How To Create an Effective AE Onboarding Process To Set Your New Account Executives Up for Success
Wouldn’t it be great if a new account executive (AE) quickly grasped your business and started winning customers right away? Regalix’s research found that 73 percent of organizations observe an average ramp-up time of one to six months for their sales reps.
That’s quite a long time.
An AE’s job is challenging and requires an effective onboarding program to help them learn your business.
For any organization, onboarding is a crucial activity that eases new employees into their job and sets them up for success. According to Talent Board, 83 percent of organizations have invested in an onboarding system.
Account executive onboarding is essential as their performance directly influences your business’s growth. The number of customers an AE wins directly impacts your revenue. And a great AE onboarding program ensures your sales executives are trained well to handle independent negotiations and win customers.
The state of AE onboarding has dramatically changed as most employees now work remotely due to the 2020 pandemic. You need to adapt to these changes to create an effective onboarding program for your AEs.
Keep reading to learn how AE onboarding has changed and how to design an effective training program to adapt to these changes.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Benefits of effective AE onboarding
- How has onboarding changed?
- 4 essentials AEs need to succeed
- Onboarding tactics to set up your AE for success
- Final thoughts: the state of AE onboarding and tips to onboard a new AE
Benefits of effective AE onboarding
Designing a top-notch onboarding program will not only help your AEs, it will also have a huge impact on your business. Let’s see how AE onboarding benefits your business.
Improves sales and revenue
The number of customers an AE wins directly impacts your revenue. A proper sales onboarding program accelerates learning. According to the Talmundo onboarding survey, 51 percent of respondents feel that onboarding has improved their time to proficiency.
Through an in-depth onboarding program, AEs gain a deep understanding of products and customers. It helps them identify customer pain points and close opportunities faster.
Product training also helps AEs understand the unique selling points and value proposition of the product. It helps them convince customers better and bring in better deals.
Reduces employee turnover
An effective onboarding program makes new employees feel at ease and valued at their workplace. According to Harvard Business Review, onboarding can make or break a new hire’s experience. A bad onboarding experience may result in employees quitting early.
If you have an effective onboarding program, your AE will stay longer with your company. You’ll have high-performing AEs who know your business, improving your sales and revenue.
Helps employees succeed
New reps are eager to make their first sales and prove their worth. A good onboarding program lessens their anxiety and gives them all the necessary tools to succeed. Being successful at a new firm makes them feel confident and happy. It also results in better team rapport.
Improves employer’s reputation
When your new employees are happy, they have a better chance of referring others to your company. That improves your reputation as an employer while attracting new talent.
How has onboarding changed?
The state of AE onboarding has changed in the last few years, especially after the 2020 pandemic. Software Advice says 82 percent of employees started working from home.
As a result, a large part of AE onboarding now happens virtually. According to Regalix's research, 57 percent of companies have revised their onboarding process to work in a remote environment.
Remote onboarding has many challenges since in-person interaction is so limited. But it’s also incorporated the latest tech — like artificial intelligence (AI) — into the onboarding process.
The Great Resignation of 2021 started a trend of high employee turnover, and the significance of onboarding is higher than ever.
To reduce employee turnover, you need to design an onboarding program that helps your AEs succeed.
4 essentials AEs need to succeed
Your sales onboarding should include all the essential components an AE needs to succeed in a competitive market.
1. Foundational sales skills
You need to start with the basics and make sure that your new AE has all the essential sales skills they need.
Excellent communication skills are crucial for sales reps, especially with a remote sales process. Your onboarding program should include basic training in communication skills. It should also include training for remote collaboration tools.
An AE needs to think quickly and solve problems in real-time. Excellent problem-solving skills will help the rep tackle sales objections. It also helps them to identify solutions for customer pain points.
Data plays a significant role in the sales process. The onboarding process should equip your AE to read and interpret sales data. It’s essential to back up sales claims with data to convince customers to buy.
2. Business-Specific knowledge
Your new AE may have experience in sales, but they’re still new to your business. The onboarding process should ensure your new AEs ramp up on business-specific knowledge.
Knowing the product is essential for an AE to win over customers. They should understand various aspects of the product, such as its:
- Competitive advantages.
Target audience and competition
Account executive training should include an introduction to your target customers. To successfully close a sale and optimize your performance, they need to know your:
- Buyer personas.
- Ideal customer profile.
- Subtle qualifiers and disqualifiers.
Your new AE should also have a thorough understanding of your competitors and how your product differentiates from theirs.
Sales and business process
Every company has a unique way of selling its products. Your AE may be well-versed with sales paradigms, but they need to learn how things are done in your company.
For that, the AE should develop a deep understanding of the following:
- Sales methodology.
- Existing relationships with each account.
- Account handoff practices.
- Expansion plans for existing customers.
3. Company knowledge
Along with the basic sales skills and product training, your AE onboarding process needs to offer company-specific knowledge. By sharing your organization's vision, mission and goals, you can make your new AEs feel part of, and therefore more invested in your business.
