Candice Coots
Content Marketing at SetSail
Table of contents:

Sales ramp time is one of the most iconic measures of sales productivity. But it's also one of the hardest to improve. An average rep takes 6-9 months to ramp. This means that for at least half a year a member of your team is not showing any productivity.

For some businesses, the cost of poorly ramped sales hires runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

While you can't fully eliminate these costs, you do have control over how much you can reduce time to ramp.

Just think for a moment; how would reducing the ramp time of your new hires by 10%, 20%, or even more impact your bottom line? If you have 10 sales reps with a $2M in quota and it takes 7 months for a rep to ramp, how much more revenue could you gain by reducing the average ramp time by 1 or 2 months?

Outside of pure monetary costs, there is also an impact on morale, culture, teamwork, and other key elements that make up a successful sales process that is hard to measure by delivering a better onboarding experience and reducing ramp time.

But first, what is ramp time and how do you measure it?

What is Ramp Time?

Ramp time refers to the duration of time it takes for a new hire to go from starting in a new role to become fully productive.

Typically, this means getting the new hire set up with all the tools and learning they need.

Every organization has its own way of approaching the new sales hire success. There's no shortage of creativity when putting together a fun and engaging Bootcamp, a buddy system, a staged learning, and so much more. Unfortunately, showing improvement of ramp time based on these programs is easier said than done.

How do you measure Ramp Time?

First, what is the definition of a ramped rep? Is it that they sold their first deal? Or that they created enough pipeline? Or simply that a certain arbitrary period, say 6 months, has passed since they got hired? The truth is every organization views it differently. And that's probably okay. But no matter what your definition is, the right way to measure it should rely on a set of leading indicators, not just lagging ones (when it's too late to address the gaps).

You need to track things that are happening in the field in real-time. From early pipe building to how customers are responding to your new reps (and how fast), the key is shifting your focus from noise to signals.

Introducing: Data-Driven Ramping

Unfortunately, checking a box on completion of an onboarding program isn't a very helpful leading indicator. To be truly data-driven you need to move beyond content-focused onboarding to thoroughly measured, data-driven ramping. Here is how the two approaches are different:

Onboard your new sales reps like it's 2022

If you watched the movie Minority Report, the idea of data-driven ramping will make a lot of sense to you. In the movie, an elite law-enforcing squad uses three gifted humans (Pre-Cogs) to predict and prevent bad things from happening before they happen.

Luckily, you don't need Pre-Cogs to predict if your reps aren't going to be successful. Today, data and AI are at just the right level to keep you in the know. You can finally create a window into the future success of your new reps!

That's what SetSail's sales tracking is all about. We use predictive signals to measure where your new raps stand and who's falling behind. But even with SetSail, you need a good framework in place to ensure success. Just like in the Minority Report, all the data in the world won't help you if you don't have the right principles in place. Here at SetSail, we use a 3-step evaluation to track if new hire ramping is... well, on track.

3 critical questions we ask when ramping sales

We ensure ramp success by answering the key questions below:

1. Are they building competence? Answering this question is all about the delivery of the onboarding program. From training to tools and processes, we simply ensure that the rep gained this knowledge.

2. Are they building confidence? This checkpoint is about making sure the program is received well by our new reps. A great way to measure this is messaging certifications and grades from mock demos. This stage also involves small wins around pipe building and account relationships.

3. Are we sure they are building competence and confidence? - This third stage makes all the difference. It is where we overlay real-time data to truly track if what we did in #1 and #2 works for our reps. Tracking their communication with customers you can easily detect signals that predict success or failure. You can also use that data to compare new hires to top-performing reps and best practices.

This Signal-Based tracking of your reps is a complete 360 approach to creating a predictive view of their success (and things you can do to ensure it). Here's an example set of signals you can track to compare rep success against benchmarks.

The key principles of Data-Driven Ramping

What matters in data-driven ramping is tracking new hire signals unique to your business. Every business is different so out-of-the-box templated dashboards won't work. There are no benchmarks of emails or calls that work the same across companies.

Another key is to shift from tracking just rep activity to tracking customer engagement. We are in the age of the customer. The buying process is fully in their hands. And the answer to the question 'how are my new reps doing' is with the customer.

In addition, here are a few more thought starters as you create your perfect onboarding program.

11 Tips to Accelerate New Hire Success

Know What You Want In a New Hire

No two hires are equal, as are no two ramp times. There are some variables that may be out of your control, but there is a definite correlation between inexperienced sales reps and longer ramp times.

This is to be expected. The more a new hire has to learn, the longer their ramp time will be.

By taking a deeper dive into a prospective hire’s experience, personality, and evaluating how well they’ll fit in with the culture already established within your organization you can impact the ramp time.

Establish Great Communication From the Start

Good communication is crucial to sales success, that’s just sales 101. So, if you can’t demonstrate good communication between you, your team, and your new hires, you’re sending the wrong message from the start.

There are also some practical reasons related to good communication and how it can also impact ramp time.

Great communication among a sales team encourages a culture of teamwork and helps lift everyone. It’ll encourage new hires to speak up if they need help, and help them fit into the team and their role quicker.

Make Knowledge Easily Accessible

The quote “Knowledge is power” is certainly true when talking about onboarding, and sales in general.

The more knowledge that flows freely throughout a sales team, the better equipped your sales reps are to get up to speed, sell, and perform at their best.

