's the standard operating procedure or an SOP, so we have an SOP about how to onboard somebody in our organization, but because it lives inside of a system that treats it as a sort of living, breathing thing, when we make a change to that process and we say, "hey, you know what? Actually we're not gonna do the gift cards anymore" or whatever it is, then we only change it in one place, and it's immediately changed for everybody that gets onboarded past there. If you don't have a tool that really lets you manage this, one of the things you're gonna have to undertake is making sure that that remains consistent for new hires that start after there, and you only have one template that you're working from and not 17 versions that are marked "underscore final, underscore final, underscore changes" etc etc. But, I think if you can get away from that, then it's much less about tools for this and it is about really agreeing that you're gonna have a documented process. Then using every round of onboarding as an opportunity to test and learn. Did that work as well as it possibly could have? Where did we fall down? What could we have done better? We find that if we interview our new hires three months in, they have lots of suggestions about what we could've told them during onboarding that would've made their first three months better, that allows us to go back and update and optimize our onboarding process, to give them that additional information.


The other little hint that I'll give, is one of the things that we learned about onboarding that was really interesting for us, and I think you have to hit a certain level of scale in order to be able to do this, so if we look across the Klick family, Klick is our parent company, we're a little over 700 people now and we hire at a pretty fast rate. So we have, in any given week, we have anywhere from, say, 5 to 10 people who are starting. So one of the things that we learned, is we only start new hires on Mondays, only in our headquarters, and they are a cohort that we actually do a lot of work to create social connections between, even though they're completely cross disciplinary. We don't put them, as I said, through a monolithic training program, but we do introduce them to each other and help them form connections because all of them are new. That means that they have a group of new people that they don't feel embarrassed asking questions to or reaching out to help for. We've actually found, as a result of that part of our program, that those cohorts will continue to hang out. They'll go out for lunch with each other, they'll check in with each other, way after they've started at Klick, and even years after they've started, they're still a tight knit social group that relies on each other for support. So I would highly recommend that, especially if you've got field forces that are going through onboarding and you have a chance to bring them all together. Make sure that you're allowing time in that onboarding program for those really important social connections.

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