I'm Ashli Bontrager, and I'm Senior Sales Enablement Manager at dormakaba, a global access and security solutions firm.

I'm really excited that Sales Enablement Collective reached out, and that I get to connect with you today on sales onboarding 101. If you've never built onboarding, then this presentation is for you.

Let’s dive in. 👇

The goal? Get reps ready to sell - FAST

You don't have to search very much on Google in order to find stats on why onboarding is important. DePaul University says that it takes about $115,000 to replace a sales rep, and there's also a moral obligation to give that new hire everything that they need to be successful and to get them ready to go - fast.

So how can we make them feel great about the decision to join your company?

First step could be sending them some merchandise, giving them their materials (laptops or whatever you're going to set them up with) on time and right away.

It could involve, if they're up for it, a virtual coffee or going to a restaurant to help them connect with coworkers before they even start, something like that to meet the team.

Those are options companies are using in order to get people ready to go right away.

And what about once they've actually started? These are the questions that we're going to be going through today.

The sales rep is asking:

  • Who is my company?
  • What do I sell?
  • Who are my customers?
  • What's on my to-do list?
  • What am I working toward?
  • Where do I go from here?

Below I’ll show you an overview of the process that we took in our company to build sales readiness onboarding. Then, I'll walk you through how to answer those questions and what that might look like for you.

Process overview

Align with sales leaders

First of all, you want to start your onboarding build process by aligning with sales leaders on their vision. What does “done” look like to them?

I love the quote that Brene Brown had in her book Dare to Lead. She says that as a team, they use the phrase “paint done”.

It's a question - “please help me paint done” is a question that you’d ask to the person assigning a project to get a better feel for their vision, scope and what they're expecting to see at the end of the project.

So you want to get that vision out of those sales leaders.

You want to know what their ideal sales rep looks like. What can they do? What are their skills? What does that persona look like?

If you have more than one sales role in your organization, then you might need to build more than one persona.

And then of course, there's those KPIs for onboarding - what KPIs are the sales leaders hoping that great onboarding is going to support? You want to know those in advance.

The common ones that I hear a lot would be reduced ramp time, for example - we don't want it to take forever to get that person selling, we want to get them selling right away. So that's one.

Where are the reps in regards to quota? How are they performing? What kind of revenue are they generating? How are they retaining customers?

Measure the before and continue discovery with the sales reps

They’re general sales KPIs, so figure out from your leadership what those are, and then measure them now.

Before you get started. We need to measure the current state.

My husband and I are famous for doing projects around the house and forgetting to take “before” photos and then it's done and we think: “Oh, we didn't do a before photo!”.

You need a “before” photo of what the situation is right now, then you're going to continue that discovery with the sales reps.

Think of it this way if you've ever had a baby or a puppy, and you're waking up a million times at night, you’re dealing with a lot of pain. Then the puppy gets bigger, or the baby grows older, and then all of a sudden, they’re sleeping through the night and you forget about it.

Then not too long after you say: “Hey, let's have another baby!”, or “let's get another puppy!” because you forgot about that pain.

That’s why I like to talk to sales reps, because my impression is that sales leaders sometimes have new problems, a new focus - they've got something else to think about and they’ve forgotten the pain of that tactical day-to-day of the sales rep.

So you need the sales reps’ perspective as well as they're the ones doing it every day. You need to hear from them about what that new hire needs to know.

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Understand what content exists and where

We now have a list of what new sales reps need to know, and we need to find out what content exists and where it exists.

It might be, if you have a larger organization, that it could be anywhere. It could be in HR, it could be in marketing. A lot of times it might be on Bob's computer!

Who built what? Who has a sales presentation that they built lying around?

I’ve talked to sales reps (across different companies) and they've built their own sales presentations or their own slides for this or that.

We want to get those slide decks in our hands. We want to get those resources, those cheat sheets that they're building, and compile them. If you have a learning and development department, they might have some content too.

So we want to grab those things, then we're ready to match up what goes with what. What skills have we taught on our list of needs versus what we have content-wise.

With that, we're ready to face those holes and build content.

Subject matter experts

You then want to gather your subject matter experts (SMEs) to you - whether that be on product knowledge, technical knowledge, you might need some sales coaching expertise - you want to get your team of experts and start building content.

What I like to do is:

  • Build something
  • Go back to them and say: “Is this what you said? I have this idea, does it work? Does this not work?”
  • Go back and keep building
  • Circle back with the subject matter experts again.

We keep working like that until that content is completed, and once I have all the content pieces that I need, it's about organizing them into a prototype of where it’s all going to live.

Build a prototype and gain approval

In our organization, we use the sales enablement platform Showpad, and that’s where our sales readiness onboarding lives.

A prototype might look like a flowchart, it might look like a spreadsheet. Have a sample layout with all the types of resources that you have ready to go, and circle back to your sales leaders and those sales reps and gain their approval before you actually take the time to build the whole thing out.

