Ongoing Learning and Development

6 minutes, 5 links


Updated August 22, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Founding Sales: The Early-Stage Go-To-Market Handbook, a book by Pete Kazanjy. The most in-depth, tactical handbook ever written for early-stage B2B sales, it distills early sales first principles and teaches the skills required, from being a founder selling to being an early salesperson and a sales leader. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

One thing about onboarding is that it can feel like when you’re done with it, and a rep or class of reps is up and running and successful, you’re done with the learning and training. While onboarding is the most intensive period of learning and development, ignore ongoing investment in that at your peril. Not only can reps continue to get better with better coaching, it’s key for professional development, retention, and promotion. Further, it’s unlikely that your product and the market will remain static. As your product changes, and the market in which it operates changes, your reps will need to be updated and then tested on this new information, so they can be just as sharp as when they exited onboarding, however many months or years ago.

Cadence for Coaching and Professional Development

Just like you had a structured calendar for onboarding reps, whether SDRs, AEs, or AMs, you’ll want to do the same for ongoing learning and development. At TalentBin, we had an hour blocked at the end of the day on Friday that was specifically for this. SDRs took the time to do drilling with their management and each other to work on objection handling, messaging review, or demo practice (which wasn’t something that was important for their day-to-day, but was part of professional development, and had the added benefit of making them more confident and competent in their prospect-facing interactions, regardless). AEs would use this time to work with their managers and teammates on different parts of their sales motions, whether it was discovery, presentation, objection handling, negotiation, and so on. But the important part was that the time was on the calendar, and as such, would be prioritized.

Ensuring that this time is well used is particularly important for SDRs. The ability to hire, onboard, and train up SDRs to the point where they can be revenue-generating AEs is an extremely valuable skill for an organization to have. It’s a sort of enterprise value sales alchemy, where through smart recruiting, onboarding, and training, you can turn copper into silver into gold. This also keeps your cost of hire and sales down, in that you’ll have a machine manufacturing fully functional junior reps, rather than having to bid at existing reps at benchmark organizations. And your investment in SDR professional development will pay dividends.

Releases and Market Changes

It’s highly unlikely that your product will stay static for very long, which means that it’s important that your reps are able to present it and all its latest features in a way that reflects its current state. And the market is continually changing, with competitors making their own moves, and incumbents reacting. All of this means that when something occurs that extends or modifies the information that reps learn in onboarding, you will want to bring them up to speed.

With new releases, a good way to ensure the sales team is up-to-date is to embed new product updates into part of a cadenced meeting. If you have a weekly sales team meeting, having product management or product marketing participate for ten minutes of that meeting to give a review of what just shipped and what’s on deck, can help start that information soaking into your reps’ brains. That likely won’t be sufficient, so additionally consider having one-off training exercises built around new releases. If you ship a big new feature, and you’ve built some new slides for the sales deck, and would like to add some messaging for it to the sales demo, then make sure that you have that information documented. Then you can either schedule a special event—maybe it’s during a catered lunch—or choose to take over the hour that you have scheduled weekly for training and professional development for this.

So too with market changes. If a competitor does something that meaningfully impacts how you position or present your product, treat it like a product release, but instead, it was the market that released new features of its own that changes how your product is viewed. The point is these product and market changes won’t just naturally be consumed and understood by your reps, and rather than having their understanding of your product and market frozen in amber from the point at which they were onboarded, you want them at the vanguard of knowledge both regarding your product and the market.

As noted at the beginning of this chapter, the biggest cost to a young sales organization that has hit product-market fit and is now scaling is the opportunity cost of missed or delayed sales. Rigorous, thoughtful onboarding will minimize these costs; engender a positive feedback loop, faster time to revenue for new reps, and higher retention (making your recruiters very happy, or minimizing recruiting agency costs); and enhance team cohesion and excellence.

When onboarding is done right, it’s just a good scene, all the way around.

Further Reading on Sales Onboarding and Training

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