The perfect sales onboarding

Invest three weeks and profit permanently

The perfect sales onboarding

Invest three weeks and profit permanently

Sales Onboarding Ruderer Wasser

Read the white paper online or download it here and browse later.

Read the white paper online or download it here and browse later.

Table of contents


The first weeks and months are crucial for the further path of young careers in sales. How quickly does performance emerge? Is the organization able to retain promising talent? And if so, what development path do the most ambitious newcomers take? The onboarding phase sets the tone. Reason enough to take a closer look at sales onboarding.


Onboarding provides knowledge about internal processes, products and the market. These are the basics that make young SDRs, for example, fit for work in the first place ­– a very functional view of things. But actually, much more is needed in the initial phase to ensure that new sales staff quickly contribute something to the success and maintain the drive to constantly develop professionally. That’s exactly what managers expect from new team members. However, many sales organizations overlook this comprehensive perspective during sales onboarding.

In practice, there are two types of onboarding processes. One is the minimal version: a few days of compressed input that reminds sales talent of their school days and is just as efficient as old-fashioned frontal teaching. After this boot camp, the salespeople are then expected to prove themselves in practice. But with the lack of knowledge base, only random successes are possible at best. At the other extreme, there are structured 3-month programs. Training sessions, compulsory reading and workshops alternate, while the junior staff have long been itching to finally get started. As a result, the company loses valuable productivity because the salespeople would have been ready for cold calls or e-mail marketing long ago.


In sales onboarding, the optimum lies somewhere between the extremes. Sufficient preparation and on-the-job training supported by the right tools ensure that new team members are not held back in their enthusiasm but can show what they are made of as early as possible. Internal coaches also keep the learning curve steep during the practical phase, individually tailored to the personal profile. In this way, optimal sales onboarding brings the first performance targets within reach well before three months have elapsed – without the rocky road of unnecessary setbacks or long-winded theory phases.


Getting equipped with the right skill profile to be successful. Then feel the support of being able to work with real leads in practice at an early stage: This kind of onboarding keeps motivation high and quickly makes junior sales staff a real asset to the team. How do you use your internal resources to get the most out of the onboarding phase? Our sales training plan will tell you.

Only the targets are clear: Difficult start for SDRs

Many take their first steps in the sales business as Sales Development Representatives. In their new role, SDRs are usually the first people that leads meet in direct contact with the offering company. Whether cold calling by phone, email, or social media, they are responsible for bringing qualified leads into the sales process. You can spin it any way you want, the input always limits the possible output. This is also the case in the sales funnel. In plain language, this means that the SDRs have to perform if the whole sales team wants to have a chance of reaching their targets.


In comparison, account executives specialize in leveraging the existing potential in leads. Together with the prospects, they go into more detail, explore problem pools, and work out individual solutions. SDRs identify the right people for this and establish the willingness to talk in the first place. Companies are therefore well advised to recognize the importance of SDRs and deal with them responsibly – from sales onboarding to opening development paths in the course of a career.

Sales Onboarding Darstellung Prozess

Figure 1: Role of the SDR in the process (own illustration, based upon Saleshacker)

Management perspective: performance must be scalable

What does this mean for the leader perspective? There is no way around SDRs for growth in sales. Scalable sales performance is the keyword. So, on paper, it’s simple: build SDR capacity, generate more lead input, and keep close rates high. But here comes the drawback. In practice, this often doesn’t work at all or only with a large time lag. The per capita performance of the extended SDR team collapses because the newcomers run behind their targets for months. This is anything but consistent growth: the headcount increases today, but sales performance stagnates indefinitely.


The first weeks and months in a new job are challenging for young SDRs. No matter what previous experience they come with: Not only do they have to process a lot of input, but they are also confronted with hard, quantified goals early on. Closings and booked appointments make it transparent whether things are going well or not.

SDRs must find their own way – but with support

Often it just doesn’t work out. And not just in the first few weeks but over several months. SDRs experience the first setbacks in their new role almost immediately. These come quickly once they venture to the front line and interact with real leads. Phases of helplessness and disillusionment alternate with the euphoria of the first random successes. During the process, the initially high level of motivation wears off easily – a dangerous state for SDR and sales organization alike.


There is simply a lack of necessary resources to do a good job as an SDR. Of course, as in any job, there is a basic set of traits for new employees in sales. They are open in communication and can argue convincingly. A high level of self-ambition gives them the drive they need for the job. Thanks to their self-confidence and extroversion, they can also put this into practice with leads at all hierarchical levels. They are not only interested in satisfying their play instinct. SDRs also have a clear view of their goals and optimize their actions accordingly. These are the basics that make good SDR performance possible.