Final buildout and optimization

After I’ve gained approval, I'm ready to do a final build out.

I want to say -  at this point it can be discouraging when you're a perfectionist or really detail oriented and have a great vision of what you want onboarding to be, and your reality is not measuring up with your high-level vision of something glorious that jumps off the screen.

I want you to take heart that this is an iterative process.

You're gonna keep optimizing it, you're gonna keep improving it, you're gonna cycle back. We at dormakaba are probably on our third cycle back on some of the roles that we've created onboarding for - and that's just in the last year!

So be encouraged, you’re getting a structure and a foundation built, and then you're going to circle back and keep improving.

It's not a one time process.

So that’s a look at the overall process from start to finish - let's start to answer our sales reps’ questions from earlier.

Answering sales reps’ questions

Who is my company?

Starting with “Who is this company that I work for?” which fits into the bucket of organizational training.

Some organizational training might have happened under the bucket of HR, and obviously they're going to have that employee handbook, those paperwork pieces, the benefits and things like that.

At our company, when we do a company overview, that's a combination of HR’s responsibility and sales enablement’s, because HR is doing a company overview for all employees but we certainly want our sales reps to be part of that.

In the past, my boss, the lead of our sales enablement and sales excellence department has co-held a meeting with HR and gone through:

  • Company history
  • Company values
  • The solutions that we offer

So that might look like a combined effort, or it might be completely on you as sales enablement.

I wanted to throw in here that it's a great idea to plug in a tour. We have a virtual tour option, ready to go that we’ve plugged into our sales readiness onboarding that lives in Showpad.

If you don't have that option, there's maybe another way that you could do it -  take a video, even a FaceTime, and do a tour of your office because what you want to do if you have an actual brick and mortar office, and are not a fully remote company, is bring in those remote employees and make them feel really at home.

As a remote employee myself, I feel really appreciative when I feel at home at my home office.

So give them a tour, bring them in, and make that part of your company overview.

Then, we have industry training and that’s something that really falls in the bucket of sales enablement. You're going to start to train them on:

  • What is this market?
  • What is the big picture?
  • Where does our company fit?
  • What is our go-to-market?
  • What is our strategy?
  • What special initiatives do we have going on right now?

We're talking about the big picture, who we are, where we fit.

What do I sell and who is my customer?

After you've covered your organization, the “who is my company?”, we're ready to face“what is my product?”and “who is my customer?”.

For product training, what is my product?

  • What is it?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • What pain point does it really address for the customer?
  • What value does the product bring?
  • What additional value plays do I have as a sales rep that I'm going to add in addition to the value that the product innately brings?

If you're dealing with technical products, and whether that's software or an actual physical product that is more technical, you're not going to be able to expect that your sales rep is going to understand all the ins and outs of that product in the first three weeks.

You want to give them the resources to help - make sure that they’re connected with the right SMEs who are going to be able to answer any and every question that they have, or that might pop up from a customer. Prepare them with that.

If you have any cheat sheets, any material, any videos, make sure that those are accessible.

I like to build a sheet that shows who their contacts are and the phone numbers to call, or the different product information, the factories where our products are made, putting all that information in one place so they know exactly where to go.

Those pieces of information need to be able to be downloaded, so they can use it as a desk reference right for that just-in-time learning. As soon as they need it, they can grab it.

And then what about customer personas?

  • Who is your ideal customer profile?
  • What channels does your company sell through, or what verticals?
  • What is the overall landscape of your buyer?
  • Who are the different decision makers that your sales rep is going to need to connect with?
  • What does that process normally look like?
  • What type of value do you bring to each of those players?
  • What are the motivations of each of the personas in that buyer’s landscape?

One thing that I love to include is voice of customer data, whether that is success stories with your customers, slides of successful past purchases, or so on.

A few years ago our company hired a third party that did some recorded interviews with our customers in various channels, and that’s my favorite thing we have, I love to use those.

We're allowed to use those internally as a training piece for our sales reps and I love for them to listen to those audio recordings and just peek behind the curtain and understand what's going on in the mind of the buyer.

If you can facilitate actual conversation with some of your top customers that you have great relationships with, and walk through a discovery meeting as part of that training, or if your customer would agree to recording a discovery call that you would use later in training, that would be fantastic as a way to help sales reps really get an understanding of what's going on in that customers world.

What is my job?

And so now you're ready for “what is my job?” and similar questions like: “What role do I have?”, “what am I supposed to do?”, “what skills do I need to have?”.

Those items really fit into three buckets that I like to use:

  • E-learning
  • Virtual (or live, in-person) shadowing
  • Demonstration of skills.


When we're talking about e-learning, these are some things (not necessarily in order of importance) that fit really nicely into our e-learning bucket.

