3.1 months. That’s the average SDR ramp-up time, according to research by The Bridge Group. It may not sound like much time, but when you consider that SDRs only remain in their role for an average of 1.8 years and that the median turnover rate is 20%, 3.1 months is a very long time for an SDR not to be carrying a full quota.
Frankly, it’s too long. And we need to stop accepting this as the norm.
While it was unavoidable in the past, new technology has recently entered the market that makes drastically shorter ramp times possible. We, as an industry, can do better.
Not only do ramp times cost companies in terms of productivity and revenue, but they also put a considerable strain on Sales Managers. They’re constantly repeating themselves, trying to drill in sales lessons while also worrying about finding ways to increase pipeline and revenue. At first glance, these issues appear to be separate. But the reality is that decreasing inside sales ramp time is not only the key to helping SDRs carry quota sooner. It’s also the key to more revenue, lower churn among reps and a better work-life balance for sales leaders.
It’s time to stop settling for three-month ramp times. 45 days is the ideal ramp time. With the right plan and technology in place, it’s more than achievable.
This post will show you how to radically decrease rep ramp time by setting up a solid onboarding plan, using the right ramping content and leveraging powerful sales onboarding technologies.
While you likely already have a general onboarding plan in place for all the employees at your company, it’s important to have a specific inside sales onboarding plan that considers the unique needs of your company and its new reps.
Aim for Comprehension, Not Memorization
A great rep isn’t a prospecting robot. Instead, they’re a knowledgeable consultant who can provide value to prospects even before they buy your products.
To be able to do this, rote memorization isn’t enough. When you’re building out your onboarding plan, aim for SDRs to understand your products, your customers, and your customers’ customers in a meaningful way.
Define the Ramp-Up Period
Some thought leaders use the average deal size and complexity to help define the onboarding period, such as: “Onboarding period = Length of Sales Cycle + 90 Days” or “Onboarding = Length of Time to Reach 100% Quota.”
For example, if your average deal size is $2 million dollars, then the complexity of your offer may require a longer ramp period. But if you’re like most B2B companies, then your ramp-up period should be set at six weeks.
Set Clear and Achievable Goals
What do you want your reps to be able to do at the end of the set ramp period? We recommend that you aim to put your SDRs on the path to mastery and give them the tools to continually improve on their own.
They may not be sales masters by the time they finish ramping, but they’ll be able to carry a quota and continue to improve their performance as time goes on. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Decide Where to Focus
Some elements of ramping are more important than others. Strip it down to the basics and start by focusing on buyer-centric messaging, outreach best practices, and live call execution.
When onboarding new reps, it’s essential to have content that’s useful. After all, reps typically forget almost 90% of their training in just 30 days if it’s not reinforced. So you want to limit onboarding content to the most essential materials.
There are three main types of content that are particularly useful to have before you launch your new onboarding plan.
This will be your reps’ roadmap for their first six weeks. Use this playbook to kick off your onboarding program, and include everything in it that an SDR needs to do their job effectively. Document the entire SDR role, and then they’ll have the information in the playbook reinforced throughout the onboarding process.
Build a specific sequence of training exercises, organized into two-hour sessions focused on key topics. Ideally, each training session should build on the last, so that reps finish the curriculum with a strong understanding of the basics.
To help you out, we’ve created a sample onboarding curriculum that you can download for free and adapt to your own team’s needs.
You can use certifications to reinforce lessons, helping reps to retain more onboarding information by testing key skills. An example of a certification would be an objection handling test, or a test on the features of your products. The certifications we rely on in our onboarding plan are:
In our own 6 week ramp plan, we detail a curriculum that should be covered during each week. Here is an overview of what we recommend during each week of onboarding.
During week one, your main focus should be on product knowledge, competitor awareness, and intros to demos and calls.
When laying out reps’ daily schedule, make sure to include other onboarding tasks that will vary based on your company, such as signing up for payroll and security or bias training. Also note that this week accounts for deep-dives on three main competitors, but this can be adjusted depending upon your unique competitor landscape.
Week two ends with a cold call certification, so the main purpose of this week is to prepare your reps to pass it with the practice and knowledge they’ll need to sound confident in front of prospects.
Having new reps shadow experienced reps on calls or listen to recordings from call libraries is particularly useful here. There’s also an emphasis this week on reviewing past information (reinforcement is key!).
Sales cadence software can provide additional support once your reps are at a place where they’re calling and emailing prospects. These technologies will provide a list of tasks for reps to accomplish each day (ex: call this person; research that company), arranged and prioritized according to rules you set.
Now that your new reps have proven they’re ready to start making cold calls, it’s time to introduce quota-carrying duties to their days. Choose a set number of calls you’d like them to make per day, and have them accomplish that along with their training.