Setting this precedence from the moment you start onboarding a new hire will knock down obstacles and reduce their ramp time.

Sharing knowledge is something SetSail facilitates. Not only does SetSail get everyone working on the same page, but the insights it generates through tracking and reading sales data provides invaluable knowledge to your reps.

Explain Your Sales Processes in Detail

It’s easy to be product-focused when onboarding new hires. But, spending time teaching and explaining your sales processes is what makes a difference to ramp time.

A simple way to explain this is that your sales processes are the foundations that support how your reps sell your products and services.

The better understanding a new hire has of how your processes work, the quicker and more efficiently they will be to start selling and work towards their goals.

Use the Right Sales Tools

As the selling and buying process becomes more and more digital, it’s become more and more important for sales reps to use the right tools to reach customers and work more efficiently.

We’ve been able to identify that sales are changing, and what changes sales teams need to make to keep up.

Seeing a small number of top sales reps making the lion’s share of a team’s sales doesn’t have to be the norm any longer. We now have the tools and tech to identify the exact actions that drive top sellers - and how to replicate those actions among other team members.

SetSail collects sales data and drives revenue execution by using machine learning to realign every rep’s actions around the small wins that lead to their big win.

There’s no winning without good data. The right sales tools will create a winning culture and give you a competitive edge over your competitors.

Set Clearly Defined Goals

Effective goal setting is the backbone of any successful sales team. The reason is simple - setting goals helps reps focus.

The best thing you can do for a new hire is set some clear goals right off the bat. If possible, set several smaller goals instead of one larger goal near the end of their expected ramp time.

This sets up a series of small wins to keep them motivated and help build them up to the larger goals. However you approach setting goals, it’s important that new hires have a clear, measurable roadmap.

Monitor Performance and Provide Coaching

Around a third of all new hires quit within the first three months, and the most common reason cited is lack of training and support.

SetSail starts collecting data on your new hires from the moment they start. This enables you to get an early understanding of what a new hire’s strengths and weaknesses are, and helps identify areas where you can provide coaching.

Not only does this reduce your rate, which in turn saves you a lot of money, it also reduces the ramp time for new hires.

Onboard Them With the Right Technology

The way organizations onboard new hires is always changing. Due to advancements in sales tools, however, the approach has changed rapidly in recent years.

The content-focused onboarding approach of years gone by is just no longer effective. You can’t give a new hire some onboarding materials and expect them to hit the floor running.

We now know that a data-driven ramping approach is the most effective way to successfully onboard new hires so they stay, and their ramp time is reduced.

The most effective way to do this is using sales tracking software like SetSail. SetSail enables you to take new hires through the most effective ramping cycle of;

  • Training
  • Observing
  • Coaching

This greatly reduces the risk of failure, enables you to act quickly and proactively, and shares the responsibility of onboarding new hires with the rest of your team.

Help Them Play to Their Strengths

When sales reps - and this applies to employees in general - are able to play to their strengths, they are more motivated, focused, driven, and will to perform better.

All qualities that lead to a new hire hitting their most productive self in the shortest possible time.

Historically, the difficulty has always been identifying those strengths and finding ways to empower reps so they can focus on them while minimizing tasks exploiting their weaknesses.

Sales tracking has made all of this possible. SetSail enables you to identify exactly what an individual rep is doing well, as well as the things they aren’t doing so well.

Moreover, it enables you to go much deeper than looking at their sales numbers. You can see exactly how they’re interacting with customers, what’s leading to their sales, where their time is most productively spent, and much more.

SetSail then uses AI and behavioral science to help you identify their strengths and the actions that are bringing in sales. Enabling you to help them best allocate their time on those high-impact tasks.

Show Reps How to Replicate Successful Behaviors

Going back to the data-driven ramping approach, replicating successful behaviors is one of the quickest ways to get a new rep up to speed with your top reps.

This is also something SetSail does better than any other sales tracking software. Not only does SetSail collect data on your top sales reps, but it also leverages machine learning to analyze the data and provide insights into which behaviors are driving sales.

This enables you to dive much deeper into the actions and behaviors that are making a difference. You can then help your new hires replicate your top reps’ success from the moment they start selling.

Create the Right Company Culture

Company culture is often one of the overlooked elements of building a successful sales team and helping new hires become a valued part of that team.

A winning culture has been proven to help improve employee engagement, increase productivity, encourage reps to achieve their quotas, and importantly for this topic - help reduce ramp time.

The core to creating a winning culture is defining best practices, creating an environment of healthy competition, and empowering reps with the tools and knowledge they need to best perform in their roles.

All of which can be achieved by using SetSail.

Having the data at your fingertips to identify what’s driving small wins is invaluable. As is the ability to create a global leaderboard and set real-time incentives. This is one of the key features of SetSail that brings out the very best in every rep while creating a winning culture.

How the Right Technology Makes All the Difference

Knowing what you need to do to reduce ramp time is one thing, having the tools and data to make it possible is another.

SetSail's sales management software uses a combination of AI and behavioral science to help businesses turn their sales data into better sales behaviors.

This intelligent software uses a data-driven approach to build custom end-to-end solutions that make a real difference to how sales teams perform and how quickly and efficiently you can onboard new hires.

Global brands like HubSpot, Cisco, and Dropbox are SetSail's customers. It’s a true end-to-end solution to help you gain insights into how your sales team is performing and ways you can improve productivity and performance. Tour the product →