This guest post has been authored by our partners at Ambition, the leading sales coaching and gamification software.

If your company was hit with a hiring freeze when COVID-19came into play, you’re not alone. Many sales organizations slammed on the brakes back in March, taking a wait-and-see approach to growth plans. (They were also busy with the overwhelming task of shifting their team to remote work, fast.)

In some ways, there isn’t a whole lot more certainty now than there was back in the spring. What is clear, though, is that many sales floors will remain dark for the foreseeable future, even into 2021.

So, remote work isn’t going anywhere — but the good news is that many teams have hit their WFH stride. Though we’re still in the midst of a global health crisis, businesses are successfully navigating this ever-changing normal. As a result, deals are closing, growth is happening, and for some companies, hiring is back on the table.

Revamping Your Employee Ramp Up Plan

That presents a new challenge: managing remote employees and ramping up remote employees are two totally different ball games. When your team went remote, sure — your processes and workflows totally changed. But your people were already performing in their roles, and you already had an idea of how to manage each individual.

If you’re hiring remote employees — whom you may not meet face-to-face until next year — it’s still entirely possible to get them up and running, fast. You just need to tweak your typical onboarding process. And don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: Here are 5 best practices for effectively ramping remote reps.

1. Digitize everything

If you’re used to onboarding in-person, you may have stacks of printed materials gathering dust on your desk back at the office (it’s okay, we’re not judging).

We’ll just say this: No matter how your sales org works, it’s always been a good idea to digitize sales materials — but now, it’s imperative.

Use this opportunity to get your whole onboarding program set up online, whether you’re using a content management system or just starting with some Google folders. The goal is to make it incredibly easy for your new people to find all the things they’ll need as they’re getting started. That includes:

  • An onboarding roadmap: This may be a general outline or a customized plan for each new rep. The idea is that they’ll have a firm understanding of what the onboarding process looks like, including the structure, objectives and standard checkpoints of your program. Can they expect regular product training sessions or department orientations? Are you following a 30/60/90-day plan? Be specific.
  • Brand assets: Think mission and vision statements, company values — anything that helps them understand the who/what/why of your company.
  • Ideal customer profile/buyer personas: These should be fully fleshed out and readily available so your new reps have an immediate and thorough understanding of who they’re selling to. Include goals, desires, pain points, and demographic information.
  • Key messaging: This includes your elevator pitch, cold calling scripts, email templates, product demo recordings.
  • Sales collateral: Ensure all your selling materials are easy to find online.

2. Make connections.

Happy employees are productive employees, so prioritize team culture. It may seem like a low-ish priority when there’s so much to learn, but fostering collaboration and connection can have a huge impact on ramp time.

No, you can’t send your team out to lunch together, but you can still ensure they’re getting to know one another from day one. Make a point to (virtually) introduce your new reps to everyone on day one. Ensure they know about the “fun” Slack channels where people are sharing animal photos or parenting horror stories. Make peer coaching a standard part of the onboarding program, and incorporate team-building events into your schedules — like a virtual wine tasting or afternoon trivia hour.

3. Balance flexibility and accountability.

There’s no reason that ramp time should slow down just because your team is remote. You can still hold your employees accountable to ambitious (but attainable) goals; the key is being flexible.

That’s especially true with extenuating circumstances we’re all currently dealing with — e.g., schools being shut down.

When you’re setting goals for your new reps, come from a place of support. Make an effort to understand their personal situation, then work together to come up with a plan that enables them to hit their goals without causing undue stress. For example, instead of setting hourly or daily activity targets, it may be better to set weekly targets so your reps can work around their own time blockers.

4. Prioritize visibility.

Make sure you have the tools you need to get real-time performance insights. Most importantly: give your new reps access to those same insights from the start.

Tracking progress against goals on whiteboards and in spreadsheets hard enough when you’re in the office. When you’re remote, it’s not just an inconvenience; it can be detrimental to your teams’ performance — and that risk is amplified for new reps.

Now more than ever, you need every single person on your team to have 24/7 access to performance data — ideally in a way that’s visualized and easy to digest. If you’re trying to get your new remote reps fully productive in the least amount of time, make sure they always know where they stand. They’re likely dealing with increasing targets and benchmarks as they ramp, so that level of visibility is also key for alignment.

Plus: it’s critical information that you need for real-time, data-driven coaching — which brings us to our next point.

5. Coach like you’ve never coached before.

You may be spending extra quality time with your new SDRs while they’re onboarding — but that’s no substitute for a coaching session.

Don’t use that time for performance reviews or those 30/60/90-day checkpoints. Instead, give them the benefit of true coaching, where you’re focusing on their development, helping them overcome challenges, and guiding them through open-ended questions that promote self-learning and awareness. That time will also speed up the development of healthy relationships with your new folks, building a foundation of trust and transparency from the start.

Schedule weekly 1:1s where you’re 100% focused on skill development, overcoming challenges, and building action plans that get your reps to their goals. Don’t stop there: get creative by providing additional resources to your team — e.g., bring in virtual “guest speakers” for a department meeting, share articles and webinars, and make time for peer coaching.

If you’re in a place where hiring is happening or on the horizon, congratulations: It’s (at least in part) a testament to the work you and your team have done to get through these past few crazy months. Like many aspects of our work these days, your onboarding program will need to adapt to the current state of the world — but with a few strategic tweaks, you can still get your new reps ramped as fast as you need them to be.

Brian Trautschold

Brian Trautschold is the co-founder and COO at Ambition, the leading sales coaching and gamification software. Thousands of sales managers use Ambition to get real-time performance insights, coach reps to success, and drive long-term behavior change with competitions. Transform your team into a world-class sales org with Ambition.