Beyond that, the emphasis this week is to make sure they’re confident in using all the tools they need to do their jobs — both in terms of your tech stack, and in terms of prospect-facing materials created by your marketing team. When we mention “tech stack exercises,” these will vary based on what sales tools you use at your company.
Week four is all about how to get inside the head of the customer and be a compelling communicator over email. Whenever your reps communicate with prospects, they’re representing your company as a whole, so their ability to communicate well in all mediums is paramount. For reps to be knowledgeable consultants (and for them to have things to write and speak about that your prospects will relate to), they need to have an understanding of your industry that goes beyond your products and direct competitors. The number of cold calls your reps are placing should also go up this week.
As of this week, your reps can do both call and email outreach. Give set numbers for calls and emails, and raise the number of calls from last week. The amount of time they’ll spend on prospecting each day will be going up vis-a-vis the time they spend onboarding.
For this week, the goal is to zoom out and give your reps a better understanding of their role within the company, and the career paths they have open to them as they mature as SDRs.
To start, raise the number of calls and emails expected for the week. The number should be at or close to the amount you would expect from a fully ramped SDR, since they’re about to conclude their training.
Beyond that, there are two primary goals for this week
If you’re onboarding a group of reps, put each one in charge of recapping a specific principle for the group that you went over in onboarding. If you’re only onboarding one or two, have them each choose the topic that they struggled with the most.
Over the course of the week, also ask each rep to become an expert on something new that you didn’t go over in onboarding. Have them present what they learned to the group in the Onboarding Graduation Ceremony.
For more information and a detailed curriculum for each week, be sure to download your free 45-Day Ramp Plan.
Training should never stop after 6 weeks. Once your SDRs have worked through the initial onboarding plan, you can continue to reinforce previous lessons and introduce new ones with ongoing training. More experienced reps will also benefit from ongoing training, so you can and should involve the whole team in these exercises. You could even have them lead peer-to-peer training, which will help reps develop their leadership skills.
Training is most effective when reinforced in real time. As an example, Moments™ by Revenue.io uses proprietary AI technology to reinforce ongoing training in real-time on calls, using nudges and notifications to help SDRs with competitor mentions, objection handling, relevant content suggestions, etc.
To find out more about real-time guidance, check our eBook “AI-Powered Conversation Guidance or check out this video:
Reinforcing good behavior and catching bad behaviors early is key in onboarding, and also in ongoing training. But the earlier you can do this in a rep’s training, the more they’ll benefit from it.
If you’re wondering which behaviors to reinforce, focus on outreach, messaging, and communication skills. These are the most important tools in a rep’s toolkit. Reinforcing these behaviors is simple:
Observe what reps are doing
Listen to call recordings, check emails, and keep an eye on overall productivity?
Diagnose their behaviors
What are they doing that’s great? Or conversely, what could they improve on?
Prescribe Specific Actions
If you see a good behavior or habit, reward it with praise. If you see a bad one, suggest a different course of action and reinforce the change with reminders over the next few days.
You can review more calls and catch problematic behaviors faster if you have a dialer or other platform that transcribes calls. For another step up, there are some technologies that can also notice patterns in calls with AI and flag issues for you. Conversation AI by Revenue.io offers this capability.
As an example, here at Revenue.io, there was a rep who would have very long conversations with prospects but still had trouble figuring out who should be qualified or disqualified in the sales process.
For a prospect to qualify, they had to use Salesforce, since Revenue.io uses a native Salesforce integration. The rep’s manager didn’t understand what was going on until they went back through the call recordings and realized that the rep was genuinely connecting with prospects (great!) but getting so caught up in the conversation that they forgot to ask them if they used Salesforce (not so great). Now that the manager knew what was going on, the solution was clear.
They reinforced the rep’s behavior of forging authentic connections with prospects, but also set up an alert in Conversation AI (the Revenue.io conversation intelligence solution) to track all mentions of Salesforce on their calls. So the rep was able to track their progress and see how many calls they mentioned Salesforce on each day. By the end of the first week, they were mentioning Salesforce on every single call, and easily qualifying or disqualifying every prospect. Problem solved!
How much is your current ramp time costing you? Check out our ramp up calculator to find out how much more revenue you can drive by cutting your ramp time.
Jesse WestDirector of Lifecycle MarketingRevenue.io
Jesse Davis West is Director of Lifecycle Marketing at Revenue.io, focusing on improving the experience and maximizing the lifetime value for customers across their entire journey. Drawing on 11 years of B2B marketing experience, Jesse is passionate about communication, branding and strategic marketing. He also plays a mean lead guitar and can throw down at karaoke.