There’s a right way and a wrong way to onboard a vital, high-level employee like a Sales VP- and then there’s the real way. How your company onboards new employees all depends on the size of your business, the resources you have available for training and the rate of growth you need for the sales team to succeed.

At a large enterprise, most new executives and other employees usually follow a strict, formulaic onboarding process including weeks of sales training and HR formalities conducted by a special training department that onboards new employees full-time. But what should onboarding be like for a Sales VP who works at an SMB instead of a Fortune 500 company?

The Reality

If you don’t work at a massive, multi-national corporation, the business probably won’t have the luxury of a month-long training and onboarding process. While it would be amazing to offer extensive training to a new Sales VP, the reality is that SMBs can’t invest as heavily in onboarding executives. A Sales VP is a vital employee who needs to be ramped up quickly and start work yesterday. At a high-growth startup company like InsightSquared, for example, a new Sales VP often has a mandate from the CEO to make changes to the sales team to hit aggressive sales goals. That requires a leader who doesn’t waste time – one who jumps in, is productive from Day 1 and will deliver value to the sales team almost immediately.

Hire for Results

Not every Sales VP out there can work in this kind of fast-paced environment. The key to successfully onboarding a new Sales VP at a SMB begins by hiring the right candidate from the start. Even though a VP from a bigger company may be talented and know how to get great sales results, he or she may not be the right person to come on board at a startup. SMBs need to recruit people who are agile self-starters – leaders who are already used to taking a small amount of information and hitting the ground running. This new VP may have already led a small sales team to success, and should be able to demonstrate exactly how to achieve the same results on your sales team quickly and efficiently. A small, agile sales team needs an agile leader who moves fast and adapts quickly to change.

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Product, Process, People

If the company has hired the right candidate, your company should offer strategic training on the resources and tools a VP needs to succeed. Every Sales VP must understand the inner workings of the sales machine, specifically three key aspects: the product, the sales process, and the people and personalities that make up your organization. The product is often the simplest thing to understand – a new VP simply has to watch a demo of how the product works and what it does, learn how it fits into the marketplace, and understand the competitive comparisons. For an experienced Sales VP, this should be easy to learn quickly.

The sales process and the personalities, however, are more complex and often inextricably linked. For sales, it’s incredibly important to understand how marketing hands over new leads, how reps follow up and close deals, and how it all fits together in the sales process. This also includes the company’s value proposition, talk tracks, the ideal customer profile, and much more.  A new Sales VP also has to sit in on a lot of meetings, read the sales playbook and other internal documentation, and have a lot of honest conversations with employees. The internal workings of the organization are also affected by the personalities of the people who do these jobs, and every Sales VP needs to understand how marketing interacts with sales, whether there is any conflict or if the two departments are well-aligned. As the new Sales VP understands this byplay, there may be areas that need improvement and places where the sales process can be optimized.
Understanding the nuances of how a company is run, and how the sales team functions takes some time to figure out. However, a great Sales VP will start to understand the company quickly, integrate into the culture and ramp up to full capacity in just a few weeks. There may still be things to learn, but with a quick onboarding process, the right Sales VP will be successful at your company.

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