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The Ultimate Inside Sales Onboarding and Training Blueprint

14 min readMarch 23, 2022

3.1 months. That’s how long it takes the average SDR to ramp and train, according to recent 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. Let’s cut it in half.

B2B sales reps forget 70% of the information they learn within a week of training, and 87% will forget it within a month. – Gartner

The trick to ramping reps faster is to create a program that emphasizes ongoing training. That way, training is continually reinforced and unlikely to be forgotten. Much in the same way that students are encouraged to become lifelong learners, SDRs learn faster and develop more quickly in their careers when they’re given the right tools from the beginning.

Four Foundation Pillars For Successful New Hires

While you likely already have a general onboarding and training plan in place for all the employees at your company, it’s important to have a specific SDR and inside sales onboarding and training plan that considers the unique needs of your company and its new reps. 

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Decide what you’ll focus on.

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.

Core Content Needed In Your Onboarding and Training Plan

There are three main types of content that are particularly useful to have before you launch your new onboarding and training plan. They are a playbook, curriculum, and certifications.

1. A Playbook

This will be your reps’ roadmap for their first six weeks. Use this playbook to kick off your program to ramp your reps, 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.

2. Curriculum

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. In our plan, we included these topics in our curriculum:

  • Overview of the competitive landscape
  • Objection handling 101
  • Talking high, talking low (VPs and above, managers and below)
  • So you booked a meeting… now what?
  • Core industry trends
  • Effective email outreach

3. Certifications

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:

  • Product knowledge
  • Cold calling
  • Tech stack skills
  • Industry knowledge

All of this content is possible to create with a simple word processor, but if you want to up your game, consider a Learning Management System or Sales Enablement Platform.

Your Week-by-Week Blueprint for Inside Sales Onboarding and Training

You have your foundation and content, and it’s your new rep’s first day on the job. What now?

First, keep in mind that this isn’t the time for a trial by fire. While more experienced reps can benefit from a hands-off management style, new SDRs typically need as much support as possible. Keeping this in mind, we recommend daily check-ins for the first two weeks, moving to weekly check-ins after that.

Our six-week plan is designed to go from being highly structured at the beginning to less structured by the end, with the inflection point occurring when reps start to perform quota-carrying activities like cold calling and email outreach. 

There’s also built-in review of previous material throughout the plan, so that reps retain information in their long-term memory. This review is crucial to make sure reps don’t lose the benefits of their training later down the line, so we encourage you to schedule regular review sessions or exercises if you add additional material or adjust the later weeks to your needs.

Week 1: Product Knowledge and Competitive Intelligence

In 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.

Day Onboarding
Day 1
  • Playbook: setting expectations for the first week
  • CRM and main tools tutorial
  • Overview of your platform or product offerings
Day 2
  • Curriculum: Overview of the competitive landscape
  • Competitor #1 training 
  • Intro to demos
  • Call listening session
Day 3
  • In-depth product training
  • Demo exercises
  • Call listening session
Day 4
  • Competitor #2 training
  • Continued product training
Day 5
  • Demo exercises
  • Competitor #3 training
  • Certification: Product knowledge

Week 2: Preparation to Make Calls

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!).

Day Onboarding
Day 6
  • Playbook: setting expectations for the second week
  • Sales mindset training
  • Review of product knowledge
Day 7
  • Curriculum: Objection handling 101
  • Review of competitors
  • Demo review
  • Shadow on calls
Day 8
  • Buyer personas
  • Problems your company solves
  • Persona and problem exercises
  • Mock cold calls
Day 9
  • Curriculum: Talking high, talking low (VPs and above, managers and below)
  • How to gather intel
  • Mock cold calls
Day 10
  • Certification: Cold calling
  • Persona and problem review
  • Lead prioritization

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. 

Week 3: Learning the Sales Stack

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 sales tech 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. But at Revenue.io, here’s what we teach SDRs at this stage:

  • Salesforce: Which fields are most important, how to use lists and contact views, how to batch update leads and create opportunities, which fields are most important in our Salesforce instance, how to use their Salesforce Inbox.
  • ABM platform: How to view intent data and hot accounts, and how to prioritize accounts based on marketing initiatives and other criteria.
  • Chatbot tool: How to use a chatbot to interact with prospects on our site.
  • Personalized gifting tool: How to choose appropriate gifts and send them to prospects at the right points in the sales cycle.
  • Contact data tool: How to find correct contact information for prospects.
Day Onboarding Duties
Day 11
  • Playbook: setting expectations for the third week
  • Tool and territory setup
  • Curriculum: So you booked a meeting… now what?
  • Tech stack exercises
  • N/A
Day 12
  • Intro to dashboards
  • Overview of marketing materials
  • Tech stack exercises
  • Placing cold calls
Day 13
  • Reading eBooks, whitepapers
  • Review of competitors and demos
  • Tech stack exercises
  • Placing cold calls
Day 14
  • Learning case studies
  • Tech stack exercises
  • Placing cold calls
Day 15
  • Marketing material reading
  • Certification: Tech stack skills
  • Placing cold calls

So You Booked a Meeting… Now What?