The onboarding should also include activities that convey your work culture and values. It’s a great idea to include training on company best practices and team bonding activities in your onboarding process.
4. Cross-Functional knowledge
Account executives rarely work in isolation. Sales development representatives (SDRs) complete the prospecting and hand the customers over to your AE.
Your AE then needs to hand over the closed-won opportunities to customer success. They also need to work with marketing from time to time. Cross-functional knowledge will help your AEs navigate the organization easily and achieve their goals quicker.
Now let’s go over how you can create an effective onboarding program to help your AEs succeed in their new role.
Onboarding tactics to set up your AE for success
Onboarding is a continuous process that starts the moment an AE accepts your job offer. You can finish a lot of groundwork before your new employee’s first day. For example, you can:
- Get all the legal documents and job contracts signed by your new hire.
- Send a welcome email or gift.
- Get your employee to sign-up for your company’s learning management system (LMS).
Once you’ve sent the initial set of information and docs to your new AE, you can carry on with other important milestones in your onboarding process.
Make an onboarding roadmap
It’s a great idea to make a clear roadmap for onboarding and share it with your new AE. An onboarding roadmap with clear timelines doesn’t just save time — it also prepares your new hire for learning.
Your onboarding roadmap should highlight the type of training and your AE’s schedule. It should also include achievable milestones like completing a training module or a mock sales presentation. Ask for feedback from your new hire so you can adjust your onboarding roadmap if needed.
Set the right expectations
You need to set the right expectations at the very beginning of the onboarding process. Tell your AE what to expect from the process and what you’re expecting from them. Share meeting and training schedules well in advance to avoid confusion.
You should also convey what the major onboarding milestones are. It could be completing a training module or shadowing a specific number of sales calls.
Make the New AE feel welcome
A job change is a stressful time for anyone. A warm welcome from the team will help your new AE feel at ease. It’s no surprise that it’s challenging for remote or hybrid teams to bond. So, you need to go the extra mile to make your new hire feel comfortable.
Here are a few things you can include in the onboarding process to make the new hire feel welcome.
- A warm welcome email from the supervisor/manager.
- A fun online meeting with the team members.
- Regular assessment meetings to learn how your new rep is doing.
- A virtual tour of the office and premises.
- A welcome gift or handwritten notes.
Set achievable milestones and track progress
New AEs might be eager to win the first sale and prove their worth. But they shouldn’t rush the first sales call. The onboarding plan should clearly define performance milestones. You need to set challenging yet achievable milestones for your new AE.
But too much hand-holding or micromanaging isn’t a good idea either. Instead, let your new hire learn the ropes and develop their unique style. Clear milestones with a certain level of autonomy will help your AE feel valued.
Introduce them to business tools
Tools are an integral part of any business. Your onboarding should include sufficient training on tools so that your new AEs don't waste time figuring things out by themselves. Here are a few tools the new hire needs to master to perform independently.
- Employee benefit tools.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) system.
- Project management tools.
- Remote collaboration tools.
- Analytics tools.
Documenting business processes and tool usage doesn’t take much time. You can use software like Scribe to turn your business processes into step-by-step guides. With Scribe, you just need a few steps to create onboarding guides for free:
- Download the Scribe extension.
- Record your process.
- Scribe converts them into a guide, complete with instructions and screenshots.
Scribe saves you hours of manual documentation, video recording and in-person walkthroughs.
Offer sales coaching
Conducting effective sales calls is a top skill for an AE. So sales coaching should be a major part of your onboarding process. You can include live and recorded sales calls in training.
Shadow live sales calls
Shadowing live sales calls will give your new AE a sense of how things are done in real life.
Let your new AEs listen in on live sales calls and note the key points. Later, they can analyze the call and learn from it.
Asynchronous learning through recorded calls
Listening to recorded sales calls can help your AE learn at their own pace, especially in a remote environment. It's a great idea to create a playlist of important sales calls, such as:
- Sales discovery calls.
- Customer onboarding calls.
- Support calls.
Arrange mock sales presentations
An AE needs to make excellent sales presentations to win customers. Online sales presentations could be more difficult compared to in-person presentations. Including mock sales presentations and role-plays will help your AE learn faster.
Role-plays will also help AEs practice handling tough sales objections. According to Regalix's study, 56 percent of participants said role-play and practice pitches are the most effective onboarding techniques.
Final thoughts: the state of AE onboarding and tips to onboard a new AE
An effective onboarding process is essential for your new account executives to win customers. The 2020 pandemic has changed the state of AE onboarding. Onboarding has become virtual — and that comes with many challenges.
Your new AE onboarding program should focus on the skills and techniques that an AE needs to succeed in a remote environment.
- Sales skills.
- Business-specific knowledge.
- Knowledge about the company.
- Cross-functional knowledge.
Effective onboarding starts way before day one. The process should make your AE feel welcome and offer knowledge of your company’s sales processes and tools.