Scott Britton is a co-founder of Troops.ai, a software company focused on optimizing sales team performance. As a company leader, he has a lot of experience hiring and onboarding new employees, both remotely and in person.
As we were working to develop our new guide to employee onboarding, we wanted to pick our partners’ brains to get a sense of their experience – as well as their insight – on this important topic. After all, there are a million ways the onboarding process can get delayed, and the longer it takes, the longer you’re going without a full team of revenue generators hitting the phones.
So we chatted with Scott about what he sees as the main challenges and best practices for employee onboarding, 30-60-90 plans, and more.
What successful onboarding and 30-60-90 plans look like
Betts Recruiting: In your experience, what are some of the challenges around onboarding new employees today? Why do you think onboarding often faces delays, and takes longer than it needs to?
Scott Britton: So let’s look at a typical scenario. Today, a new ramping rep has a sales call and they’re like, “Alright, what are the questions I need to ask? What’s the information I need to get? How do I ask those questions? Where do I put it into the CRM? When do I do that? What do I do on the next call?” That’s a lot for someone to figure out.
And then, from a manager perspective, the managers are having a call review a lot of times, maybe once a week. Managers generally look at, I believe, only about 17% of calls, according to the call recording software research, if that. And so, over 80% of the time, they have no idea whether reps are following the process or not. And the cadence of that feedback loop to provide coaching and support is only once a week. That’s crazy! There’s just a big lack of visibility into what new reps are doing – or not doing – and that makes coaching harder, which in turn drags out timelines.
BR: So then what do you see as the solution to this? What are some of the best things that leaders can do to make their new sales hires more productive faster?
SB: I think at the highest level, the more you have your sales process defined and the more that everybody is working from a common language, the easier it’s going to be for people to learn it, as well as for your managers to kind of test and validate that that person is following it.
“You need to have a process, and then you need systems to guide and drive the right behavior, and to do it in real time.”Scott Britton, co-founder, Troops.ai
And then, ideally you’re able to give people systems, workflows, and processes that make it really easy for them to follow. This is where the technology piece comes in. You need to have a process, and then you need systems to guide and drive the right behavior, and to do it in real time. At Troops, we actually use our own product for this, which basically allows you to build proactive sharing of information and actions, in Salesforce and Slack.
So before a call and after a call, you’re pushing people prescriptive things to do like, “Hey, here’s the questions you need to ask on this call. Afterwards, here’s the fields in Salesforce.” Once we do that, we share the outcome in real-time with managers, so that they can see if the rep got the information that they needed. And then, if they didn’t, they can have a conversation around it, right then and there.
And this is how you go from a world of “once a week, 20% of calls” to understanding things more holistically, and being able to iterate and coach in more real time.
BR: It sounds like the point overall is just sort of investing upfront in the systems and resources that you need to actually make that ramping process as smooth as possible.
SB: Yeah, definitely. It’s also really helpful to make all of the things that are happening on the sales floor as transparent as possible, not only to keep people accountable, but also so that other people can learn. And what happens today with a lot of people that are ramping is that when they get feedback on how they’re doing, that feedback session takes place in a conference room with one person. No one else gets exposed to it. But other people could be learning from that if that was more publicly shared and available.
And so, the more transparent and open you can make the conversations around coaching, the better. This could be comments and a call recorder for example, stuff where it’s going to be easier for other people to learn.
“The more transparent and open you can make the conversations around coaching, the better.”Scott Britton, co-founder, Troops.ai
I also think acknowledging that people learn differently and treating the onboarding process more iteratively is imperative. One of the things that we do at Troops is every day for the first month of onboarding, the new hire has to fill out a survey: “How did today go on a scale of 1-10? What was challenging? Any feedback?” That’s kind of eye-opening. Giving somebody a place to share that feedback, so you can constantly iterate how you’re delivering the information, is critical because not everybody learns the same way. Some people, you might need to spend less time on one thing than another. And if you don’t have that information and make it really easy for people to communicate it in a non-confrontational way, yeah, you’re just going to slow people down.
