Onboarding for Sales? Consult Your Inside Sales Handbook

Every sales team is different.

No matter how qualified or experienced the candidates are that you bring on board, they were likely doing things a bit differently at their last organization. And let’s face it: what worked for one company will not necessarily work for yours. So if you hope to keep your sales team consistent and cohesive, it’s essential to provide clarity from Day 1.

Enter the need for a very thorough, very detailed Inside Sales Handbook.

You want new inside sales hires to know exactly what your expectations are (your quotas and performance metrics are likely to vary from other companies, after all) and what tools or content they’ll need to sell successfully.

Steve Richard, the co-founder and head sales trainer for inside sales consultancy Vorsight, likens a great sales training program to the water that a plant needs to survive. If it’s deprived of it, the results won’t be pretty. If it’s watered too heavily, the plant will drown. Give it polluted water and the plant won’t be long for this world.

Now, let me make a very important clarification: When I say handbook, I’m not talking about pulling floating materials from your CMS the day before the new hire’s start date and sending them along via e-mail. If you feed your inside sales reps irrelevant second-hand material or force them to go out and research inside sales strategies on their own, you’re welcoming bad habits or tactics that don’t align with your philosophy.

That’s why you need to think old school.

In order for a rep to be truly prepared and an inside sales team to operate on the same wavelength, you need a big ol’ binder (sorry to all the tree huggers out there). And I don’t mean a binder full of junk. Keep it clean, concise, and sales focused.

Here are the main components I think every inside sales handbook needs:

Overview and purpose

First and foremost, an inside sales rep needs to be introduced to the organization’s selling philosophy and understand the mission of the team. State your goal for where you want to be in the market and how each person on the team will play a role in that.

Another critical piece to include is your inside sales mission statement, and the roles and responsibilities of sales reps. This portion is a rally cry to your team, explaining why everyone is clipped into their seats. Whether it’s to disrupt competitors or dominate the market, your mission statement identifies the things that your sales reps should be committing to on a daily basis.

Sales methodology

Your sales methodology is the approach you take as a sales organization. Whether your company favors Sandler, CustomerCentric, Solution selling, or some other sales methodology, it’s important to identify and define it in your handbook.

But don’t confuse your sales methodology with your sales process. As ES Research Group CEO Dave Stein explains, your sales methodology is a formal, documented, and universal system consisting of processes, methods, principles, tools, approaches, strategies and measurement to help achieve sales effectiveness. Your sales process, on the other hand, is more of a step-by-step systematic series of actions that help achieve a specific goal.

Performance measurement and review

Your inside sales team needs to be held to certain standards and expectations, but how can they do that if they don’t know what they are?

A thorough inside sales handbook will detail the activity and performance metrics that bring clarity to the salesperson’s mission. It should explain what they’re expected to do, how they’re going to do it, and how you plan to measure it. Think of it as a guide to success.

It’s also critical to highlight the criteria for performance reviews. Commit to these reviews on a quarterly and weekly basis and make it a two-way rating system. The idea is to have the salesperson and manager fill out the review and foster a discussion on both quantitative and qualitative data. Once reviews are complete, they can be added to each person’s binder.

Those are three very important components to every inside sales handbook, regardless of your company’s sales strategy.

And while you don’t want to drown your reps with useless information, some other necessary content to consider includes:

  • Territory breakdown
  • Phone and Email Scripts
  • CRM guide
  • Qualifying Questions
  • Common Objections
  • Inside Sales Lifecycle

What other essentials should be part of the inside sales handbook? Remember it’s the most important information your newbie sales reps will receive as it relates to selling. And what good is an inside sales organization if selling isn’t the goal?


Devon McDonald is a Partner at OpenView, where she sits on the firm’s investment committee and oversees OpenView’s Growth team, a group of Research, Sales and Marketing Strategists responsible for helping its portfolio companies acquire more customers and scale at an accelerated rate.
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