African Regional Host, Dave Nel, sat with Alan Versteeg, CRO at Growth Matters, on how to take a winning approach to onboarding sellers.

One of the key messages right out of the gate in this conversation is that onboarding often doesn’t work because we don’t define the role properly (not the job description), but the key responsibilities like these for a seller:

  • Build the right relationships
  • Have relevant conversations
  • Create value
  • Align outcomes

To deliver on these responsibilities, break down in each of these categories what disciplines they need to have:

  • Mindset
  • Toolset
  • Skillset
  • Help set

If this sound interesting to you, give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Dave Nel
Elon, we are super excited to have you here today to chat to us. Before we jump into the content, do you mind sharing a little bit about this crazy man that’s on the call with us? And the business that you work for, if you don’t mind? Yeah, great

Alan Versteeg
day. Thanks for the intro. Thanks for having me. I’m trying to keep it short. But the best example, basically share this is I started as an engineer, electronic engineer. It wasn’t my fault. I was not a wolf in those kind of shows. So I thought, that’s what I’ll be doing. And then I read a book called you born and original don’t die copy. And one of the chapters said, If you hate what you’re doing for more than two weeks, stop. And I’ve been doing it for two years. And it wasn’t what I thought I was going to be doing. I was cleaning cockroaches out of banking journals, and every now and again, getting into the electronics. So I thought I’d do something else. And I wasn’t quite sure what but I made that decision based off of that book. And I bumped into a friend who was selling and he said, you know, you’d be a good salesperson, you’re good with people. And it’s something I can go and try. I have no one drops off the call now. But I’ve got fired from our first four sales jobs. Yet I was doing everything they told me to do. Like they said, you got to know your product and get 100% for product knowledge this right, I could retain information, I could regurgitate it. But I became the world’s best talking brochure, right? They said, I need to be more motivated, I became so excited you could weld with me, I was probably irritating people. And I couldn’t get to the heart of it. But as an engineer, probably by Brian design, I have to see cause and effect. And I was trying to figure out what is the cause? What is the what is the genesis of this, and really trying to understand that and a guy by the name again, Craig changed my life is a sales manager. He he saw in me and unlock the potential of innovation, he went on to earn the halfway spin license in Africa, once again today for a period of time, his office as a sales professional sales manager, but did that for a period of time, my frustration was working the attraction, as I went back into the root cause analysis, and I realized that its sales management is their leg. So we got focused growth matters on developing sales managers and kind of helping those in paid those execution disciplines. So that’s my short road from where I was to where I am. Yeah, there’s a bit about us in growth medicine.

Dave Nel
That actually sounds like a book that I need to go and read. But also one of my passions, definitely sales, sales managers, right. Yeah. And at the moment, we are talking about onboarding. And I know that the growth matters as a business works with sales leaders, managers, sales enablement, professionals. And I’m interested in your view over the past what challenges you see in onboarding of new hires into businesses?

Alan Versteeg
Yeah, it’s it’s a great question. And it probably doesn’t just relate to sales, but I experienced definitely in sales, I would say there’s a couple of parts, I’ll give you some of the moving parts. But the first one I think is, is we don’t define the role properly. And I don’t mean the job description, detail that’s got to be there. There’s legal reasons, there’s important reasons. But if I say to you, what are the four things that sales professional needs to do? What are the four key responsibilities of their role, there’s going to be a design point. And from our perspective, is you have to build the right relationships, through relevant conversations. So relevant conversations, that creates value and align outcomes. Okay, so then you got those was the next material. Now want to figure out? What are the disciplines a sales professional needs to have to achieve this? And we I take it disciplines, and the way I see the disciplines is, it’s a combination of mindset, right? how I think about it, to set what I need to use skill, set the behaviors I need, and helps it you know, we get support from and then forms the discipline. So sometimes with onboarding, there’s so much we have to give the person we had an outcome contextualized. And with a lack of contextualizing the challenge then becomes, it feels like too much because I don’t I don’t have the mechanisms to put it in the right pigeonhole.

