So, you’ve vetted the state of the current job market in the midst of COVID-19, seen that there’s still plenty of available talent to add to your sales team, and made a new sales hire.
Maintaining momentum in your sales funnel is key to ensuring the stability and, ultimately, the survival of your business. Adding new members to your sales team can help with this effort, but only if your ramp-up period is well-put-together and helps your recent hires bring in value quickly. As a result, finding ways to shorten your ramp-up period can be crucial during a market downturn.
Fortunately, there are strategies and tools available to help give your new sales hires the perfect ramp-up period. Through a mix of assiduous coaching and wise balancing of priorities, you can get your new sales hires up to speed fast.
What Is a Sales Ramp-Up Period?
A sales-ramp-up period is defined as the amount of time it takes for a new sales hire to reach full productivity and begin providing value to your sales team. Under normal circumstances, this is typically between six and nine months. However, the final number will vary based on a variety of factors, including the profile of your new sales hire, the type of sales quotas you’re using, and market conditions.
A sales ramp-up period will encompass preliminary onboarding, client handover, product training, and tech stack instruction. By the end of your ramp-up period, your new sales hire should not only be at full productivity but also feel embedded in your company culture.
Know Who You’re Hiring
You can lay the foundations for a successful sales ramp-up period before you’ve even made a new sales hire. The length of your sales ramp-up period, and the immediate effectiveness of your new hire, is heavily contingent on the profile of the sales professional you’re bringing in.
For example, inexperienced sales reps will have a naturally longer ramp-up time. They’ll have a lesser grasp of industry best practices, may be less familiar with industry-standard tech stack items, and may need extra time to refine their sales technique. But younger sales reps can make up for that lack of experience with drive, hunger, and an openness to learn.
However, experienced reps make the best hires during turbulent times in the market, mainly because they take less time to ramp-up. They possess more know-how under pressure, will probably have better tool familiarity, and often come to the table equipped with knowledge about your market. They’re easier to trust with high-quality leads and will begin providing value more quickly as a result.
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Learn Where Your New Hires Can Add Value and Tailor Their Onboarding Accordingly
One key to tailoring, and shortening, your sales ramp-up period is knowing where your new reps can add value before they begin.
Carefully assess the changes in your prospecting or your sales funnel due to the recent market dip:
- Have you seen a lower number of enterprise-grade prospects since the market downturn? Or a higher number?
- Have you found that your social sales funnel is now more/less effective?
- How have your sales team’s new business/expansion priorities shifted?
Get an accurate lay of the land around your sales funnel, and then adapt your onboarding and ramp-up process accordingly. A highly experienced rep with a lot of enterprise-grade deal experience will need a different kind of ramp-up compared to a rep whose primary focus will be securing expansion revenue.
Similarly, if you’re bringing on board a relatively inexperienced sales rep who is great at getting deals through your social sales funnel, adjust your ramp-up accordingly.
Estimate Their Ramp-Up Time
There are some fairly steady rules for estimating ramp-up time, but they’ll need to be dynamically adjusted in a market downturn. The first thing to consider is that there is no concrete sales ramp-up period length, nor can ramp-up time be empirically “calculated.”
However, you can estimate ramp-up time using the following methods:
- Time equivalent of two sales cycles (our research suggests that, for SaaS, one cycle lasts around 96 days) — one for training and observation, and one to complete the first sale.
- Time required to fulfill quota 100%.
- The usefulness of this ramp-up method can also vary based on how quotas are adjusted during the current market downtown (i.e., if the sales team moves away from profit-based quotas and more toward activity-based and expansion quotas, you’ll find that completing ramp-up may not be representative of a new sales hire at “full” productivity).
- Time required to fulfill your training program plus a single sales cycle length, with the new sales hire’s experience subtracted.
This final method of estimating ramp-up time is the preferred means of doing so during a market downturn. It can provide you with a much more accurate picture of the “readiness” of your new sales hire to bring in value and is made all the easier to estimate if you have a defined sales coaching program. This is particularly true in the wake of COVID-19, where sales cycle length can become more variable, and the ability to adjust more valuable.
During hard times in the market, measuring ramp-up time can also take on a prescriptive element. To figure out when you need a new hire to begin providing value, factor in your rep’s experience and familiarity with the existing tech stack against the health of your sales funnel. For example, calculating sales ramp-up time for a highly experienced rep with good market and tech stack knowledge (who could probably afford to skip those passages of training) might look like this:
(Onboarding + All Training Periods + 96) - [Days Equivalent to Training Periods B + C]
In this formula, ‘Periods B + C’ might refer to any parts of your training program that your new rep is already very familiar with. This way, you can avoid wasting extra time on things your rep’s familiar with, devote more time to things like sales process instruction or sales presentation and get your new sales hire introduced to the selling floor faster.
Prime Your Tech Stack
Making lots of additions to your tech stack in a market downturn is not advisable from a financial perspective; additionally, it can make sales ramp-up periods longer. However, the right tools can reduce the length of this period.