One is a recorded walkthrough of the sales presentation or slide deck, and what I mean there is not simply a recording of a sales presentation (although that's also great), but a walkthrough of what you’re expecting the sales rep to say and what type of interaction they’re needing to have with a customer on a given slide as you're walking through the entire process.

Others include any materials that you'd like them to have, any downloadable PDF cheat sheets, those are great for an e-learning platform.

Also great is something explaining what the elevator pitch or “story” that your sales reps needs to tell your customers, to get them ready to share that pitch - overcoming objections too, talk about what types of objections are commonly going to come up in that sales presentation so that your sales rep can lay the foundation of overcoming those in advance.

What I mean when I say a sales conversation map is the sales methodology that your sales reps will need to walk through.

For example, the Sandler sales method is a great conversation map (a way of interacting with your customer no matter what product you're selling).

The Sandler method has the upfront contract, for example, and they have all these different ways of interacting with the customer so that conversation map would be something that you'd want to include.

What about the buyer's journey? Who interacts with the buyer and where in the sales process? Provide that information so that your sales rep can have an end-to-end understanding of where that person is going.

Customer discovery questions are important too, so the sales rep can learn how we can open up the conversation and what we need to find out from that customer.


Virtual shadowing involves having your new hire shadow top sales reps on live sales phone calls and sales presentations, or in-person going to the place where your customer is (whether that's a distributor’s office or to the actual end user).

I wonder what you all think about this one minute rule in my mind.

In college, I had a director and instructor who would say that for every minute that you are on stage in a performance, you need to have an hour of rehearsal.

So if a full play is 90 minutes, there needs to be 90 hours of rehearsal.

I was thinking about that and thinking for let's say for a 30 minute sales presentation, you want your new hire to experience at least 30 sales presentations in advance of actually giving that first 30 minute presentation themselves.

I’m wondering what your thoughts would be on that but I think that that rule could apply! You want them to experience a lot of sales presentations, a lot of customer interaction, so that they're feeling really confident.

In a virtual setting, if you are a software company or selling software, you could really facilitate that quite easily. Maybe even with any product that you're doing a virtual presentation on.

The more practiced your sales rep is, the more ready and armed they are, and the more relaxed they're going to be in that customer conversation.

And they’ll be able to actually get the sale because they’ll feel at home in their own skin coming from a good place, if they're prepared.

If they're not prepared? Lack of preparation breeds fear.

With cross-functional shadowing, we love to do cross-role shadowing and cross-segment shadowing.

In our company, we have multiple business units so that might be shadowing people in other business units, or if you're working with enterprise accounts, mid-level accounts, then letting them shadow along that chain so that they can get an experience of what different customers are like at the different levels.


We also have demonstrations. So at some point, we need to start riding along with the sales manager, taking portions of that sales presentation until we're getting the whole presentation, etc.

We want to demo for our peers, demo for our leaders.

And then also don't forget customer feedback. And this demonstration piece, in terms of riding along with the sales manager, peer ride alongs and getting customer feedback, those are ongoing and could go on forever, because there's always room for improvement.

You want to create that optimization of that particular sales rep’s skills and that's a great way to set up for that.

Tech stack

So then, let's look at the tech stack, and this is about knowing your audience. Our audience is more hands on and needs a little bit more of a boost when it comes to learning our sales enablement platform, which is Showpad, our CRM, which is Salesforce, and other tech tools that we might use.

We have found that we need to say it, say it, say it and by the time we're tired of saying it somebody's just starting to learn it.

So don't hesitate to repeat, repeat, repeat. We’re currently doing automated training with live follow-ups, as we found that that's the best way.

We recorded our training and we sent them out as a course to the employees in Showpad, and then after the sales reps have taken the course we meet with them live and in a way that they can share their screen.

They can have their camera on and we can really dive into the questions that they may have.

My personal preference is virtual training for a virtual tool, I’ve experienced being squished next to somebody trying to train them on Salesforce, and we're both hovering over the same laptop, it's not comfortable!

So I am a proponent of doing virtual training for virtual tools.

Ideal sales rep

Last thing, ideal sales reps.

Now they're trained up, they're three weeks in, they're four weeks in, and you need to set the path for them.

Have the vision of who you want them to be, inspire them with what the best sales reps look like, and paint a really good picture of “done”, ike Brene Brown says,

I heard it for the first time from Showpad, and I know other companies do it as well, you can add the next career step to onboarding.

After they're done learning their role, immediately start training them on the next role, that gives them a vision for where they're growing and what their career growth looks like.

But it also creates a backlog of qualified managers now, so continue training them and start prepping them for the next role.

How do you close the training feedback loop? We want to get feedback from the employee on how the first 30 days went, and then we also want to circle back with the manager to tell them what we've trained on, we want to make sure that they know that you're there to help them with the next step.

So that is a look at onboarding!

Thank you.