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7 Steps for Building a Sales Ramp Program

The goal is simple: get your new sales reps to a place where they can hit their fully ramped quota, repeatedly. To do this, you must be deliberate in how you build out your sales ramp program. Here are the 7 steps to develop your own new hire program that promotes company culture, mentorship, and accountability.

Get the basics out of the way first

Training new hires works best when there’s one singular person, like a sales trainer or enablement manager, who owns the entire onboarding experience. This work is a full time job, especially if you’re hiring 3-4 people each month. 

Once you have your training lead, your main priority is getting new sellers to their ramp goals–in an above board way. Schedule time early in your program to cover the dos and don'ts for compliance and security, plus how your team works together at your company. 

Think of this entire process like a college orientation. The first 1 to 2 weeks should be an aggressive orientation covering what your company does and how your industry works. For example, if you work in healthcare, provide an overview of the healthcare system. 

Security, company values, and industry knowledge are all table stakes you have to include in any new hire onboarding program. Exactly how you tackle sales processes and ramping to quota depends on your specific company needs. 

Step 1: Define the length of your program

The best way to do this is to ask the question: when do I need these people to be fully ramped by? Then work backwards from there. You need enough time for the reps to feel ready to hit the phones but you also need to do right by the business from an economic perspective. 

Here’s my recommendation. If your annual contract value (ACV) is $50K, for example, then a 5 month ramp makes sense. But if your ACV is $3K, you’ll need to ramp much faster, perhaps in 2 months. Make your decision based on what’s reasonable in order to achieve your business metrics. 

Step 2: Sales processes 101

Once you’ve brought your new hires up to speed on your company, it’s time to move to the sales process. Inform them of what the training expectations are for their role and be clear that you’re measuring their progress. My advice is to start with the top of the funnel. Show them how to process inbound and outbound leads. Then move your way down the funnel towards a closed-won deal. 

Here are a few of the topics you should cover: 

  • How we do demos
  • The entire universe of objections that exist at the demo level 
  • How to build urgency
  • The executive alignment process
  • Objections at the executive alignment level
  • How we do contracting

Don’t just focus on the ideal sales deal. Yes, you should include the “happy path,” where you do a demo and the prospect says yes. But also go down the “not so happy path” where, after demoing, the prospect tells you that they don’t have the budget. 

I recommend going stage by stage through the sales process and tying together each stage of the funnel with classroom style learning followed by live action. If you’re talking about top of funnel phone calls today in the classroom, have each rep go out afterwards and do 30 calls on their own. Then bring everyone back together to talk about how that went. 

Training programs are less effective if you don’t include both classroom time and on the floor training. If your new hires are in the classroom too long, they won’t be prepared for real life. But if you put them on the phones, and throw them in the deep end too soon, they have nothing to anchor their learnings to. 

My one caveat is if you’re in an SMB environment. Here, you’ll have plenty of leads you’re okay with losing. I put new reps on the phones during the first few days. They’ll do terribly–but that’s okay. Rip the bandaid off and have them call low quality leads to get their bearings. 

Step 3: Sales processes 201 

Classroom learning isn’t as effective for later funnel stages, so lean more into live action when covering your company’s unique techniques. At this point, have your new reps shadow your more tenured sellers. Be proactive and coordinate ahead of time with your AEs. Ask them who has demos tomorrow and if a new rep can shadow that call. 

After everyone gets a chance at shadowing, bring them back together to talk about what happened. Dive into the techniques that worked very well for your reps and bring up how great reps handle complicated objections during shadowing. 

Step 4: Ramping sales quota

Every company has their own thesis on this but, regardless of how you approach ramping, new reps should always have 1 or 2 months truly off quota. During this time, give them access to pipeline, including inbound leads. 

Keep in mind that ramping quota is actually a pipeline exercise. You’re giving them the runway to succeed so they have deals in play when they’re finally on full quota. 

Here’s my standard quota ramping process: 

  • First month/quarter: 

Pay the new rep full on-target earnings (OTE).

  • Second month/quarter: 

Put the rep on 50% or 75% of target, depending on your deal cycle and length. If your business usually runs a 5 month deal cycle, you can’t expect your reps to hit quota after just one quarter. 

  • Third month/quarter: 

Move the rep to full quota where they’ll be paid on what they close. 

Step 5: Skill assessment

I believe that the majority of your sales rep attrition should be during their ramp period. This is the time to test their aptitude and skills to know if they’re going to work out at your company. The most fair way to do this is to tether their assessment to both quantitative and qualitative scoring

This data helps the sales trainer and sales manager know, objectively, if the new rep has the aptitude for the job. Be upfront and honest with your new hires about how you’ll be assessing them through this process. 

They should know what the training and ramp plan is from the very beginning. For example, at the end of the 1st quarter, reps should be comfortable speaking about your industry, have built out 50% of their pipeline, and can handle objections. 

Sometimes people totally fail this test. Ask yourself if their failure is correctable or not. If yes, help them correct any issues and give them a little more time to pass the aptitude test. If it isn’t correctable then, unfortunately, you have a mishire. 

The hiring manager and the sales trainer need to have a frank conversation about whether this person has what we hired them for. Afterwards, your VP of Sales should step in for a final decision on whether to fire this person or not. 

Sometimes we keep someone around longer than we should. But the bottom line is that the job of the person running this onboarding program is to ensure a good experience for your customers. They need to feel confident that the new rep can provide that experience. 

Step 6: Moving to bespoke training

Group classes are great for helping get people up to speed on general knowledge and processes. At some point though, you need to move people into a more bespoke, 1:1 training cadence. Think of it as the coaching stage of sales onboarding.

Because if 10 people have gone through the same training program, you’ll get some people who are only good at one part of the funnel, and others who excel at another part of the funnel. Maybe one rep needs more help understanding the industry, while another rep needs guidance on negotiating. 

Start individualizing your training about 1 or 2 months into your onboarding schedule. It’s critical for the training manager to effectively hand off reps to their real manager. Avoid a start/stop situation where the training manager identifies deficiencies but doesn’t communicate it to the hiring manager, who has to figure out the issues from scratch.

The training manager needs a mechanism to communicate with the hiring manager to give them their assessment of the person and guide them on where they need help with coaching. Perhaps this is an end of training brief, or even an ongoing brief throughout the training. Alternatively, some companies have the training manager act as the actual manager for the first few months to keep things streamlined. 

Step 7: Mentor program

I find that mentor programs work really well for 1:1 coaching and training. This is also a great opportunity for someone who isn’t quite ready for a team lead role. They can test out if they like the responsibilities. Make sure to give the mentor a syllabus to follow so they don’t contradict anything that the rep was taught in their onboarding class.

Often, new hires get nervous about asking their manager every question they have. Having a mentor who can hop on to calls ad hoc, go to coffee or lunch with the rep, or even answer questions like what the code to the bathroom is can be more comfortable. Mentorship programs are an important part of cultural integration into the sales team. 

Final thoughts

If your team is working in the office, remember to schedule people’s downtime too. You don’t want new hires eating lunch or getting coffee alone. Go ahead and book them to have lunch with the SDRs on day 2 and the VP of Sales on day 3. Maybe help them get face time with the founders or executives at your company as well. 

Ensure that once your sellers "graduate" from the training program, they are clear on what the expectations are of their role from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective. It’s easy to treat quota ramping and training as a nice-to-have that’s easily forgotten. But, if done well, it can really make a difference for your new hires. Because just like you need to fill the top of your funnel with qualified leads, you need to fill the top of your sales team funnel with qualified sales reps.

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