In the ever-chaotic world we live in, there has been plenty documented about the movement to “remote” or “virtual” selling – a shameless plug, you can find a recent article I did on this here

One area that has not been discussed in as much detail is the impact on sales recruitment and onboarding, something we are seeing back on agendas, especially in growth markets such as software and tech.

The virtual world provides its own challenges, and opportunities, when it comes to scaling sales teams. Here are some thoughts on how to overcome these challenges and leverage opportunities when recruiting and onboarding.



I am no recruitment expert, and there is no doubt plenty of resources out there showcasing how to best conduct the interview process remotely. However, from a sales perspective there are a couple of points worth raising based on conversations we are having with clients.


What does success look like

When looking to add to your sales team, what does a successful salesperson for the role (AE, SDR, BDM, AM etc.) look like? Have you captured what good looks like in terms of behaviours and profiles that are required to succeed in your organisation, team and role? Companies that have a clear set of core competencies are able to recruit against these specific behaviours and profiles, increasing confidence and likelihood of a successful hire.



During the current climate, there is an opportunity to transform the sales culture within your team, recruiting talent that adds to the culture you are looking to build, e.g. more proactive. The virtual environment allows us to develop and integrate new team members effectively without any influence from those who are against change, who in an ‘office’ environment may have diluted of nullified the impact desired.

Culture is an interesting topic, and Celine Grey, a Sales Enablement Global Lead at Peakon, highlighted that there is currently a debate on “Culture-fit” vs. “Culture-add”, with the later promoting diversification of the team – for those interested, Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas is a great read.



Once you have successfully recruited for your sales team, a structured onboarding process is required – something that can often be attractive for potential employees.


Onboarding Process

HBR highlight that “organizations with a standardized onboarding process experience 62% greater new hire productivity, along with 50% greater new hire retention.”

Celine adds that “Sales onboarding is not about knowing everything there is to know in 2 or 3 weeks. It is about knowing enough to reach 80% performance and learn the rest on the job. As a salesperson it is critical that onboarding includes learning the ecosystem that the company operates in (market, persona), a consultative sales methodology and product training based on customer benefits. Along with these building blocks, a key part of onboarding is connecting the tools, processes, and people.

The competency framework highlighted previously now becomes an effective onboarding tool, used for coaching specific behaviours relevant to the individual and role. Along with the ongoing coaching, it is also important to identify what tasks are better learnt on the job (e.g. writing a proposal) and include in the onboarding process.



Depending on who you ask, onboarding can last anything from 2 weeks up to 12 months . The reality of it is there is no perfect duration, and it should be tailored to your organisation, role and individual. Some pointers to think about.

  • What is the average time to performance (target) for new starters?
  • What are the milestones that need to be hit pre and post achieving target?
  • What levels of competencies do they need to be exhibiting at each stage to lead to success?

You need a solid set of metrics so that you can measure progress and evaluate the success and how each stage of onboarding is impacting milestones, Celine highlights ones such as; time to first outbound, time to target / ramp time, conversion rate, time to 5 x pipeline. Along with these metrics the sales managers should be having regular performance reviews, using the competency framework as a framework, to ensure the new members are supported in their development.


Sales Process

You will hear me consistently highlighting the benefits of a sales process and, again, this has a big part to play during onboarding. One of the biggest challenges of onboarding remotely is the fact you lose out on the team being able to learn through osmosis and observing others (social learning). A formalised process provides clarity on what is expected of the individual and when, linking relevant tools and templates. Celine adds to this by mentioning that from a leadership perspective observational performance does not work anymore, with the sales managers not being able to “walk to the floor” and manage through observation. As such a structured approach to performance management is critical – of which a sales process is a fundamental element.

CSO insights identified that having a defined sales process lowers sales turnover and provides faster ramp/on boarding time. At SBR we have seen a 50% reduction in ramp up time in our previous clients where a sales process exists.

When developing your recruitment and onboarding strategy consider the value and impact of reduced ramp up time and increased employee engagement on sales performance. How are you enabling, tracking, and measuring this?

If you would like any further insight and ideas, always happy to discuss.

Tim Hillier, Principal Consultant (


For further guidance on sales recruitment and onboarding during this period, please get in touch by emailing or call us on +44 (0) 207 653 3740.

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