But SDRs and the sales organization must build on this together with the help of an onboarding plan. Industry knowledge, conversational skills and product know-how do not come overnight. Memorization is not enough, because in the conversation the content must be individually tailored to the situation of the counterpart. Even if many aspects are already good, a single deficit in the interaction can easily put a spanner in the works. That’s why the onboarding plan plays a key role. Two goals must be reconciled: New SDRs need to interact with real leads as quickly as possible in order to generate value. However, this only makes sense if they are also closely coached so that the lead interaction can be successful.


SDRs need to know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. That way, they can work on them and on the other hand design their strategy for cold calling or mailing appropriately. Where do I stand and how can I improve? This orientation provides security for the first steps as an SDR. What we should master in order to have the maximum success is the one perspective. But that only gets us further if we adopt a realistic point of view, so that we can gradually move in the right direction from there. That’s what makes a real sales induction plan.

Standard Sales Onboarding als Unsicherheitsfaktor

SDRs are a key resource for a sales growth plan: there is no doubt about that. But treating these team members accordingly and providing them with maximum support through consistent sales onboarding is unfortunately often not the case. The standard onboarding in the sales area does not usually reflect the importance of SDRs.

Company profile

Who we are, what we do, and most importantly, why

Industry overview

Understand the product and identify what the positioning is


How we talk to leads and these are our core messages


Internalize the role as an SDR in the internal collaboration model


Developing the right mindset for dealing with failure and your own progress

In the common SDR onboarding, the focus is on knowledge transfer: getting to know your own product, understanding how it fits into the market, and what messaging the marketing department has worked out. On top of that, building knowledge about the leads’ industries to be able to hold their own in the conversation. That’s a lot of information to begin with, most of which new SDRs are expected to memorize immediately. With so much input in a short time, it is no wonder when not that much sticks.


After the boot camp, it’s straight to the front line. Just get started and make your first phone calls – or at least try to. The idea is understandable. A lot can only be learned in practice, and new SDRs must undergo their first endurance tests at some point. So, the sooner, the better. Some onboarding plans for sales reps schedule the first phone calls for the first week. But that usually goes wrong. If too little knowledge has been retained, this inevitably leads to failures in conversation situations. Then the argumentation already runs into the void with the objection and the discussion is faster terminated than it began. At the same time, acquisition e-mails languish unanswered in the lead mailbox because they simply don’t stand out from the crowd.

Day 4 as SDR: reactivate lead that has fallen asleep

“Hello, I am […] from company […]. A few weeks have passed since our last contact. Now I’m interested to know if there is anything new on your side. How far have you progressed in your project? Are you still interested in our product?”

Calling for the sake of calling? Not a good tactic. Has the interest on the part of the lead declined because a competitor was more consistent? Or has the project fizzled out altogether? Of course, this is valuable information, but many leads will keep a low profile on the phone in that case. In concrete terms, this means “no time” or “no more interest” and that’s it. To get the lead to talk, an SDR should choose a more concrete reason for the conversation:

“Hello, I am […] from company […]. A lot has happened since our last contact. We have released a new generation of products and I believe that we can support you even better in your business with it. What do you think about it? Would you like to check with me if our new offer suits you?”

Of course, this only works if sales staff are familiar with the products and can match their characteristics with customer needs.

Answering the phone too early: This not only brings great disappointment for ambitious SDRs. Management also has a problem. Leaders aren’t just waiting for performance to finally kick in. They also must assume that the messaging they want toward leads will fall by the wayside in the heat of the moment. This is more than an unfavorable isolated incident: when it piles up, the product or service loses profile from a lead’s perspective. No matter how good the offer, in the end it, is people who sell it. If they don’t get the message across, the perception of the offer will also be affected – not a good starting position for the next acquisition attempt.

Less detours towards performance: The perfect SDR onboarding

The perfect onboarding for salespeople looks different. Of course, it includes the inevitable: a lot of input on product, market and process. But its strength lies in the fact that it is more than that. Therefore, internal coaches personally address the SDRs in 1-to-1 meetings. The goal: to know individual strengths and weaknesses so that they can work on them. The process also includes playbooks as a central tool that relieves a lot of pressure during preparation and in interview situations.