It’s critical that SDRs understand exactly how to properly route meetings to Account Executives, based on criteria like: segments, territories, who’s on vacation, time zones, locations of headquarters, and so on. When SDRs create an opportunity for Account Executives at Revenue.io, we ask them to include the following information:

  • How the email was booked
  • The prospect’s current tech stack
  • How Revenue.io will help the prospect
  • The warmth of the lead, ranked from 1-10
  • Why the Account Executive should take the meeting

Week 4: Speaking the Customers’ Language

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.

Day Onboarding Duties
Day 16
  • Playbook: setting expectations for the fourth week
  • Review product knowledge
  • Review personas and problems
  • Placing cold calls
Day 17
  • Curriculum: Core industry trends
  • Sign up for industry news sources
  • Sequence technology overview
  • Placing cold calls
Day 18
  • Curriculum: Effective email outreach
  • Email writing exercises
  • Placing cold calls
Day 19
  • Evolution of industry and solutions
  • Email writing exercises
  • Sequence creation exercises
  • Placing cold calls
Day 20
  • Certification: Industry Knowledge
  • Review effective email outreach practices
  • Sequence creation exercises
  • Placing cold calls

Customize the Experience to Training Ratio

Now that your reps can both place calls and send emails, they’ve reached an inflection point in the onboarding journey. While our plan covers a full six weeks, weeks five and six in particular are easy to adapt based on what makes the most sense for your company. You could use these last two weeks in one of three ways:

  1. Continue with our suggested onboarding plan for the remaining time, which has an even split of on-the-job experience and continued training. 
  2. Use weeks five and six to cover particularly complex products or deal cycles, depending upon the needs of your company. In this case, the emphasis would be more heavily on training and less on gaining experience.
  3. Give reps as much time as possible on the job and only have them participate in regular training sessions with the rest of the team. The onboarding-specific part of their training would be over at the end of the fourth week.

Week 5: The Bigger Revenue Team Picture

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.

Day Onboarding Duties
Day 21
  • Playbook: setting expectations for the fifth week
  • Review demos
  • Review marketing materials
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 22
  • Curriculum: Career opportunities
  • Shadow an Account Executive
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 23
  • Overview of the full customer cycle
  • Shadow QBRs or renewal calls
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 24
  • Curriculum: Sales and Marketing Alignment
  • Meet the Marketing team
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 25
  • The role of sales and revenue operations
  • Advanced tech stack exercises
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach

Week 6: Making Learning a Habit

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:

  1. Reinforcing everything your reps have learned over the last five weeks.
  2. Encouraging peer-to-peer coaching and continued learning.

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.

Day Onboarding Duties
Day 26
  • Review product and competitor knowledge
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 27
  • Review cold calling tactics and the tech toolbox
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 28
  • Review industry knowledge and email outreach
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 29
  • Review company knowledge, career paths, and revenue teams
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach
Day 30
  • Onboarding Graduation Ceremony
  • Peer-to-peer presentations
  • Placing cold calls
  • Email outreach

Engage in Ongoing Training

Here’s where the magic happens. 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. Here are some ideas for what this ongoing training could focus on:

  • New product and feature releases
  • New marketing campaigns or content
  • New competitors
  • Habits of your most effective reps
  • Advanced training and techniques
  • Skills for career advancement

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. 

Find out more in our eBook AI-Powered Conversation Guidance.

Reinforce Positive Behavior with Coaching

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:

  1. Observe what they’re doing. Listen to call recordings, check emails, and keep an eye on overall productivity.
  2. Diagnose their behaviors. What are they doing that’s great? Or conversely, what could they improve on?
  3. 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.

What Does Ongoing Coaching Look Like?

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!

Going Above and Beyond 

Congratulations! You now have a blueprint for how to onboard inside sales reps in six weeks. If you’d like to continue to refine your strategy to help reps continue to grow beyond their first month, then we recommend these other resources:

The New Sales Stack: A great way to learn more about building a tech stack to support your onboarding and other sales initiatives.

The 2022 Sales Pipeline and Revenue Benchmarks Report: To ensure that your reps are performing at or above the level of their peers at other companies after they’ve fully onboarded.

10 Tips to Create A Coaching Culture That Drives Exponential Results: Hiring top sales talent is important, but once you have them, how do you get them to stay? This is your step-by-step plan to coach reps more without putting the whole burden onto managers or coaches.

About the Author

Brandon RedlingerRevenue.io

Brandon is the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Revenue.io, the revenue acceleration platform that leverages AI to transform sales teams into high-performing revenue engines. He's passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.