3 Tips to Increase Engagement From Your Reps During Training

Direct Sales
January 27, 2022
  •  
< 8 minutes

Stephen Rhyne

CEO

NOTE: This blog was derived from Episode 003 of The Rep's Journey podcast. To watch it, scroll to the bottom of this page, or click here 📺.

Introduction

You should think about your sales rep's experience when you plan your sales training and onboarding process.

How come?

The Rep Experience Matters

sales training in the office
Photo by Clayton Cardinalli

If you’ve ever been part of any sort of stage production, you know that the audience and the backstage crew have completely different experiences. The audience, ideally, gets what they expect - a show that holds together and provides an experience. Backstage, however, is rarely what you’d expect. Backstage exists to facilitate the show, and is designed holistically around it. The backstage crew knows that the show is paramount.

When it comes to onboarding sales representatives, they are the audience. You are the backstage crew, and the onboarding experience is the show. Just like backstage prioritizes the show, so should you be prioritizing your rep’s journey from onboarding and through training.

It sounds simple. Who doesn’t want a great rep experience? But in practice, lots of companies unknowingly find themselves focusing on optimizing their “backstage” departments. They set up recruiting, onboarding, or HR to function well as a unit while forgetting that at the end of the day, none of it matters if you’re not putting on the right show for your reps. You can have the fanciest reporting features in the world, but if reps aren’t finishing their training it just doesn’t matter.

This is why every sales meeting or demo with ConveYour begins with one thing: a focus on the rep experience.

The Challenge

man looking at iPhone
Photo by Nubelson Fernandes

Thinking in this way highlights one of the biggest constraints that companies face when recruiting - attention span. An individual’s attention span is like water in a bucket. It’s a finite resource, and if you’re not able to keep refilling the bucket, you can spend it all very easily. Even now, you, the person reading this, is probably weighing whether they want to keep reading this blog anymore. We make these decisions every day.

The attention bucket tends to be ignored when companies focus too much on optimizing each individual section of the experience. They’ll optimize recruiting, onboarding, and training and set metrics for each, but inevitably they get siloed, broken off into separate departments. This causes departments to lose sight of the show. They become focused on doing their individual task with the rep before passing them off to the next department. Each one exists in their own context, with their own goals. Recruiting gets the rep to sign on, then passes them off to onboarding and doesn’t have to worry about them anymore. Then onboarding picks them up and gets them their preliminary information before passing them to HR or training.

Each time there’s a hand-off, reps drop off. Companies often find that they lose reps in the “sinew” between the different sections of this experience. Somewhere along the way their bucket of attention was spent completely, and you were not able to generate enough interest or belief in them to continue further.

The reality of the matter is, reps do not want to have to think about these processes. They don’t have to worry about figuring out who to talk to get onboarded. They want the company to tend to the flow of this experience. We don’t want to see this happening anymore. It doesn’t help new reps and it certainly doesn’t help the companies they onboard with.

The Opportunities

With this challenge in mind, what are the rewards for overcoming it?

  1. Less recruits lost.
  2. Reps completing their onboarding quicker.
  3. Higher motivation and commitment levels.
  4. A tighter feedback loop with your reps.

Why Button Up the Experience?

a list of steps with the word "steps" highlighted
Photo by Clayton Robbins

The only person who truly knows the full experience is the rep. Everybody else in the process finds themselves working off the micro-version of that experience, focusing on their department with less thought to how it all connects together. Exceptions to this are the companies who have intentionally mapped out the experience front to back, and find themselves at an advantage in this area.

When the rep experience is disjointed or overly department-focused, management tends to deal with a lot of coaxing to get people to finish the process. This “back pressure” requires managers to grow into painful experiences, losing attention and motivation themselves. You risk the pain of these experiences exceeding their desire to grow.

When the rep’s experience has been fully considered and mapped out, you avoid these problems. That’s what makes it so important.