It’s a question of data. Both the kind of data that your new sales hires will need to use and the kind that tells you how they’re doing is of vital importance during market turbulence. Having the correct data on hand will allow you to reduce sales ramp-up time and course-correct any new sales hires straying from the right path.
Sales coaching tools
A great sales coaching program can sharply reduce ramp-up time, and what you have in your tech stack plays a major role in this.
That’s why you should invest in remote-work-friendly, low-lift solutions like:
- Deal Hub. This solution gathers together all of the client context surrounding a deal in progress. It’s excellent for assessing sales process effectiveness and managing handovers and customer success.
- Conversation Intelligence. This solution is excellent for observing flaws in selling techniques, improving your reps’ sales language, and identifying deal risk in real-time.
- Zendesk Sell. If you want to invest more in tech during the downturn, you need to focus on a tool that will let your sales pros make more out of leads and create better customer relationships. Sell is that tool.
Sales funnel visibility tools
Your sales funnel is your company’s most prominent vital sign during a market downturn — if it’s doing well, you’re doing well. For that reason, having a tool like HubSpot Mktg Funnel is excellent for acquainting your new hires with their role within the sales funnel and generally giving your team better visibility into the general state of new business.
Diversify Your Coaching
You can also shorten your sales ramp-up period by being sharp with your coaching. Break your ramp-up period sales coaching into basic stages and then get creative within them.
Preliminary Onboarding and Tech Stack Instruction
Work with HR to standardize onboarding materials. Create accounts and credentials, welcome packs, and initial training videos for your new sales hires so that they’re ready to begin onboarding right away.
In remote circumstances, giving your new sales hire this positive start is vital. Pair your new hire with an “onboarding buddy,” preferably a sales professional of a similar type from the same sales team who can help them learn the basics of your product and market and feel at home in the company.
Good sales managers coach; great sales managers teach and encourage their sales professionals to coach one another.
Product Training and Introduction to Sales Strategy
The aim with a compacted sales ramp-up period is to give your new sales hire a vital sense of how your product and customers relate to each other. To make full use of existing resources and reduce ramp-up time, use the same tools you use for client onboarding to introduce your new sales hires to your product from their side. It may need some tailoring so that your new hire’s feel for the product is not excessively specialized, but there’s no quicker way to get your new hire into your prospects’ headspace.
Once your new hire is acquainted with your product and why it’s great, introduce them to the basics of your sales process. Begin with the basics that all your sales pros need to know about — typical length, typical buyers, and how they’re distributed along value lines (i.e., how many enterprise-grade, how many low-end, etc.) — and then customize. Integrate socially-oriented sales hires straight into your social team, and get them familiar with the marketing personnel they’ll be collaborating with.
For new sales reps who’ll be tending to business in a more traditional manner, have your new reps spend part or all of one sales cycle shadowing an existing deal. Pair them with one of your top performers and have them sit in on every call, review every piece of email correspondence, and study transcripts and videos from successful meetings. Immersing them in your market can give them a sharper feel for their new duties versus a series of great keynote presentations or videos (which are both important, for the record).
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Get Them Selling
Whether you can afford to let your new hires go through a complete cycle before they start selling will vary from company to company. Above all, be cautious as to when you introduce new sales hires to your cycle.
After you’ve taken the principal steps above, ask the following questions:
- Is this rep going to target high-lifetime-value (LTV) prospects, or will their focus be on increasing market penetration by going for a high number of lower-end prospects?
- How have they performed in tutorials/call shadowing during ramp-up?
- How much experience do they have with our market and our tech stack?
You may find that your sales funnel is demanding; that your new hire needs to start providing value before a full sales cycle is up. You can’t afford to waste high-quality leads on unprepared reps. However, if your new sales hires are experienced enough, you may want to get them into the action earlier. Though it may take reps six months or so to get up to full quota, that doesn’t mean they can’t begin progressively building to that value earlier.
Continue to coach, regardless of when you consider the sales ramp-up period complete. This is a vital step for keeping your sales organization and business responsive to unexpected changes in the market or any of your new hire’s needs. Remember: It pays to be more accommodating to your new hires, particularly if you’re putting them in the deep end earlier than you’d prefer.
Coaching will benefit your whole team when new reps’ techniques surface key new client insights (think behavioral changes or pain-point shifting). And the turbulence in the market may make the initial months difficult for even assured, experienced reps. Continue coaching to maintain morale.
The Recipe for Preparation
Often, when we try to pursue the “perfect” solution for any given problem, we come up against the fact that there is no single best solution but a variety of them, based on the individuals and circumstances in question. So it is with the sales ramp-up period.
Times are tough; your new sales hires might be of any number of different profiles; your sales needs may be less urgent or extremely pressing. These will all affect what the “perfect” sales ramp-up period looks like for your sales team. The key is to arm yourself with the right data that will allow you to proceed with the correct balance of caution and decisiveness.
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