Dave Nel
Yeah. I love that. And, you know, that’s, that’s so profound. What a profound perspective, because context is so important when it comes to any kind of learning. And then the difference between the job spec and actually what I need to be able to do. I see the engineer coming out in your IDE. I love that. That frameworks of thinking kinda, yeah, can you? Can you expand a little bit on I think you said mindset to set skill set and help set it? Yes.

Alan Versteeg
We invented that word, because I just love when things are rhyming because it’s better for the brain. But the key thing is that what we don’t realize is all of us have something called cognitive bias. We come into every situation with a frame of reference. And a lot of people get wrong they have is they think that collaboration is people working towards a common goal, but collaboration really unlocks and we have a common goal and aligned thinking Right. So I think it gets a lot because you move on what we like to call in business, we’re on the same page. But many times in life when the same book, right? So that is so important, because it’s almost like with all the right intentions and a mood, all right intentions, we’re developing all this onboarding. But there’s so much that’s coming through that, then I don’t know, you’ve given me a Swiss Army knife with a whole bunch of things that I don’t know how to use when. And that’s the challenge is not that the content is flawed. So the onboarding is flawed. It’s like, Where’s my frame of reference? Where’s the wisdom map for my brain to figure out where this fits in and where not where users are at? So that’s the key thing around understanding frameworks. They sit and reset their cognitive bias. So when I’m speaking to you, and I say, well, maybe he’s got an attitude problem, I’m actually talking about Ellen’s thinking, how Elon thinks about things, his mindset. But sometimes it’s a tool set of tools, it’s just bad, and we can’t use it, it’s not working. Now we want to blame the skill set and sense of behavior from, you know, maybe it’s not to be able to, or maybe it’s just the way I think about it, or the tool I use, but then it could be a behavior, they will work on the behaviors, develop those behaviors. And then sometimes it’s just I don’t know who to ask for help when we don’t have a culture that supports me asking for help. So those things collectively create a discipline, right. And that’s the thing, onboarding needs accelerates my disciplines. To achieve the core functional model, which is to sell obviously, we can add fancy words of great value. But I got to build relationships, relevant conversations that create value and align outcomes, by the way, because what I learned as a young salesperson is it’s easy to sell what you don’t have, you know, if customer wants it, sure, we can do it. But then we go back to the business was to prepare, it’s to go and build it. And now we delivering bespoke solutions at delivery is not as good, a customer experience falls apart, because you’re gonna have everyone else it so that you give is the disciplines that we have to create. And from an onboarding, obviously, is the organizational stuff you’ve got onboard. But then if you think about the role, if I want to accelerate, talk to performance to a sales professional, be clear on the disc, the role, then get the disciplines in place. And then don’t just map one bigger monster tools that helps it scales it.

Dave Nel
I love that. And, you know, you said it at the beginning that, like onboarding isn’t just about sales people. So you can apply a lot of these principles to anyone that you onboarding in an organization. But obviously, we’re here talking, talking to sales. So I’m wondering, you’ve got some organizations and sales enablement, practitioners who are sitting there going, Oh, my goodness, those are, those are key topics, and perhaps I’m getting it wrong at the moment. So in your mind, why do organizations often get, you know, onboarding? so wrong, right? Is it because they, they’re focusing too much on product? Or they they’ve got these like blinkers on and they just want this perfect person at the end. But what do you see that really are getting wrong most of the time?

