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Research has shown that 68% of employees say training and development is a company’s most important activity. Sales training is particularly crucial to a company’s success and can give you an edge over your competitors. In fact, according to research, the calibre of a salesperson in the B2B environment is the most important factor influencing prospects’ decision to buy.
Here’s a manager’s guide to what sales training involves and how you can get the best out of your salespeople:
Sales training refers to all the efforts a company makes toward the professional development of its new sales hires. The training should provide new hires with the right skills and techniques to create the maximum number of new sales opportunities for the organization. It may consist of lectures, talks, roleplays, mentorship, shadowing, and more.
CSO Insights found salespeople who complete training have 10% higher win rates. An essential part of your training should be identifying the skills your sales employees are lacking and developing multiple ways to instil these skills. These skills gaps should be identified in short yet concise weekly catch-ups with new salespeople where their results are discussed and targets set in place. Here sales managers can identify and iron out any problems that have arisen.
Research has found that sales are not generally seen as an attractive path for graduates. As a result, many sales roles are left unfilled. The ability to sell is a skill in short supply, and more needs to be done to attract fresh graduates and college leavers into the field.
Sales onboarding refers to an educational program designed to equip new hires with the right skills and knowledge required for the job. This could be an internal training program within a company or one led by external providers.
You should start your sales onboarding program with clear requirements, objectives, and goals. Consider the following:
Research has found that the nature of sales is changing. Salespeople are expected to move away from the cold hard sell, toward building long-lasting relationships and providing a more advisory perspective. This approach is arguably more difficult and requires more training and experience to get right.
Furthermore, salespeople need to be trained within the preferred technology channels of their customers – whether that’s their company’s CRM system, LinkedIn Premium, email marketing, and telesales, among others.
Shadow other employees
Shadowing employees provides a rich and authentic insight into the role, and gives a trainee a deeper understanding of what they are expected to do on a day-to-day basis.
The sales manager should make a list of high achievers for the employee to shadow, with varying techniques, who are willing to be shadowed. Rather than shadow one employee for a lengthy period of time, give the new starter the chance to observe multiple teammates for a short period.
This allows them to observe different individuals’ techniques and is less demanding on the shadowees’ time.
Encourage them to take note of how staff use the CRM platform, how they manage their lists, the way they conduct themselves on the phone, and the types of questions they ask and the information they record.
Research has shown that of those with a mentor, a whopping 97% say they are valuable, and 89% of those who have been mentored will go on to mentor someone else. Other research has shown that only 37% of professionals have a mentor, which represents a lost opportunity to help people succeed and feel motivated in their job.
Assign new salespeople a willing mentor who can give them tips and advice about the job, as well as a chance to socialize with and get to know their new colleagues. An ideal mentor is someone slightly more experienced than they are but preferably someone still fairly new to the job. This gives them more relatable mentorship and insight into where they will be within the coming months. You could put an open call to encourage staff to be mentors, or approach individuals who you think would be suitable for the job.
The mentor should be able to meet their mentee on a weekly or fortnightly basis to discuss any issues or challenges they are facing, as well as celebrating their successes. This doesn’t have to be lengthy, 30 minutes should be enough time.
Talk about previous sales successes
Get your salespeople to talk about big sales targets they’ve hit or surpassed, as well as the positive experience they’ve had with clients. This is motivating for new starters and allows them to see what success looks like, and how it’s achieved.
Encourage salespeople to put together a short presentation, discussing each touchpoint, and the conversations they had with the client/ customer prior to making the sale. This can act as a rough template for the new starter, and may also motivate your other staff to knuckle down too.
Know the service/product inside-out
There’s nothing other than a salesperson stumbling through a sales pitch and getting nowhere. It’s important that your salespeople know the product inside-out and can be ready to answer any questions. They should know:
This knowledge needs to be integrated into their pre-work training, but should also be reiterated regularly post-training, so it’s drilled into your staff and not forgotten.
Encourage your new trainees to conduct an analysis of your competitors, so they are better aware of the landscape you are selling in.