BR: At Troops, do you typically expect internally-promoted AEs – that is, AEs who started at the company as SDRs and then moved up – to be up and running faster than externally-hired AEs? My intuition says you would, because internally-promoted AEs already know the product and the competition, so they have kind of a head start. But we surveyed our clients and found that the expectations are about the same for both groups. Does this align with your experience as well?
SB: I think it aligns for us, but I caveat this with saying I think a lot of this depends on the complexity of the sale and the product that you’re selling. Things like, for example, do you have sales engineers that demo or do you have reps that demo?
The SDR is going to have an edge in their ability to build pipeline on their own. They’re likely going to know the product and market probably better. That’s a really valuable asset.
But where they’re going to have a gap is the actual sales acumen, and how to run a great discovery call and what questions to ask. And so, on the flip side, the more experienced AE might have market knowledge, and really know how to run a great sales process and might even have some connections higher up in organizations. So it kind of evens out in many cases.
BR: When you request 30-60-90 plans from candidates that you’re hiring, do you only request it from candidates applying for executive roles? Or do you ask all candidates, or at least more than just executive candidates, to submit these plans?
SB: Executives for sure. I also think it depends upon the maturity of the company. I’ll give you an example. The first marketing hire that we made was a director – but again, it was our first ever marketing hire. They were going to kind of come in with a blank slate. And so, in that instance, we had them do a 30-60-90.
Now, a company that has a really built-out, mature organization and the scope of what they need to accomplish is much more confined, maybe it doesn’t make as much sense. So I think it’s kind of dependent on the scenario. I’d say generally we ask people to do some version of: “What would you do in this scenario?” This could be a time horizon or maybe a very, very specific scenario.
BR: What do you look for in a 30-60-90 day plan? What do you think are sort of the core elements of any successful one?
SB: So, usually somebody comes in and they’re all the same. It’s like “I’m going to spend the first 30 days learning, I’m going to spend the second 30 days implementing, and then I’m going to spend the last 30 days iterating.” And then it’s a list of things that they would do.
“A 30-60-90 plan should be a way to understand how someone thinks.”Scott Britton, co-founder, Troops.ai
That, to me, is a weak answer. What I think good looks like is ones that have context. That could be something like: “Here’s what I know about your business. I did a SWOT analysis. Here’s your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities. I went in and I had conversations with people in the organization, and here’s what I learned.”
And I think that’s super important. It contextualizes that person’s thinking, because a 30-60-90 plan should be a way to understand how someone thinks. Not necessarily an evaluation, like “is this the perfect plan?”, because that person’s going to come in, they’re going to learn things and it’s going to change. And so, I think getting that context and presenting it is really important.
The other thing that I really like to see is people that take into account the context of the business at large. I’ll give you an example. If someone was doing a 30-60-90 right now, I’d want them to say, “Here’s how I would typically think about my hiring plan. But, because of the coronavirus and the fact that the majority of our companies are retailers, I actually think that we should probably hold off hiring for three months.”
BR: That makes sense. It demonstrates that this isn’t just a cookie-cutter 30-60-90 that’s identical to the one that was deployed at every other company this person has ever interviewed at. Rather, it’s tailored to the moment and tailored to the company.
SB: Exactly. Another example could be something like: “I learned that we’re seven months in the year, we’re X% to goal, and our sales cycle is so-and-so. And the only way that we’re going to hit our goal is if we get a certain amount of pipeline in the next two months. So I may know that we need to revamp our sales process, but I’m going to put that on hold because we need to focus on building pipeline my first month here.” That’s something that I think would be really compelling to see in a 30-60-90.
BR: Scott, thanks so much for your time today. I hope things are going well over at Troops, even with everything going on in the news.
SB: Thanks. You know, we’re doing the work from home thing. We’re adapting like everyone else.