Sales Training: A Complete Guide

Okay, so after months of missing sales targets, you’re finally looking to invest in a sales training program.

That makes sense. It’s only logical to seek to develop your salespeople’s skills.

Unfortunately, there are lots of challenges involved in finding the right sales training program.

First, because the sales training market is full of exaggerated marketing claims (“after taking our training, Company X is selling 30% more per month!”), it’s hard to know who is good and who isn’t. And as any salesperson who has been around the block will tell you: most programs are useless.

Second, even if you find the perfect sales training program, you won’t see any results unless the program is correctly applied.

The best program won’t do a thing if your company leadership is not committed and your salespeople are not engaged.  

Sounds daunting, we know.

That’s why we created this sales training guide (and 12 must-check guidelines!) to help you find and implement the best sales training program for your company.

What problem do you want your sales training program to solve?

1. Detect flaws

This is the first thing you should ask yourself. Of course, everyone wants to use sales training to sell more - but there are many ways to do that.  there are many ways your sales approach might be going wrong. Detecting those problems is what you should do before you hire anyone.

Where is your team losing prospects? Is there a pattern?

Or are you looking to train your sales team to grow into a new market and different types of customers?

2. Set your goal

Following up on those questions - what is your goal?

Seems obvious, but without setting a goal up front, how will you know which program to choose?

Also, if you can, avoid being theoretical. Set a quantitative goal that you can track against.

For example, how many new customers do you wish to get (or what is the percentage of deals you’re looking to close)?

By setting a quantitative goal, you’ll be able to tell after the fact if the program actually worked.

What is the right kind of content for your sales training?

3. Research (and fit)

If you’re looking to hire a trainer, research well. Too many people call themselves Sales Training Specialists for no reason at all. Besides, some of those so-called experts have no experience in the field whatsoever.

Even if they do, you’ll want to get as specific as you can. For example, there is no point in hiring a sales trainer experienced in selling products if you work with services. Make sure the training fits your company’s market, product/service and - pay attention to this - culture.

The culture point may not seem important, but not paying attention may prove fatal.

4. Customize at will

Take the time to adjust your program. If you’re acquiring off-the-shelf training content, it won’t fit your scenario perfectly (no matter how hard you try).

So, for better results, customize the content. Add scenarios that your reps will relate to. Your team will learn best when they don’t have to work hard to see how the content will help them sell more tomorrow.

5. Integrate with Marketing, Product and other teams

Sales training programs are not just for sales teams anymore. If you’re looking to change the way your product or service is sold, that means you also need to change the way it’s viewed, and maybe even the way it’s built.

So, bring the marketing and product teams in early. Make sure you message clearly to the rest of the company what is going to change and how it affects their jobs moving forward. Because, yes, it will affect their jobs.

How can you fit a sales training program into your team’s schedule?

6. Distribution & Frequency

Here’s a tip: avoid - at all costs - turning training into an “event”.

Instead of setting aside a few days, try stretching it out over the course of a few weeks. There is one obvious, but oft-forgotten, reason for this. The human brain can only absorb a certain amount of information per day!

Focus on training primary skills slowly. This will ensure your reps won’t get overwhelmed and that they’ll retain more information.

At the same time, frequency is important. People forget new skills if they aren’t reminded. So, plan your sales training program in small doses over the course of several weeks for best results.

7. Optimization

We would suggest scheduling between 10 and 15 minutes of content per day. That way, you’re not taking too much of their schedule (but they are most probably making the most out of the spent time).

How can you make sure you’re providing sales training, not sales education?

8. Theory vs. Practice

You can’t teach someone how to play the violin without actually giving them a violin, right?

That applies to sales training as well.

Of course, in any learning process, theory is involved. But without practice, it won’t stick. Sales reps need to understand why the content makes sense. In other words, even if your content is customized for your company, it still won’t work for your sales team unless they get to apply it themselves.

Live action practice and follow-on reinforcement is vital.

So make sure to add practicing time into the sales training schedule.

9. Interactivity

Level of interactivity will vary depending on the program, but it is our belief that

sales training content must be highly interactive. Think of it as the difference between a lecture and a class.

If your team is able to interact directly with the trainer, odds are they will feel more comfortable and learn more.

10. Format

Something else to consider is whether or not you should make your sales training mobile-accessible.

Remember: 40% of US employees are using mobile devices at the workplace.

Making your sales training mobile-friendly means content can be viewed by your team inside the company but also out of the office (even from the gym, for your more enterprising reps!).

How can you tell if your sales training program worked/is working?

11. Always be in touch with your team

Is your team satisfied?

Ask them what is working well and what isn’t. That sort of feedback will guide you to understand better what engages your team. The training program may be ineffective simply because it is not engaging.

However, even the best program won’t necessarily bring about improvements in your sales numbers.  Which brings us to:

12. Measure results

Remember when we said to set a goal?

This is where it will be useful. After a certain amount of time (depending on your goal), you’ll start see the results of your training. Be patient. You won’t see results overnight as it takes time to apply newly acquired knowledge.

But, with time, you’ll be able to tell: what techniques have changed? Is your team closing more deals? Are they closing better deals?

Again, if you’ve used numbers (let’s say, a deal-closing percentage rate) to set your desired outcome, use numbers to measure your results. Be sure to check your sales pipeline as well to ensure you can get a precise comparison on whether you’ve achieved your goals or not. If you got close, perhaps you’re on the right path - and you have solid data to show to your team and the rest of the company.

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In conclusion, to train your team successfully, you have to put some time into it. However, if you follow these steps, you could be truly satisfied with the results.

And if anyone tells you sales training doesn’t work, it’s very likely that they’re doing it wrong.

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