This article is based on a presentation given at Future of SaaS Festival 2022. Get the full talk OnDemand right here.

My name is Gerry Hurley and I lead sales enablement globally for Tripadvisor’s B2B business. I'm honored to have the opportunity to share our approach to fast-tracking new hires to productivity.

In this article, I’m going to give you an insight into our onboarding process for our SMB business unit in the hope you might find some relevant learnings that could enhance your own onboarding process.

Before I start, I’d like to acknowledge that what I’m about to share is the product of true collaboration among our amazing team at TripAdvisor, spanning my own mighty sales enablement team, revenue operations, go-to-market teams, and sales teams, all with the support of our inspirational leadership.

Let's break down the sections of this article:

  • Context
  • A word of warning: Don’t jump the gun
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Impact


Before presenting our onboarding model, I want to provide a bit of context. We’re all acutely aware of the impact COVID has had and continues to have on our lives. In particular, the hospitality industry has had a very challenging 18 months, which in turn has had a dramatic impact on TripAdvisor.

At our lowest point in the pandemic, we were down as much as 86% in revenue. As you can imagine, this required us to go into triage mode and look at ways to weather the storm.

This resulted in a significant reduction in force, with close to 900 people leaving TripAdvisor, furlough schemes for sales, a significant cost reduction program, a consolidation of our restaurant and hotel business units, and a shift in our sales motion from acquisition to support.

Thankfully, the hospitality industry is resilient, and by the start of 2021 we were starting to see green shoots of recovery, a massive pent-up desire to travel, and a global vaccination program that accelerated the path to recovery.

It was at this point that we felt it was the right time to start recruiting again, so we set about the task of recruiting and onboarding over 128 new sellers to our global SMB business. To put that in context, that is an additional 30% headcount on where we were. This is where our sales enablement team enters the story.

We had a request from sales leadership for ramp, revenue, productivity, and all of this as soon as possible with the minimum impact on their business. I'm sure this type of request is not new to you.

In my experience, this is the type of problem statement sales enablement professionals often get, and while it is a great starting point, it's ultimately not very useful for us.

You see, in my experience, sales leaders are very quick to say what they want as an outcome, but aren't quick to say what they want as an activity that produces the outcome because the process of identifying the right kind of activity is actually very scientific.

When you think about it, it kind of makes sense. I believe most sales leaders, to a certain extent, understand enablement, but they are stronger at understanding “deliver results” and “drive people.”

They don't have time to sit and develop strategies because they're accountable, right? That’s why sales leaders – particularly the successful ones – have a much stronger tendency to just execute. They're not interested in ideation.

That's where we sales professionals have an opportunity. Actually, no, I'll go a little bit further and say we have a responsibility to come in and play our role.

A word of warning: Don’t jump the gun

Before I share how we responded to this ask, a word of caution. The desire to just execute for sales enablement is high. We want to jump in and help, but sometimes we leap into action too soon.

I call this jumping the gun. What I've learned over the years is to try not to do this. Rather, it's best to do two things first:

  1. Baseline your data – What does the ask mean in terms of activity?
  2. Get stakeholder buy-in – Get a commitment from sales leaders and sales managers to hold their sales teams accountable for those activities. It's a symbiotic relationship. You need sales managers holding the reps accountable for the activities that drive revenue, and you hold enablement accountable for developing the skills that boost those activities.


As I just mentioned, we started by baselining our data. In conjunction with sales leaders, rev ops, and enablement, we established a set of activity metrics, with the end goal of ultimately being able to generate and retain revenue faster than our prior ramp time of six months.

We looked at historical data and reviewed the levels of activities and revenue successful reps had previously done during their training periods.

In addition, we aimed to have reps complete training in a way that they would be profitable at month four and drive more monthly recurring revenue by the end of the six-month period than the 2019 average.

