4 Proven Ways to Accelerate Sales Rep Ramp Up

Steven Weston
September 28, 2016

(This article features commentary from Jack Drew, VP, Sales at Codeship)

If you are building an inside sales team, chances are you are hiring a couple of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). Whether you are on SDR hire #1 or #30, it is imperative that you have an effective onboarding system in place that promotes learning and development from day one.

Effective ramp-up will set the tone for your company's growth and the success of future hires, and helps you identify potential mis-hires more quickly. Additionally, it will reduce employee churn, especially with millennial workers.

In a study by PWC, training and development outranked a number of employee benefits including cash bonuses as a measure of employee satisfaction among millennial workers. This data point is significant. In fact, the study states that “the number choosing training and development as their first choice of benefit is three times higher than those who chose cash bonuses”.

The current industry average SDR ramp up time is 3 months. In our opinion, that is far too long. With the right training and curriculum in place, we believe you can cut that ramp-up time significantly. After speaking with hundreds of sales leaders, we’ve put together 4 simple ways to reduce your team’s ramp-up time.

1. Create a detailed daily schedule for new reps

Oftentimes, your new SDR hire will have 0-1 year of experience. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a very specific outline of what needs to happen each day, especially during their first week. SDR training should be SDR-specific. Many times, SDR training is coupled with advanced sales training and can oftentimes become information-overload or confuse the new hire about the duties of the job that they will actually be performing. In tech sales it’s hard enough for a new hire to learn about the solution they will be selling, let alone learning about their job duties. Don’t overcomplicate things!

Here’s a great example from Jack Drew, VP, Sales at Codeship:

“Starting on their first day, quickly getting SDR’s productive is vitally important.  Like at Codeship, if you have invested in these FTE’s, your selling model hinges on successful professionals at the MoFU stage.  Product context needs to be provided to the SDR’s during the training process of course.  However, initially maintaining focus on the attitude, behaviors, techniques and tools they need to master will get them quickly ramped and yielding results.  Map out the training program for your SDR’s and get the sessions on their respective calendars.  Utilizing a safe, internal environment with role playing is a great way to get everyone comfortable before letting them loose on leads. Training exercises, quizzes, certifications, and required reading should be incorporated into your curriculum as much as possible.”  

2. Create a structured curriculum that is stored in an easily accessible place

Do you have one place where your sales reps can access, utilize and review their curriculum? It is imperative that your reps are able to find and refer to past training to improve competency and confidence. We have seen organizations set up google drives and wikispaces with hyperlinks, powerpoints, videos and PDFs. This is a start, but the best systems we have seen are companies that implement an LMS (Learning Management System) to keep all training materials together.

An LMS is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses or training programs. This will allow real insights on things like who has completed training, how long it takes an individual to complete training, and who is going back to reinforce learning, as well as test scores. With these types of insights, you can focus on what skills an employee needs help on, and who is taking training seriously, thereby allowing you to identify high-achievers and underachievers quickly.

Take a look at some of these LMS’ that sales teams are using:

  • LearnDash
  • BridgeLMS
  • Matrix
  • BrainShark

3. Promote and implement metrics-driven sales training

Having a data-centric training program will allow managers’ insight on how long ramp up is, what material is being viewed, and the areas where reps need the most help. This will allow you to look at what is working and what is not, putting you on the right road to reducing ramp-up time, areas in your training that can improve and identifying mis-hires quicker.

In his book, Mark Roberge, CRO of HubSpot and author of “The Sales Acceleration Formula” does a fantastic job of highlighting ways that sales organizations can utilize a scalable, data-centric training process to predictably ramp up sales reps.

Jack Drew weighs in again:

“If you have hired-well, your SDR’s are goal-oriented and eager to get started.  During the interview process – and reinforced during the training program – make sure they know exactly how they are going to be measured, how to keep score, where to look to get real-time updates on their progress and how this is helping the company achieve its critical business goals.  

Remind them of their value to the company and that their hard work directly translates into success for the entire team.  Connecting their dedication to career advancement and business impact are also key.  Creating company-wide transparency in your CRM or BI platform should be embraced by the SDR’s and everyone needs to feel good about this norm.  Great SDR’s can become outstanding Reps if they are well-supported, embrace your playbook and enjoy chasing down numbers.  Give them the context for how their goals were established, how they are going to make money and how their efforts are going to help rapidly scale the business.”

4. Have them do Homework before they start

Having your new hires do a couple of SDR centric exercises before they start will get them in the right mindset for the role and help the ramp up faster.  On the first day, have your new SDRs bring in their homework so that you can go over it with them. It’s ok if they don’t get it right the first time. This is a great way to start coaching them right on the first day.

Homework assignments also show trouble areas quickly. Some areas to evaluate include “are they asking the right questions to get the assignment right (intellectually curious)”?  How do they take feedback (coachability)? According to Tomasz Tunguz’s write up “The Biggest Areas of Underdevelopment in Saas and Sales Teams,” it takes a manager, on average, 3-6 months to discover a mis-hire. Don’t be part of the industry average, take steps to get in front of potential mis-hires, and accelerate the contributions of your most promising new hires.

We've put together a simple homework assignment to give to incoming SDRs.

You can download it for free here!