Alan Versteeg
Yeah, I mean, let’s let’s let’s agree that onboarding is critical. And let’s agree that there’s a lot of great content there. Right? But let’s let’s take CRM as an onboarding tool, right? We know most organizations have a CRM platform, there’s an expectation of sales professionals to do it. Right. So we do that. And guess what happens? You start the day you say, by the way, we use salesforce.com, as an example. Have you used it? Yes, I have. Okay, great. So when you click onboarding, just to show you how we use Salesforce, so what I’m doing in that situation, is I’m teaching them the toolset. Yeah. But wait, what is the mindset? Do they think CRM is an admin task? Do they think it’s really a customer relationship task? Do they think it’s a critical business tool? Do they think it’s impeding their performance? So I know the tool, but the story I tell myself, which shapes the destiny and trajectory of my life is going to fit no matter how good their onboarding is, if I didn’t buy into CRM, adding any value? And as soon as the inventory? No, do you think they know what the tools in CRM, great, we’re going to go? We’ve ticked that box. But we haven’t thought about that mindset. Now we want to get your skill set. Right? So what are the behaviors of doing this? Right? What can I do and then helps it when I get to sport. But Dave, you asked me the question, Where does go wrong, this is where it goes wrong. We are more loyal to culture than we ever going to be the process of strategy. So what I learned very quickly from the onboarding, onboarding, your CRM is still it’s important. you’ve sold me the value proposition on it, you’ve checked my mindset. But when I don’t have all three, four of those in place, guess what happens? I become loyal to the culture. So if the culture around here is that serum is a tick box exercise, no matter how good your onboarding onto the cheering was, the culture is going to win. If around here, your culture is this is a critical business tool that we make sure we have the right resources at the right place at the right time to deliver better customer experience. And I’m a part of it by inputting and keeping the data accurate. It’s a completely different mindset. But we don’t often enough look at those disciplines. And so we focus on those disciplines. So we work in companies get that discipline, right, though your discipline of number management is example. So that your onboarding gets its traction. That’s what’s missing. I don’t think it’s a it’s a content flow. The last thing I’ll add is if you don’t teach the people in the business The framework of thinking, they don’t understand the context of everything you’re doing. It’s a separate subject. But we know this day over at nursing homes over 90% of marketing materials aren’t used by sales professionals. So what do they want go builders for no point, though, do they have a good intention, they’re the right intention, they’re probably right, the right message, we don’t have the same frame of reference as to when to use it. So that piece of content you went and beautifully created, and you delivered and packaged and delivered to the sales professional to take to the customer, the sales professional doesn’t have a context as to when to use it. So it doesn’t get used.

Dave Nel
I love that. And you know, thank you, Alan. I mean, I so agree with you that context again, keeps coming up, coming up is key, but without the right culture being in place. Everything you do is harder, alright. And that culture isn’t just the onboarding culture, it’s the it’s the sales culture in your business sport. And and if you want to talk a little bit more to that,

Alan Versteeg
I do UI and I think what’s important, because sometimes we look at this culture thing, and it’s hard to define, I give a definition that the attorney knowledge that really landed on the end of this question around year around Yeah, meetings are around here CRM is around your account planning is? And when you answer that question, that’s your culture. Right? And if the answer is not what you want, you have to focus there was L. But that’s a leadership’s job. And they got to make sure we create the right culture, all of those things. Yes. But if you haven’t embedded the disciplines, the train tracks, as I call it, you serve as you’re working on the train, right. So there’s disciplines that mean, it’s part of the culture. So it’s about identifying it. And here’s the key thing, Dave, if your listeners again, doing this all you’re not doing anything wrong, this is always going to be a doll, not a switch. It’s complex, right? And our intentions, right. But I think the thing that I keep repeating and use board up, if we don’t align thinking and context, then everything we’re trying to do doesn’t have a track to run on. And that’s the culture. That’s the disciplines.

Dave Nel
I love that. And, you know, it’s, you’re adding people into the family, right? And that family already has a bunch of rules and ways of doing things. You need to make sure that’s clearly understood, and if it’s fit for purpose is is interesting. But that’s the one fit for purpose, because we will respond with culture quickly. Yeah, exactly. And how do you shift that if it’s not so? So that’s an interesting one, Ellen, I know that you guys, you said at the beginning, work with sales leaders, managers, sales enablement, professionals. Can you tell us a little bit about how your team has helped other organizations in terms of onboarding new people particularly,