Tip #1 - Replicate Good Consumer Experiences

smiling woman purchasing something in a store
Photo by Clay Banks

A great first step is to model your rep’s experience after the best consumer experiences you’ve had. Consider products like TurboTax or Uber which have been revolutionary for their ease of use. They take you through the steps, ask relevant questions, show your progress, and even send gentle reminders to continue when you’re stuck. The result is something that is often difficult or tedious (doing taxes or finding a cab) turning into a simplified and streamlined user experience. It’s what makes them such successful products.

When you consider onboarding reps, it’s clear that they aren’t signing up for training. They want a job. Nobody is saying, “Yay, we get to onboard!” No, we have to do this to get you out into the field. They’d probably love to know when they can get out on the field. Cluing people in on your process will make it appear seamless. Wherever possible, make the process an enjoyable one for your reps. Treat them like consumers of your product.

Tip #2 - Reduce The Attention Needed And Raise Attention Level

Look for any way you can to reduce the  amount attention that’s needed from reps while increasing their attention level. If you use a ton of text in your content, for example, it can be overwhelming. In the year 2022, reps are likely to view training content on their phone, where they get all their notifications and distractions.

In this modern era, we have found that video is king. Present content in a way that your users are already engaging with on their phone. Consider that when they consume social media, they’re viewing a lot of graphics and videos. It makes sense, then, to stay consistent with that manner as much as possible instead of asking for endless scrolling and text-scanning from them. If it has to be text, be sure to break it up. Ask them to read for two minutes, engage quickly by asking a quick question, and move to the next section.

In completing this step, always ask yourself if your processes are spending attention or creating attention. Be on the lookout and sound the alarm when you see attention drop below a baseline level.

Tip #3 - Combine Interactions

Blur the lines between requirements and find ways to combine interactions.

Often, when companies treat the different phases of the onboarding process as separate departments on the backend, they appear just as separated to the reps who are experiencing them, rather than one cohesive experience. The rep does not care about your onboarding department or HR department. They just care about their experience.

What if where you sent them to watch an opportunity video is the same place they’ll be training? Where they’re already onboarded into the tools used in the rest of training instead of filling out applications or downloading more softwares.

What if a rep watches a belief-building video while filling out onboarding info? They could see a quick video testimony of somebody who was successful after onboarding, and then proceed to finish signing up. This blurs the line between onboarding and training.

People want to be congruent with the time investments they make. Reps are constantly making risk/reward calculations while onboarding. If they get board or don’t learn enough about the position, they can leave.

Of course, there’s the argument of, “If they don’t have enough attention, I don’t want them.” But this assumes that they left because they’re not capable of paying attention. But what if they had have more enticing opportunities waiting at their doorstep? Can you be sure that your company didn’t fail to stand out enough?

While they’re training, ask them questions and generate feedback on what they’re doing. Take a poll of your work force. Ask about the challenges they’re facing and make them think about the experience they’re having.

When setting out to blur lines between experiences, avoid behaviors that further divide your reps’ attention. They should not have to download a new app or learn a new piece of software in order to generate their feedback. Keep it in-line with the software they already use. Don’t overwhelm them with hyper-messaging from different departments. This can be worse than no engagement at all!

It can be a tricky balance, but the experience needs to provide one task at a time while giving them an understanding of where they’re heading. Keep it linear without burying the lead. Tell your reps what you need from them next, while reassuring them that it’s going to help get them where they are trying to go.

The Call to Action

secret shopper
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Be a “secret shopper” for yourself. Get into the experiences outside your department. Take recruiters to onboarding, and vice versa, so they know what the rep is dealing with. Cross-learn all of the steps and ask those around you to do it too.

You’ll find the holes in information and efficiency. You’ll see where you repeat yourself. If you lay out the whole experience, let everyone see the rep’s journey and where reps can drop off. Contact your department heads and ask for their processes, the steps, and what they need to accomplish to get to the next step, and then find the overlaps and the holes there.

Watch the Blog


The content from this article was derived from The Reps' Journey, Episode 003. It was compiled and re-worded by Andrew Baldis.

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