In the B2B world, managers and team leaders have developed tried and tested programs for onboarding new hires in the office, but the shift to a remote workforce has shaken up the sales onboarding process as a whole.
As more and more companies, especially in the tech realm, move to digital-first environments, so have the job postings for Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), Business Development Representatives (BDRs), and other sales professionals. Organizations are now hiring for fully remote workforces and are therefore shifting to virtually onboarding their new employees.
We’ve rounded up the key things that you should know about virtual sales onboarding, the advantages and challenges, and the tools to help you through the process.
- 1. Is Virtual Sales Onboarding Here to Stay?
- 2. How to Ace Sales Onboarding in a Remote Work Environment
- 3. Challenges of Virtual Sales Onboarding
- 4. Advantages of Virtual Sales Onboarding
- 5. Tips for Managing a Dispersed Workforce While Remote
- 5.1 Build an Online Resource Guide
- 5.2 Have a Group Prospecting Session to Help Break the Ice
- 5.3 Embrace Social Opportunities to Foster Team Culture
- 5.4 Celebrate Team Wins
- 5.5 Use Asynchronous Video to Your Advantage
- 6. 3 Tools to Help with Virtual Sales Onboarding
- 6.1 Fellow
- 6.2 Vidyard
- 6.3 Gong
- 7. Build a Stellar Sales Team with Digital-First Opportunities
Is Virtual Sales Onboarding Here to Stay?
The digital transformation of the last few years has shifted the traditional in-person sales industry to a virtual realm and the data so far points to many organizations choosing to stay remote, even after the global pandemic is over.
Companies have realized the cost benefits of not having a traditional or dedicated office space. Many conversations can effectively occur over video, and a reduction in corporate travel has had an additional positive impact on company spending. Whole workforces have now gone remote or hybrid and virtual sales onboarding has become the norm.
In 2020, we saw the use of one-to-one video creation increase by 471% and expand throughout the entire sales process—including post-sales and support—as remote selling became the norm.
We believe remote selling is here to stay and with it, virtual sales onboarding.
How to Ace Sales Onboarding in a Remote Work Environment
The virtual sales onboarding process can be a challenge if you aren’t prepared. An important part of making sure the onboarding process runs smoothly from the start is coordinating with your IT team to ensure that all new hires are shipped (or can pick up) everything they need at once.
Some things to include in your new hire packages:
- An equipment list of everything they should have received to set up their home office properly
- Detailed instructions on how to sign in to all the proper applications on their computer
- Instructions on how their first day will go, who to report to virtually, and how to do so
- Bonus: Include some corporate-branded swag to welcome the new hire and make them feel part of the team
“On the first day, have new hires sign on to the virtual workplace and get everything they need from HR before they move over to meet their team. Feeling settled and having clear expectations will impact morale and how they start their job. Have a plan for equipment and for how you’re going to structure those first few days.”
Ellen StaffordVidyardDirector, Presales & Solutions
For remote sales onboarding, make sure new hires have clear expectations laid out for them of what the onboarding entails and what the desired outcome will be both for them and their managers.
Avoid the old school way of just handing over company material, asking them to read it and then giving a test. If you want your employees to succeed, have checkpoints throughout the onboarding process. Clearly document what you expect them to know at the end of each onboarding session and allow time for questions and discussion.
Being a new hire in a job like SDR or BDR can be tough, especially if you’re starting at a remote workplace and don’t get to meet anyone in person. So making sure everything’s clear, expectations are set, and employees know where to find what they need should be your top priority for your team.
Challenges of Virtual Sales Onboarding
One of the main challenges of remote sales onboarding is that visibility into the sales process can be limited from the rep’s perspective.
Back in the in-office environment, sales reps were able to immerse themselves into the action. Normally the sales team as a whole would be stationed in a pod or section of desks where new hires were able to hear a senior member during their interactions with customers. By allowing the new hire to soak in all the information and context of what it’s like to make a cold call, do a demo and how to handle objections/rejections—the learning process can be fast-tracked.