Alan Versteeg
you also mean, you know, we don’t work with the onboarding, we have been blessed to have a lot of good global clients with us. But I’ll say this, David said many times, when we look at the onboarding organizations are doing it is pretty much solid. The work we have to help them with is first and foremost, what’s your framework? How do you how do you allow sales professional, to use the right Smart App, when they’re looking at what you’re trying to do for them, because I need their frame of reference, I need that context. So that’s the one port. But I’ll tell you most of the impact we have with onboarding happened long before that, when we were managing the soil, not the seeds. When we worked with the company, CIM paid the discipline of nurturing pipeline have, we made the discipline of building strong accountability are both the discipline of developing sales talent. And by getting those disciplines running, what happens is those new onboarding people that new people come in, and they quickly become pledges are brought into the family, right? They get invited into this rich sales soil, that then it becomes the way we do things around here. And that’s the key thing. You started a new job. And you go there, you got all these ideas. And now you’re excited, you’re going to your onboarding, and then you good old days, pre COVID, you go to the ball for some beers, right? You having some beers, and then you thanked your colleagues. Now I’ve noticed that we don’t seem to Hey, Well, listen, buddy, you knew. Let me explain to you how bringing up new ideas works around you, you’re gonna get down and around. Yeah. And that’s what they say. So we inculcate people into this culture, right? And onboarding is either accelerating that, or it’s being held back by the culture. So onboarding needs to be aware that what we don’t want to have these people land as a soil, and what is the leaders responsibility? This is not one thing day sales operation everyone people is so often a key customer, the sales and sales manager on taking ownership of the thought of the things to say it’s our job to have a house in order. It’s our job to make, you know, you can’t come back to enablement. Say you chose the wrong training, or you chose the wrong technology. Like I can great, but just show me what you actually executed this as a discipline. Oh, no, no, no, I thought that’s your job. So that’s where I see that breakdown happening, right? When you hit a cultural for me, which is where we started, where to get those disciplines, right? There’s so much acceleration by their onboarding, because I’ve seen such good onboarding content. But once again, because there’s so much I I need that. I need that Rubik’s Cube. I need that puzzle unlocker that says to me, I use this. I use it. Yeah, this is what Okay, great. Same frame of reference, same context, right. But if I don’t have that, I’m going to trust the culture.

Dave Nel
Yeah. And you know what, Ellen, it’s been wonderful chatting to you, because you pointed one key thing out to me is that onboarding is not just the four week process that you take a new starter through. It’s actually it’s actually part of looking wider. How do we do things here, around here? I mean, that tack time for me is so important, because you know, you can have the best onboarding in the world. But if that culture doesn’t correlate, it doesn’t match, it’s not fit for purpose, then the whole thing is gonna fall flat. So yeah, I wonder, you’ve given us so much information, any parting thoughts that you’d like to share with our audience today?

Alan Versteeg
Yeah, my brains lighting up. Now, there’s so many, we’re going to try and keep this to sink Dave, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t think that a lot of what you’re doing is wrong. Think about how you can get a frame of reference to unlock its value. And use it something out reminds me of something that happened me I was at a hotel, we’re training a hotel group at the time. And I said everyone is a customer. From the moment they arrive at a hotel. How long does it take to make them a guest? And what they’re talking about is how they felt about it. Right? So when you get on boarded into a company, how soon do you feel like part of the family has seen you feel, hey, this culture supports me? Or if I brought in bad habits, I got bought in a bad habit of bets, you’re in management, I realized that sort of things work around. Yeah. And I’m not going to get away with it. mediocre performance. Yeah. So then the culture starts to feed me. Because I know around. Yeah, that’s we respect this. And that changes it. So I think don’t feel overwhelmed. But big thing, context frameworks of reference, understand. But understand the culture is a big part of how quickly you can translate a new hire into a performer.

Dave Nel
I love that. And you know, you just said something I was thinking about, it’s one of our topics we’re going to cover this month as well, which is I always think about getting on an aeroplane, right? You’re on boarding you get on they give you the safety video, they tell you what to do. You sit down, you see who’s next to you. It’s kind of that whole whole process. But what’s really interesting is actually your experience starts way before that. And pre boarding, you know, is so important. So from the moment the job spec goes out to the to the interview process, you know, you learn a lot about becoming a get moving from a guest to part of the family. Right? And it starts right from when you first saw that job spec so

Alan Versteeg
so right. I mean, some organizations put 79 hurdles between me and the job. And you remember, top performers don’t stay in the market. Right. So that experience is part of it. I love that you share that it’s there’s as much part of it because it’s it’s how I got brought onto that stage. It’s all part of that experience creating something

Dave Nel
you’re teaching me from, from interaction one, you’re teaching you the culture, right. Right at the beginning. Well Alan, it’s been absolutely fantastic having you here today. I’m sure we will have you back again soon. And thank you so much for sharing your insights with us and enjoy the rest of your week. They sent you today. gifts from