Digital playbooks in particular support the new sales professionals in their day-to-day business of preparing, conducting and documenting meetings. Digital playbooks do not prescribe a rigid process but adapt dynamically to the course of the conversation. Salespeople document the statements of their counterparts with just a few clicks of the mouse. In return, they receive suggestions on how they can conduct the conversation in the best possible way. This means that digital playbooks provide the collected knowledge about the lead and the best discussion technique exactly when it is needed. Such playbooks support with knowledge and structure and therefore also provide assistance with the sticking point for all sales beginners: objection handling. SDR playbooks, therefore, play an important role in the three-week training phase of our Sales Onboarding Best Practice.

Sales Onboarding Week 1

Sales Education: This is the heading for the first week of SDR onboarding. Products and services today are highly specific. This is the only way for providers to find their niche in today’s mostly highly competitive markets. That new SDRs already enter with deep industry expertise is therefore probably the exception rather than the rule. It also doesn’t work without basic knowledge of sales psychology or conversational skills. Heard of it, sure! To assume that SDRs can also implement this from scratch: ambitious. That’s why week 1 of the SDR onboarding is all about the essentials:

  • Product and market knowledge

  • Industry knowledge

  • Messaging according to marketing strategy

  • Conversational skills

A broad range of topics and a high level of detail: the first week of sales onboarding is intensive. But it should serve as a kick-start and create the necessary basis on which SDRs can subsequently build. How much of this has stuck with SDRs can be found out with a theory test. The question is not whether everything already sits perfectly. We remain realistic and want to know above all whether it is enough to take the next step from theory to practice.


Whether at school, in training or at university, we all know that exams are patient. Here, each person shows only one aspect of their abilities. Nevertheless, this is a good basis for creating an initial skills profile as a basis for the further sales induction plan: work on strategies for dealing with weaknesses and don’t forget to continue building on strengths!

Training goal week 1

  • Provide concentrated input from all areas of competence in order to lay the foundation for everything that follows

  • Check with a theory test whether enough has been retained

Sales Onboarding Week 2

The individual capability profile is only a momentary snapshot. But that’s exactly what matters in week 2. Before it gets to the actual implementation, gaps in sales onboarding should be closed. Otherwise, the risk is too great that real conversations with leads will fail across the board. After all, nervousness and pressure in a real conversation situation make for tougher conditions.


In such situations, a Playbook additionally keeps SDRs on their toes. It provides the relevant content and ensures that good SDR performance is possible even without superhuman memory performance. Digital playbooks in particular safeguard ideal messaging and allow SDRs to focus even more on their counterpart during the conversation. This makes them one of the key tools for successful onboarding. Week 2 is exactly the right time to familiarize SDRs with the company’s individual playbook during onboarding.


“Why waste any more time when new SDRs can also simply answer the phone in week 2, for example to reactivate leads that have fallen asleep? They know the basics. They have to manage the rest under real conditions. We all have to get through this phase.”


Exactly not! Excessive setbacks and the accompanying frustration and uncertainty are the result of this approach. Negative consequences that can easily be avoided by reassessment. Together with their coaches, SDRs check in week 2 to what extent they have made progress in working with their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing that the last open flanks have been closed gives them self-confidence. And now it’s really time to take the plunge. However, the water shouldn’t be any colder than necessary – and week 2 makes all the difference in our view.

Training goal week 2

  • Close last major gaps in the skills profile

  • Integrate tools into the work process

  • Build confidence and sovereignty for real customer conversations

Sales Onboarding Week 3

If we think back to the characteristics of successful SDRs, it becomes clear at this point. That’s enough of the theory. After two weeks of intensive preparation, all newcomers should have an itch in their fingers. Holding interesting conversations, showing personality and still learning a lot: the time has come.


However, the first two weeks of sales onboarding have created a safety net. Of course, the balancing act of mailing or cold calling can go wrong at any time. After all, anyone who wants guarantees of success is fundamentally in the wrong place in the sales sector. But the stable knowledge base makes success more calculable. If you avoid simple mistakes and use quick wins, you’ve already won a lot. In addition, there is a stable knowledge base about product, competition and the target group.

Training goal week 3

  • Have initial conversations and become familiar with tools and process

  • Experience for yourself what works and what doesn’t in practice

Sales Onboarding Closing Session

Once in practice, the second learning phase for SDRs begins. Instead of two weeks, we’re talking about a completely different time horizon here: continuous learning. Because if you stop in your development, you can’t count on success staying by itself. Sales thrives on constantly incorporating new aspects into its methodology in order to optimize the work.