Any rep’s job can be tough, and this can be especially true for BDRs and SDRs. The role requires a person with high energy to be up to cold call and email customers constantly, plus complete all the tasks they need to do. So, if they don’t have the energy coming from their team to help build confidence and learn new skills, it can be a challenging transition. That’s where documented and shared team tricks and tips can come into play—managers need to find ways to make sure that new team members are encouraged, embraced, and supported from all sides.
Another thing to note is that SDR and BDR roles can often be “entry-level” roles. Some people do have sales experience but not in this type of remote fast-paced environment. Sometimes, managers are going to have to teach not only how to do the job itself but also how to work professionally in the digital-first world.
Advantages of Virtual Sales Onboarding
For organizations, there are many advantages to virtual sales onboarding, including expanding the hiring pool and the scalability factor. And for candidates, it means a whole new world of job opportunities.
Companies are no longer restricted to the pool of talent that they’re operating in. Now that hiring managers can pull from bigger cities while working remotely, they can find candidates whose experience is much more extensive than the talent that’s potentially in their local area, allowing them to raise the bar from a sales talent perspective.
Take Vidyard, for example. Based in Kitchener, Ontario, we’ve historically been restricted to the hiring talent pool in our area, but now that we’ve gone digital-first, we’re now hiring out of Europe and across North America. People are coming to us with relevant experience from all parts of the sales world, and we’re capitalizing on that.
Onboarding remote sales teams has also forced hiring managers and team leaders to begin to rethink their hiring profile and become more in tune with what soft skills are aligned to independence.
In remote work, it’s more important than ever that sales team leaders look for people who are autonomous and trustworthy. Those skills will help anyone progress in sales in general and have always been important, but they’re even more so now that employees don’t have that direct face time with their manager to ensure that things are moving along.
So hiring individuals who can take more ownership of their success and professional development is a definite advantage both for the company itself and the new hire. By encouraging a sales team to be relentlessly resourceful during the hiring and onboarding process, a team will be set up for success in the remote world.
Tips for Managing a Dispersed Workforce While Remote
Managing a dispersed workforce while remote, especially one with brand new sales reps, can be challenging. Luckily we’ve got some great ideas for keeping your team engaged and your onboarding process a success.
1. Build an Online Resource Guide
A good practice to start when managing a dispersed workforce is to extensively document the questions that new hires and reps frequently ask. If a question comes up more than two times, make a self-guided resource for that question and create an easy and accessible online folder for this resource.
Whether the FAQ guide starts with two questions or grows to 50 questions, ensure that it has a table of contents, that it’s all online, searchable, and streamlined. Then, when a new hire goes about their workday, that resource can act like that person that would have been next to them in the workplace.
When creating the document, don’t just add text. Use video to screen record examples and create on-demand videos to watch. It’s a lot easier for a rep to watch how to do something and learn it quickly than to just read about it.
Now, when you’re onboarding larger groups, it becomes a lot more scalable. Having a way to continue iterating and building upon a foundation of resources is very important. Build based on what you’re hearing from the reps. Your team resource guide will start as a reactive process and then become a proactive measure by implementing it into practice.
“We’ve made it a big priority to extensively document the questions that we’ve been asked by new hires and team members. If a question comes up more than two times, make a self-guided resource for that topic that your team can access at any time.”
Ryan FramptonVidyardManager, Emerging Sales Team
2. Have a Group Prospecting Session to Help Break the Ice
After you’ve trained the new hires to use some of the software in your sales funnel (like Salesforce, Outreach, Vidyard, etc.), schedule a video call and invite some of your longstanding sales reps to join as mentors.
Together you can immerse the new hires into some of the sales processes and show them how to build accounts. Have the mentors walk the team through the process of prospecting and encourage them to share any advice they may have.
One activity to try with the group is to have everyone stay on the video call but turn their microphones on mute, and listen in on a mentor as they cold call a prospect.
This group session is a wonderful way to help simulate that live environment we used to have in the office. This way new hires can have conversations with team members and ask questions more organically. It’s usually helpful if you designate a veteran rep to help facilitate the conversation.
3. Embrace Social Opportunities to Foster Team Culture
One of the biggest challenges about switching to a remote workplace for many sales teams has been the social aspect, or lack thereof, and change in team culture.