Understand the customer
Your new hire should understand who they will be selling to. If you haven’t already, come up with ideal customer profiles that you can share and talk through with them. They should be able to understand the traits, interests, and lifestyle of the average client you’re selling to. This will also allow the new starter to seek out new leads who meet similar criteria.
Your new hire should be able to understand early on what the customer journey looks like, and what the touchpoints are. What are the potential barriers? Where do people tend to drop out of the journey, and how can this be avoided? Map out the journey with this information for your new hire.
Make training ongoing
Research has found that without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement, approximately 50% of learning content is not retained within five weeks, much less applied. Within 90 days, 84% of what was initially learned is lost. This is an important statistic to apply to your training.
Training shouldn’t merely consist of one or two weeks of learning, after which the new hires are left to their own devices. Training needs to be continuous, and small bites of learning are often more digestible than lengthy sessions.
Additionally, there is no better way to learn than in ‘the field’. Being thrown into the deep end shouldn’t be a huge challenge if new starters are well supported, and have the right information at their disposal.
Have daily standup meetings
Laborious meetings can really feel like a time drainer, so break them up instead. Short, ten-minute daily standups are a great way to ensure staff feel motivated and engaged, so introduce these as soon as possible.
As the name suggests, standup meetings are held standing up. The goal is to keep them as snappy and to the point as possible, and discuss the tasks that have been finished, are in progress, or about to start. It allows you to know where everyone is at, and inform your manager of your progress and daily objectives. Standups shouldn’t exceed ten minutes and should stick to what’s important, saving more in-depth discussion for more formal settings.
Celebrate strengths and focus on weaknesses
Your sales team needs to feel motivated at work, and this shouldn’t just come from monetary benefits. Their work should be valued when they make their first sale, so ensure this is celebrated. However, there are always ways in which employees can improve their work – and if we don’t address these weaknesses, they will never move forward.
Open and honest feedback should be delivered to new hires, and weaknesses shouldn’t be framed negatively. Instead, they should be constructed into clear, measurable goals for example making a set number of calls per day or hitting revenue targets that increase gradually over time.
Everyone has their own unique set of strengths and knowledge and skill-sharing
should be encouraged by your company to ensure everyone is getting rounded training.
Collaborate with other teams
Being in a team that is kept apart on their own and not collaborating with other teams is known as the ‘silo effect’, and it’s highly detrimental. Productivity suffers as teams don’t effectively communicate with each other – work that’s already been done gets repeated, and resources not properly utilized.
Salespeople need to collaborate, particularly with marketing – who can supply useful materials to aid sales – but also with data experts, account managers, and customer service teams. Research has found that 39% of employees within a surveyed group believe that there isn’t enough collaboration between people in their organization.
We spoke to Simon Carmichael, Sales Manager at Customer Generation company MVF, who commented:
“It’s essential to get new team members up to speed with the norms and culture of the business as quickly as possible. It is important for training to provide the right tools to succeed, while still allowing the salesperson autonomy and independence. Effective training not only allows salespeople to understand what our value proposition is, but if a salesperson understands the why and how of what we do, then they are in a stronger position to set up new partnerships for success.”
Paul Sullivan, CEO & founder of Bias Digital commented on his sales training methods:
“When it comes to training new sales hires, we have a defined onboarding process that includes reading, one-to-one training, and video-based training. This enables the speed of integration and ensures the sales culture as a whole is uniform, scalable, and measurable.
When the hires first start, they are given the company handbook which describes all of the processes across the business so they get a full 360 of the organisation across departments.
We see this as key for sales staff selling digital services and products before they then embark on a series of in-person and online training to obtain their certifications in subjects like Inbound Sales, Sales Enablement, and in our consultative sales process.”
It is clear that sales training and development which is varied and ongoing is imperative for business success. We hope that you have found our guide to be a useful tool for training up a winning sales team.
About the author
Ella Patenall is a Writer for Tech co, a global resource for tech news, product reviews, how-to guides, and all-around inspiration. She writes on SEO, digital marketing, and content marketing. In her spare time, she writes a music blog and plays the guitar in an acoustic duo.