But back to the SDR onboarding training camp: At the end of week 3, the final session is coming up. Were the SDRs able to test strengths and weaknesses in practice and how do they assess themselves? If there are still substantial deficits, now is the time to determine that. This is where the coaches come in! Because sales newcomers are already restlessly sliding around on their chairs. They want to get started and show what they can do. Their approach: the rest will follow. Coaches should therefore address observed deficits so that the induction plan can be followed up. This is how coaches steer the drive of sales newcomers onto the path that promises success. Enough with the focus on the negative, individual strengths need just as much space. Coaches can also help SDRs fully leverage them beyond sales onboarding.

Excursus: Playbook – Jump-start with long-term effect

How exactly does our product work and in which niche does it develop its full added value? SDRs must learn this individually before they can really take off in acquisition. But by the time they start their careers, the days of rote memorization should be over. And there is a solution: sales playbooks.


Playbooks have all relevant information ready for the contact with leads and therefore defuse the learning phase. SDRs in onboarding can focus more on developing their actual skills in the beginning, without being left in doubt when it comes to detailed questions. The information in the playbook provides the necessary back-up so that the focus remains on the conversation with the counterpart. From SDR’s point of view, this is a clear win: getting into contact with leads more quickly and acting more confidently.


Thereby, the important personal conversation component does not fall by the wayside but is emphasized. Those who can rely on the guidance provided by the playbook have to think less about which step should come next. Spontaneously incorporate the last success story as a case study because it sums up the added value so well? With the Playbook up their sleeve, SDRs can take such liberties without the fear of not being able to get back into the flow afterwards. In this way, the playbook ensures that SDRs are even more accurate and flexible with their counterparts. This enables them to create a more pleasant conversational atmosphere – an important dimension of conversational success.


Change of perspective to the management level: the SDR playbook also makes sense from a leader’s perspective. After all, memories of the last sales training quickly fade in everyday sales life. Then the desired messaging is present for a short time, but the lasting effect is missing. Not with a playbook: it permanently ensures that the team in the front line really sells all relevant products and features. This also takes away much of the uncertainty for marketing at the interface with the sales team.


By the way: Playbooks not only support onboarding. Experienced SDRs also continue to benefit from this tool. Here, they find ongoing support for their conversations and are never at a loss for the most promising response to an objection. Playbooks also reduce the time needed for preparation and follow-up. Playbooks create more time for the essentials and additional freedom to be fully involved in the conversation with the other party.

This is what makes sales onboarding so good

You can’t do it without an onboarding phase. The knowledge requirements of SDRs are too specific for that. A lead on the phone is not convinced by spontaneous knowledge gaps. And whether the salesperson is just starting out or already has practical experience: why should that be relevant from a lead’s point of view? In contact, a lead must build up two convictions in the counterpart:

  1. The product or service offers real added value that can also be realized in my individual situation
  2. The sales team can competently answer my questions and is committed enough to also overcome complications on the way to implementation.

SDRs form the prelude to this joint process. Their performance is therefore crucial for the input of the entire sales funnel. Therefore, there is no alternative to maximum support in developing their skills.


The perfect onboarding process gets salespeople to the front line quickly. But it must be done intelligently, because growth only works if SDRs are able to tap into their potential. They certainly don’t lack the necessary drive. The idea behind the onboarding concept is to create a stable foundation for further development, avoid frustration, and thus generate performance.


This means that an intensive but short process for sales onboarding with subsequently calculable performance takes the place of a months-long experimentation phase with low productivity. The positive impact on the perception of SDRs cannot be underestimated. Am I working for an organization that gives me the best possible support or one that leaves me alone with ambitious goals? Of course, the entire sales team also benefits from thorough onboarding: new SDRs quickly find their way around and become an asset in a manageable amount of time.

Optimize sales onboarding – profit in the long term

Sales onboarding cannot be avoided when SDRs join the company. It takes capacity to impart essential skills. For the calculation “more SDRs = more meetings and more closings” to work out in a manageable amount of time, not just any onboarding will do. Those who invest more time up front in developing SDRs act more sustainably. Two weeks pass in our best-practice onboarding from start to direct contact with leads. Time well spent because personal coaching and tools such as the SDR Playbook ensure that performance is reliably established – well before the usual three months have elapsed. This also influences the attitude of SDRs. They feel the support instead of feeling left alone: the best conditions for SDRs and leaders to grow together.

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