When onboarding a remote sales team, it’s important to schedule social time for the team and new hires. Block off some time on a Friday afternoon to have a team “happy hour,” arrange for the team to take a remote cooking class, or have a weekly or monthly team breakfast. Anything that can get your team together and talk about something other than work can help people get to know each other.
If your team uses Slack, there’s a fun feature called “Donut” which can automatically pair up your team members for a one-on-one get-to-know-you-style conversation. You can set the parameters to happen once a week or every other week, and employees can decide if they want to participate. It’s another great way to foster social opportunities in the virtual world. Knowing your teammates isn’t just important socially; it’s important for growth and business success, too, so make it count.
4. Celebrate Team Wins
Back in the old days, when a rep closed a deal, we could all celebrate together—making the win even better. Unfortunately, one thing we lose in the virtual workplace is the ability to high-five a coworker, go out for a team drink or ring the celebratory bell.
Celebrating a win isn’t just about congratulating the rep who closed the deal, though. Yes, it’s partly, but it’s also about instilling pride in our employees and a friendly competitive edge to give the rest of the team drive to be celebrated too.
Figure out what works for your team, or better yet decide as a group how you want to celebrate wins in the remote workplace.
5. Use Asynchronous Video to Your Advantage
In the first month of onboarding, there are many things that new hires have to do, like HR programs, learning about the product, understanding corporate guidelines, and strategies, etc. Asynchronous video is an excellent opportunity to record the lessons and messaging so that any new hire can watch and learn on-demand.
Once they’re further along in the process and start the virtual onboarding process for the rep, set up weekly action items for them to accomplish. Assign them a project to record four asynchronous videos of fake prospecting calls or talking to a customer about a pain point. Have a manager or team lead review the video on their own time and then give the rep feedback through text or email. This way, at the end of the assignment, the new hire has that documentation to look back on and use for advice going forward.
Onboarding a sales team virtually will become an easy process if you embrace the tools out there that have been created to help you. There are many but these are the three tools that we think will be most helpful in your virtual sales onboarding process.
Fellow is a tool that helps to manage meeting agendas, personal and team to-do lists, and more. There are great and easy-to-use templates for meeting agendas and checklists that can sync to both your Google calendar and Slack channel conversations.
When your team’s growing, keeping track of all your conversations can get very difficult if you’re not documenting them. Using a tool like Fellow allows you to not only see your projects and agendas but the rest of your team’s as well. It keeps everything documented in one place.
Vidyard is a free tool that lets you record and share videos in your emails and sales cadences. It’s a great asset for sales teams to use both for internal communications and at any point during the sales funnel with prospective or current customers.
When onboarding a sales team, especially one that is frequently hiring, having the ability to record asynchronous videos with a tool like Vidyard is key.
As a hiring manager or team lead, you can’t necessarily run a full onboarding program every week when someone new joins. With Vidyard you can leverage on-demand video to give new hires a visual guide on how to work a certain software or an answer to a frequently asked question. Connect with employees after they’ve watched the videos to answer any follow-up questions and connect on any topics that weren’t clear.
Back in the office days, sales teams would often use call splitters for training purposes, where you’d plug into the caller’s phone, and the trainee would listen in on the call with headphones. Now we have tech that can do that and more.
Gong automatically captures your customer interactions—recording, transcribing, and analyzing all sales calls and demos. From there, you can see if it converted into an opportunity. It also provides insights so you can identify deal risks and churn risks early.
Using a tool like Gong makes cross-training with team members accessible and easy. Another great learning example with Gong is to keep sales calls on file that were prime examples of a customer conversion (or bad examples) and keep them in your resource guide for new hires to listen to on their own time and study.
Build a Stellar Sales Team with Digital-First Opportunities
As long as you have a process in place with clear and concise guidelines for virtual sales onboarding, it can be a positive experience for the team. Through the remote world and the tools at our fingertips, we can transcend our in-person limitations, embrace sales reps that can cover new time zones, acquire a team with broader experience, and work more efficiently. Celebrate diversity on your team, use video to your advantage, and enjoy your wins because there are more coming.
This post was originally published on April 19, 2021. It was updated on March 8, 2022.