Sales managers frequently expose their teams to sales training. They send said teams to seminars and workshops, sign them up for online courses, even hire expert sales trainers to deliver customized classes. All of these options teach salespeople new skills and approaches that they can use to sell more effectively. But focusing solely on these types of training sessions means overlooking an equally important type of sales learning: the company-specific training that allows salespeople to sell for their employers with full confidence.
The first and most basic company-specific training is product training. If salespeople don't know how a product works or what its benefits are, they will be seriously handicapped in their sales efforts. Not to mention the fact that they'll look like fools when they can't answer basic questions about their own products. Ideally, each salesperson should own at least one company product or service and use it regularly. This keeps product training fresh in their minds and also means they'll have first-hand experience both of the product and of any updates or enhancements that the company decides to add later.
If giving the product to the sales team and having them use it frequently is not an option, the next best source of product information is the customer service or tech support team. These employees hear about product performance every day, both at its best and at its worst, and they'll have an excellent idea of how to use the product and how to resolve common problems with it. One simple way to get this information across is to have a new salesperson spend a day or two listening to customer service calls, perhaps even taking one or two themselves. Tech support training manuals and documentation are also a great source of product knowledge.
Once product information is squared away, the next type of company-specific training to impart is the internal structure of processes. For example, a salesperson should know how a typical order is processed -- which departments it goes through, who signs off on each step, where the product is assembled, and how long it usually takes to go from placing the order to delivering the finished product. Salespeople should also know the standard process for resolving customer issues; that includes contact information that the customer can use to reach appropriate departments. Finally, salespeople should have at least general knowledge of the development cycle, so that they can answer general prospect questions about when the next model will come out, what features it will have, whether there will be upgrades to existing products and when those upgrades will be available, and so on.
The third and final type of company-specific training should cover policies for the sales process itself. Salespeople must understand what their goals are, how the compensation structure works, what activities the company expects them to do and when, what leeway they have to offer discounts and other deals, the sales manager's coaching strategy, what to do if they are having difficulty, what forms and paperwork they'll need to fill out, and all the dozens of other details that keep a sales team organized and on track. If the sales team is clear on all of these details, they'll be able to focus on the sales process itself rather than wondering if a sale to an existing customer counts as a new sale and so on. Naturally, any changes to existing policies should be communicated to the sales teams as soon as possible -- hopefully well before the changes go into effect, so that the salespeople have a chance to express their opinions and get used to the new policies.