Improving ramp time for your reps can be a key revenue lever, but you have to know where you're starting. Here's a how-to guide for determining your team's current sales ramp up time.
What is sales ramp up time?
An all-star, proven sales rep is hired. Everyone is excited. We calculate their contribution to revenue as starting today. This scenario is not uncommon, but it does not account for the time it takes to fully onboard a seller into a new company -- also known as sales ramp up time.
In a nutshell, sales ramp up time is the time it takes to from the day a new seller is hired until the day they reach full productivity. Even for experienced, seasoned sales reps, it takes time to learn a new sales process and/or methodology, key buyers and their pain points, and the product they are selling….but methods for calculating the average sales ramp up differ by the company.
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Why does the sales ramp up period matter?
The sales ramp up period is a critical time in every seller’s tenure with a company. It can be the make-or-break time in a rep’s career -- a great ramp up period sets the seller up for success, while a sub-par process can have the opposite effect.
How do you calculate sales ramp up time?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to how we calculate the average sales ramp up. Ramp up time depends on the complexity of the market, sales process, and product that a rep is selling. It can also depend on the length of sales cycle and availability of support and resources during the ramp period. A longer sales cycle, for example, will give reps fewer opportunities to learn on live calls, so their average sales ramp up may be longer. On the other hand, a simple product to learn and use could vastly shorten a sales ramp up period.
Here are three popular ways to calculate ramp up time:
The most common way to calculate ramp up time is by looking at time to quota. Our customer Xactly looks at the historical average for time-to-quota across all new sellers, and uses that as the benchmark for average sales ramp up. This method is simple and means that what worked for past sellers should work for this new one.
Another popular way to calculate ramp up time is: Onboarding time + 3 Months + average sales cycle length. This allows the seller to understand the basic onboarding of their new company, such as policies, personas, and product lessons; three months as a base for the average sales ramp up; and one sales cycle length to get practice under their feet. After that point, a sales manager should consider them full quota.
Lastly, we see many sales teams ramping new sellers by building an onboarding plan that caters to the experience level of each one. If a seller is very experienced in the market (thus, has less to learn about the buyer), or if she is a previous customer of the new company (thus, has less to learn about the product), the sales ramp up period can be shortened to meet her needs
What does a sample SDR ramp plan look like?
To answer this question, we turned to one of our favorite SDR team managers, Chris O’Connor. In his current role, Chris runs a tight, 3-month sales ramp up period to get his SDRs up to speed, fast.
In month 1, Chris puts zero expectation for performance on his new SDRs. Their key goal during the first month is to fully understand what they are selling and who they are selling it to. Specifically, new SDRs are engaging in these activities:
Spending a lot of time with the product and support teams, understanding the ins and outs of the product. Although SDRs do not give demos in this role, they must be ready to position the product and the needs it solves at any time on a call with prospects. Since they are the first face (or voice) a prospective customer may meet, they need to be ready to answer all questions.
Exposure to current customers actually using the product. This often means riding shotgun with a customer to see how the product is actually used in their day-to-day life. This gives them a real-life story to reference on the phone when a prospect says “But how would I actually use this?”
Studying buyer personas, doing LinkedIn research, shadowing AE and SDR calls. New SDRs must be confident that they understand the pain points, goals, and challenges of each person they catch on the phone.
In month 2, Chris expects his new SDRs to get some traction without operating at full productivity. In his words, his new SDRs must prove out some “shots on goal” during the second month. During this time, new sellers must understand what the sales conversation and process sound like and they work on fine-tuning their elevator pitch. Activities second month SDRs complete:
Begin outbounding activities to start seeing those “shots on goal.” If you don’t try, you won’t make it.
Practice, practice, practice. Month 2 involves strenuous role play between Chris and his new seller, as well as pairing sellers up with each other. Frequent, structured 1:1 coaching is critical during this period to ensure the rep is getting the consistent feedback loop he or she needs to thrive.
Elevator pitch teardowns. Each SDR pitches the product for the team, ready to accept feedback and constructive criticism from the group.
In the third and final month of the sales ramp up period for his team, Chris still includes a ramping quota (aka not full quota) but expects his new SDRs to begin putting real numbers on the board. He needs to see 100% activity scores to show the effort is there, and connect and meeting rates should be increasing daily as the seller gets more and more comfortable with those conversations. After three months, which Chris looks at as his average sales ramp up, he expects full quota attainment for each new SDR on his team. He maintains a rigorous schedule of 1:1 coaching sessions to ensure he and the seller are always on the same page regarding wins and challenges.
Whereas many SDR managers look at the ramp up period as a time to weed people out, Chris prefers to hire only the best and look at that time as his best opportunity to set new sellers up for success. Frequent coaching and full visibility into performance are his keys to ensuring each new SDR on his team is on the right track.
And importantly, understanding the KPIs that signal a seller is making progress towards full productivity is a necessary element to success for a ramping seller.
How long is the average SDR ramp time?
According to The Bridge Group, average ramp (from hire to full productivity) sits at 3.2 months.