The next step was to define metrics for the two main roles we were recruiting for: business development executives and customer success executives. These metrics included the following:

  • Talk time
  • Daily activities in Salesforce
  • Opportunities created over a week
  • Monthly recurring revenue
  • Service level adherence
  • Call quality as determined by call reviews in adherence to our call flow
  • Behavioral feedback on how reps were engaging and their attitude


Having baselined our data and established a set of activities that would drive revenue and productivity, we mobilized a project team to help design and execute.

This group comprised a dedicated project manager from a go-to-market team, people ops and recruitment specialists, sales enablement professionals, revenue operations, and of course sales leadership.

With a high-velocity hiring plan, we needed new ways to onboard reps that were scalable, could fast-track reps to productivity, and would allow us to quickly identify people at risk and take action.

We rebuilt our onboarding plan to span 12 weeks, with the first three weeks focusing on a sales academy, equipping reps with the product, the system, and the process and sales skills required to be successful.

The remaining nine weeks focused on sharpening those skills on the job in an incubator environment, which we called a training floor, where a dedicated team leader provided high levels of coaching and support to build activity and deliver revenue.

To successfully graduate from onboarding and enter a productive team, reps must pass a number of formal control gates, hitting or exceeding set KPIs.


Next, we set about mapping a ramp path across each role and function. We put control gates in place at weeks three, four, eight, and twelve, where there was a formal review of rep performance against the agreed metrics.

There were three possible ranked statuses in these progress reviews. Green indicated that the rep was hitting or exceeding their KPIs and was ready to proceed.

Orange meant they were close and could proceed with coaching and a plan to address their gaps. Red indicated a need to move to a short-term improvement plan or exit.

We set expectations up front in interviews, contracts, and throughout the sales academy that we were a performance-driven organization and to be successful, reps needed to meet or exceed set KPIs, otherwise, they wouldn't be able to proceed. We also aligned our control gates to coincide with probationary periods.

Using Tableau in a self-service capacity, our rev ops team built reporting to showcase performance against benchmarks, trended weekly by role, team, and region.

While having robust reporting that both reps and team leaders can use is fantastic, we also needed to build a cadence of utilizing the reporting to drive performance conversations and corrective actions.

With that in mind, we created some tools to support our team leaders in managing performance. These included a behavioral scorecard to assess engagement, participation, attitude, openness to feedback, etc., so we could assess the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’.

We also created a tool to track rep performance across all KPIs week on week, as well as a weekly feedback loop to share best practices, identify blockages, and validate performance conversations.

A key success factor of the ramp program was the nine-week training floor run by team leaders.

Most of these were new team leaders promoted from within the business so to support them, we developed a skill-based training program to give them the essential skills and practical tools to build, coach, and lead new hire cohorts successfully through our onboarding program.

We utilized the flipped classroom model, with the team leaders completing bite-sized e-learning training independently during working hours and a schedule that suited them. We then brought them together in facilitated classrooms to do live problem-solving and application of that learning.

Finally, as a project team, we met to review how each cohort of hires was performing on average, pinpointing areas of progress and concern. In fact, we are currently undergoing a Six Sigma lean project to understand why we're seeing variance in performance across recent cohorts.


So, how did we do? Remember, our goal was to ramp the SMB sales team back up, adding an additional 128 headcount and ensuring quality training across the product portfolio and focused coaching, all with the aim of getting reps driving revenue as soon as possible.

To date, we have put 111 new hires through the program, with 10 recruits that didn't make it. We're exceeding benchmarks for average daily activities, opportunity creation, and save rates, and we're now able to understand days to sale, with the first sale coming in on average around 28 days from the start of the program.

In terms of net monthly recurring revenue signed, new hires are generating as much by month four as tenured reps, and we're now starting to see that new hires are generally more productive than tenured reps in terms of levels of activity.

In conclusion, up until we implemented this process, we did not have a good handle on the performance of new hires, nor did we systematically track progress throughout a sales rep's training period.

We've now operationalized the ability to manage and measure key sales productivity metrics that drive revenue and convert opportunities into signed deals. We’ve also created a platform for sales to have conversations with their teams around why they are or are not able to generate revenue.