Onboarding Reps Virtually: 7 Steps Sales Leaders Must Take

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As a sales leader, it’s assumed that you’re good at adapting to change.

Which is important because the current environment needs great sales leaders who are nimble and can successfully pivot. Most sales forces have had to shift from in-person to virtual onboarding, but there are ways to make your team stand out and succeed despite the change. 

A first-rate onboarding process will push new reps closer to their first deal and achieve the team’s goals. Consider also that effective onboarding can speed up the ramp-time to full productivity by up to 18%. Imagine having a team that gets their first meeting, opportunity, deal and consistent quota achievement faster. 

You can make it happen by following the steps below.

Break Lengthy Training Sessions Into Microlearning Sessions

No one can focus for 4 hours on Zoom. It’s an unrealistic expectation to dump boring content en masse and have your team retain it.

The average adult can give roughly 20 minutes’ attention to any one topic. Of course, they can refocus the attention, but most tend to drift off at the 20-minute mark. Instead of fighting the science of learning, use it to your advantage.

Try “microlearning” – bite-size chunks of information – in a format that keeps the team engaged. Consider having a mix of interactive content such as video, live speakers, quizzes, etc. The more engaging the content, the easier it is to digest.

Develop a Uniform Schedule With Milestones

For new BDRs and junior reps, a known routine and clear set of objectives every day are essential for success. 60% of companies fail to set milestones or goals for new hires.

Make sure new reps understand from day 1 the path they’re on, the important milestones they need to hit (and when) as well as how you’re going to get them there. 

This lays out the expectations and clarifies objectives, as well as when stuff needs to happen. 

These tasks and milestones should naturally teach new hires what they need to know when they need it, and include trackable, quantifiable results embedded directly into the program, so you can see if they’re on track or not.

Use Pre-recorded Experts When Possible

Since nearly everyone is delivering training virtually now, ask subject matter experts to record their presentations ahead of time so people can watch them at a faster speed than a normal presentation. When doing live training with presenters, Q&A sessions tend to drag out. While that’s ok for in-person training, virtual training needs to be concise and to the point to avoid viewer fatigue and boredom.

Get your experts to pre-record their content. It will give you more than just quality content for onboarding. Your team will also be able to repurpose it and distribute it throughout the organization. It should also stick to a strict time schedule and curriculum.

Have Engaging Practice Sessions

Practice is even more important for virtual onboarding than it was for in-person, and it was already pretty important. So much is learned with in-person sessions via unspoken communication, and that’s hard to replicate in a virtual setting. Without it, it takes more effort to get reps up to speed.

Consider making teach-backs, peer reviews, role-playing with their managers, and even something fun (a virtual pitch competition!) part of your virtual onboarding process. This is also a good time to put the people who are being virtually onboarded in small groups to interact. They will be more likely to ask for assistance and learn from their peers in small groups. You can formalize these pieces of training with video certification and scorecards.

Get New Hires Doing Meaningful Work Sooner

Get your reps to work quickly. Onboarding boredom is often one of the top complaints from new hires. Not only is boredom an issue, but onboarding shouldn’t feel like it’s dragging on and on without contributing meaningfully to the metrics your new hires are measured on. To avoid that pitfall, get your reps doing their actual job fast. The sooner they feel forward progress is happening, the more engaged they will be. Reps should be performing meaningful activities as soon as day two! Get them in Salesforce immediately as part of their daily tasks. Set up role play prospecting calls or whatever works to get them on the phone or using technology to build a pipeline quickly.

Only Provide What’s Necessary

Cut out any irrelevant training new reps get but isn’t needed to start their job and hit their first goal. For instance, don't onboard your sellers to focus on closing before they've learned about discovery methods and practices. The objective should be to give new hires information on a need-to-know basis in the very beginning. Your reps likely have information coming at them from HR, Marketing, and other divisions of the company.

Ask yourself, “Is this information necessary at this stage of onboarding? Could it be more effective at a later stage?” If you aren’t sure where to start, you can begin by filtering out information that is coming in before they have practiced what’s already been taught. Once you’ve done that, you’ll start finding other nonessential or ill-timed parts of the onboarding that you can cut as well, or push off to a more relevant time.

Virtual Learning Uses Real-Life Examples

Recordings are your secret weapon when developing effective training. If you use conversation intelligence tools, like Gong or Chorus, you already have most of what you need. Simply gather the records you have to use as a model for new hires to learn. You will want new reps to listen to a few examples of the entire sales cycle, with full discussions after each one. Be sure to include everyone on the team in the discussion. You will also want to gather a few great examples for each stage of your sales cycle. Time these with the other training and ask for feedback after each one.


The key to creating impactful training in a virtual setting is that it be goal-oriented, measured by milestones, and made fun, not boring. Mixing learning styles and even creating a meme or finding ways to inject humor into dry subjects makes them more memorable by association. Also, never discount how much “seeing” and talking to one another can make people feel connected. Building rapport early among peers can make for a very engaged team. Also paring down content to an “as-needed” basis can help new reps from feeling overwhelmed and less likely to forget the key points.

Want to learn more? Get our sales onboarding eBook here.