A year ago, I was approached by our COO and VP Sales with an interesting challenge:
“SimilarWeb will be growing the Inside Sales team by 50+ new hires over the next 12 months. We need to build a scalable training program that incorporates a strong initial onboarding program for our product and company culture and supplement this with a sales focused training program that makes sales ninjas. Lastly, remember, SimilarWeb is a data driven company – decisions and growth need to be backed by data.”
As a veteran sales manager, this challenge combined with SimilarWeb’s rock solid reputation were too good to pass up. I’d like to share some insights into this process and how we continue to grow as a team day by day, bigger, stronger and better.
New SimilarWeb hires from each month start with a unified 5 day NEO course (NEO = New Employee Onboarding). The course consists of 20+ general sessions about the company: history, core goals, operations, procedures, product knowledge, etc. The NEO course also gives new hires exposure to our company culture as well as opportunity to speak with internal product experts, VPs, and all C level staff. (My best memory is when our CEO spontaneously joined our new hire lunch out on their first day, an intimate lunch setting with the CEO on your first day, not a bad way to start a new job)!
NEO success is measured through session feedback about content, presenters, tempo and supplemental reading materials. Course content and presentations are reviewed and adjusted based on feedback (thus far, we have a fantastic lineup but the feedback gives insight to how we can improve).
Our Sales training program (AKA “SimilarWeb Boot Camp”) integrates with the NEO course and continues for an additional 2-3 weeks. Sales training focusses on three areas: product knowledge, industry expertise and practical sales skills. Our goal is to build the foundations for a sales ninja who is familiar with the product, our industry and how to value sell.
Finding the Right Combination
In the “early days”, our sales training focused on Product Knowledge and Sales Skills. We later understood that true Value Based selling required a deeper understanding of our customer: their needs, pains and KPIs. We started integrating deep persona based training into the course to gain a deep understanding of our customers, their needs, pain points and KPIs. By understanding our customer, our Sales team is able to provide a catered approach to each prospect. The combined approach of Product Knowledge, Sales Skills and Customer Persona insights we were able to reduce the sales cycle and better engage our clients (remove the “fluff”…exactly what a client wants).
Building The Right Tools
The Online Marketing Team pitched in with an awesome series of in house Academy resources (Sales and AM Academy, Product Academy, HR Academy…). Each Academy is an extensive online reference guide containing a documented approach to SimilarWeb product knowledge and our sales practice. The training courses are documented in the Academ. In addition, our Product Marketing team produced a slick Persona based Value Map and playbook providing the Sales team with an organized approach to each persona.
Building a strong Sales team is a lengthy process which involves patience long term commitment and dedication from all sides. After a heavy investment of recruitment and training the best candidates, ramp-up goals should be challenging but also achievable. The best training will come in a “live fire” environment with clients. Here are our ramp-up targets:
- Month 1 = 20% of target
- Month 2 = 50% of target
- Month 3 = 80% of target
In SimilarWeb, joining our Sales team is actually joining our Sales family. The Sales family supports this by leading training and Sales enrichment sessions; it is an “all in” approach and everyone helps. In addition, we implemented a personal Mentor program for new hires to the Sales team. The Mentor is responsible for support during the training and onboarding process.
Summing it up
The training and onboarding process for Sales staff is extensive and time consuming. By working together and joining the resources, expertise and valuable insights from multiple areas of the company we’ve built a successful onboarding and training program that delivers results. For us, this is a great investment, but then again… it’s all about the people.