Part One: Hiring & Onboarding

We’re embarking on a month-long series aimed at outlining the five areas of sales performance management (SPM) and ways you can improve your company’s SPM strategies using all the tools at your disposal. 

effective sales performance managementIn a dream world, all new sales hires would be going and getting the moment they agreed to their offer letters. And they would perform spectacularly to boot, understanding clients’ needs perfectly, filling their pipelines to brimming, closing deals like wizards. On the other hand, reality can sometimes feel more like a crapshoot, where only one in five new hires turns out to be worth the time and cost spent recruiting him or her. In the worst-case scenario, the cost of a bad hire can quickly escalate into the hundreds of thousands when factoring in the costs of hiring, training, replacing, and perhaps most devastating, lost opportunities.

All of this is to say, an effective Sales Performance Management strategy for any company, big and small, begins with effective hiring and onboarding practices. Because let’s face it: you can’t afford to get it wrong with your frontline revenue generators.

Sales Hiring

Bad hiring begets high turnover. According to the Harvard Business Review, 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. And unless an intervention occurs, this figure is not going to go down. Fortunately, companies can make the active effort to improve their hiring practices, especially in an age where nearly all aspects of the job searching and talent acquisition processes can be accomplished virtually.

Automated resume screening and searching, a practice adopted by nearly all Fortune 500 companies, can effectively winnow down the applicant pool by 50%. These programs scan resumes, searching for keywords that generate snapshots of applicants’ backgrounds, sometimes disqualifying them on the spot. It can cut the cost of hiring a new employee by saving on the time that would otherwise be spent manually filtering out resumes. Plus, objectifying the process removes human bias. In the next few years, more and more companies intend to increase their use of automated screening and searching, according to DDI’s Global Selection Forecast 2012.

Prescreening through the use of online assessment tests has also started to gain popularity among hiring managers. According to Gartner it is wrong to correlate past selling experience with future selling success. And yet, past experience is the only information that can be gleaned from a resume. With assessment tests, you can find out right off the bat what your candidates’ sales styles are, assess them for how well they’ll fit in with the rest of the team, discover whether they can truly be champions of your brand. These factors all contribute to the long-term success of a sales rep.

Speed up the hiring process by conducting interviews online. This can be done two ways: in real-time, where the interviewer is face to face with the candidate, or ‘answering machine’ style, where the candidate records answers to preset questions. According to the Aberdeen Group, 10 candidates can be interviewed in the time it takes the recruiter to conduct one phone screening. The group also discovered in its 2011 Talent Acquisition Study that 42% of its respondents were using some kind of web-based video during its hiring process. More telling, this figure increased dramatically from the previous year, where only 10% of respondents reported using video.

By using technology to filter out most of the ‘noise,’ you can be assured that the remaining candidates have cleared the hoops of a rigorous, fact-based hiring process and are all reasonably qualified for the position. Your company has saved money, and you and your recruiters’ valuable time.

Sales Onboarding

Once your new sales star has been hired, you must train him or her to run with the bulls. Onboarding, the time it takes for a new hire to be fully “functioning” is a process some companies take more seriously than others. But get this: according to Sales Architects’ 2012 Salesperson Onboarding Survey, those companies who expressed greater satisfaction about the success of their onboarding programs have longer, more structured, and more comprehensive onboarding periods.

But first things first, the onboarding process also involves all the typical new hire tasks: the background check, accreditation and licensing checks, enrolling for benefits, setting up direct deposit, etc. Forms, forms, and more forms. By simply collecting all of these forms in one portal, workflow can be simplified greatly, resulting in a manageable grasp on an already overwhelming start period.

Build an onboarding agenda with clearly defined goals broken up by lengths of time. This can be as granular as you think necessary: daily, weekly, monthly, the intervals of time will likely increase the further into the onboarding process the sales rep is. It can also be as personalized as you’d like. Remember those assessment tests the rep took? Take advantage of that information by customizing the training to address weaknesses. While this may sound daunting, quite a few online tools exist that are specifically designed to tackle this process and serve as the backbone to your company’s onboarding cycle. They offer the comprehensive and rigorous structure a program needs, as well as technological advances like the seamless delivery of information, progress tracking, and coaching.

According to Harvard Business Review, the maximum amount of time the average person can bring a high level of focus to an activity is 90 minutes. By that token, successful onboarding programs dole out information in digestible pieces over an extended period of time. In the past, onboarding methods were likened to being doused with water from a fire hose. The first few days overwhelmed the new hire and nothing stuck. Shape your company’s onboarding curriculum more strategically so that a greater amount of that information on, say, culture, strategy, industry, customers, the sales process, and sales enablement tools is remembered and upheld.

According to Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group, Inc., companies will spend on average $20,000 to hire sales talent, but only $1,200 to train them. This disparity has yielded many disappointments, and it’s easy to see why. Don’t skimp on the onboarding process, or you may find your initial investments wasted.

Technology is readily available for sales hiring and sales onboarding today.  Be sure to explore options that will work with your company’s practices.


Mike SaddorisMike Saddoris, Director of Hiring Solutions, CallidusCloud

Mike is currently responsible for the sales and marketing efforts for CallidusCloud’s hiring solutions, and Visit or connect with Mike through LinkedIn.


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