7 Onboarding Best Practices for Sales Development Representatives
There’s a reason that onboarding is such a hot topic in the sales world. When onboarding runs like a well-oiled machine, it benefits your reps, your team, your company, and your bottom line. When onboarding is unstructured, unmeasured, or just a complete mess — well, it’s bad for business and flat-out painful.
Advantages to effective SDR onboarding
It can take an investment of time, energy and other resources to build out an effective SDR onboarding process, but it’s 100% worth it. A solid onboarding plan will:
Significantly reduce ramp time
Decrease the risk of turnover and burnout
Clarify and manage expectations
Drive culture and foster healthy relationships
Provide objective measures of success (and areas that need improvement)
7 onboarding best practices for SDRs
The reason onboarding is so tricky is because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. How to onboard the “right” way is really dependent on your specific circumstances, and to be honest, it’s a bit of trial and error, too. But with that being said: there are some general best practices that every single sales team should follow.
And lucky for you, we’ve outlined them below! Here are 7 best practices to follow as you create (or iterate) your SDR onboarding process.
1. Actually have a process
Okay, this seems like table stakes, but we just want to make sure we’re all on the same page: the sink-or-swim, baptism-by-fire approach generally isn’t effective, which means you’re going to miss out on all those advantages we outlined above. A formal, repeatable onboarding plan is a must-have. It doesn’t guarantee success — there are still plenty of pitfalls in a well-laid plan — but it’s a necessary starting point.
A formal plan includes clear goals and expectations, timelines, KPIs and measures for success (which we’ll unpack below). Many orgs follow a 30/60/90-day plan, setting benchmarks or key checkpoints for each of those periods.
And keep in mind: your onboarding plan shouldn’t just live in your head or on a top-secret manager checklist. It should be written out and easily accessible for all your new reps from day one — or earlier.
2. Personalize (to a point)
Having a process doesn’t mean you’ll sacrifice personalization or flexibility. While you don’t want to reinvent the wheel for every new SDR, they’re unique people with different strengths, weaknesses, and levels of experience in sales and in your specific industry.
It may just be a matter of personalizing goals and benchmarks. Or, depending on the size of your sales org, it may make sense to create a few different onboarding “tracks” — e.g., one for entry-level SDRs — perhaps with a longer timeline and stronger focus on basic sales skills and training — and one for more seasoned reps.
3. Cover the right ground
There’s a lot to learn when you’re starting a new gig, and that’s especially true for sales. Even for SDRs who have been in a selling role before, there’s going to be a learning curve.
Some things your team will learn through osmosis, but it’s also not a bad idea to ask your reps to come prepared on their first day with a basic understanding of things like your company mission and values, your product or service or offerings, the industry landscape — and lots of questions! In other words: encourage them to do some homework and self-learning.
But you’ll want to spend time training your new team members on some key areas that impact their success. That includes:
Your sales process or methodology
Your tech stack
The nitty-gritty of your product or service — history, features, roadmap, etc.
Buyer personas and pain paints
Key messaging around your brand and your product or service
Sales collateral — where to find it, how to use it
4. Track and measure
There aren’t a lot of “sales best practices” that don’t include track and measure; the same goes for onboarding.
From the very beginning, be 100% clear with your reps what’s expected of them and when. Also make sure that they know how their progress is being tracked and that they can access it at any time. (Sales dashboards and scorecards come in handy here.)
Specifically, you’ll want to set regular activity and objective targets like you do with all of your SDRs, allowing for a reasonable ramp time until they hit full productivity. That might mean a regular percent increase week-over-week in activities, as well as some longer-term objectives that you expect to be achieved at the 30/60/90-day benchmarks.
Real-time visibility is key here, so that at any given moment, both you and your new SDRs know if they’re on track to meet or exceed the goals you’ve set.
5. Coach (a lot)
Obviously this isn’t just limited to onboarding. Weekly 1:1s should be happening with every rep. But you may be spending extra quality time with your new SDRs while they’re onboarding — but that’s no substitute for a coaching session.
Don’t use that time for performance reviews or those 30/60/90-day checkpoints. Instead, give them the benefit of true coaching, where you’re focusing on their development, helping them overcome challenges, and guiding them through open-ended questions that promote self-learning and awareness. That time will also speed up the development of healthy relationships with your new folks and build a trusting foundation from the start.
6. Foster collaboration and connections
Onboarding responsibilities shouldn’t fall to your existing SDRs — but a rising tide lifts all ships. They have a vested interest in getting their peers up and running as fast as possible so that the whole team can hit quota. It’s also great for culture and morale; it’s important to give your team opportunities to get to know each other and feel connected.
Set aside time for peer coaching. It doesn’t have to be formal: they can be simple 1:1s or coffee chats. Or consider having your new reps shadow their colleagues. Whatever you do, make it part of your plan — something that’s expected and measured — so that it actually happens.
Does your onboarding process need work? See how Ambition reduces ramp time so your reps are at full productivity, fast. Get a demo!