A well-planned sales skills training strategy goes hand in hand with a winning sales organization. Modern buyers are well informed, so it’s not enough to just have product knowledge and communicate effectively. Potential customers expect sales professionals to be insightful with a consultative sales approach when they are considering a company’s solutions. In order to get your sales reps to be trusted counselors, you need a well-planned sales training strategy.
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Wondering how to train your sales team in an efficient, effective manner? Look to our list of eight techniques and exercises, including tips on how you can leverage them, to ensure ideal sales training for employees within your organization.
New hires typically enter a sales organization with little to no experience. Sales leaders often prioritize getting new hires up to speed with internal processes and product knowledge. This is very important to a new hire’s success. However, to get employees to a high level of performance and efficiency, sales managers also need to ensure appropriate soft skills training for sales team members.
The timing of when you teach sales skills is also critical during the onboarding process. For instance, adult learners have a very difficult time learning new habits if the related skills are not presented to them with appropriate context. Therefore, for new hires, it is best to give them a couple of weeks or more to get acclimated to their new environment. Once they have a handle on the internal sales process and product knowledge, they will have sufficient context to start applying sales methodologies and learning the associated sales skills. If you teach skills like cold calling and objection handling too early, the new hires will have little to no context on how to use those skills.
If the sales skills training comes too late or not at all, it could be detrimental to your organization’s success. Too often, sales leaders assume their new hires are trained well on sales skills. This assumption will backfire in the long term. The only way to be sure that your sales reps have the skills they need is to train them when they enter your organization.
Adults learn and retain information more efficiently when everything is presented to them in the proper context without overwhelming them. Getting trained on product knowledge and sales process is vital to this end, but the best way to give someone context into their new job is to let them shadow someone that is already in that role. Regardless of whether you do a great job delivering online sales training for employees, it won’t be the same as witnessing a real-life example of the skills being executed. Even if you have a uniform sales methodology for your organization, there are countless nuances when executing that methodology during a live interaction.
When considering the most effective online sales training options available, job shadowing should be among them. This allows reps to learn intangible skills like tone of voice, pace, pre-call research, and otherwise. Make sure that those being trained have the opportunity to shadow multiple sales reps (ideally top performers), as everyone will work a little differently. Some people might be very good at cold calling, for example, while others are great at qualifying. Letting sales reps shadow a variety of team members, letting them see different approaches, pick up on what each person does best, and find ways to improve their own performance. Some may prefer to adopt the workflow of certain top performers if they feel like a specific approach would work best for them. It’s one of the most organic and flexible ways to train sales staff since they’ll learn from first-hand experience.
Employees can’t rely on job shadowing forever to gain new skills, however, so what happens when you need to figure out how to train sales reps in other ways? In the long term, it will be beneficial to assign someone a mentor when they start working at your company. This is an effective way to train sales staff since a rep can go to them with questions instead of the sales manager. They might even be more inclined to seek help from their mentor since they occupy more of a peer role than someone higher up.
Having a sales mentor also gives sales reps context into the larger organization. For example, if an SDR is paired with a seasoned Account Executive, they will be able to see how their sales development efforts impact the entire organization. The experienced AE can mentor the SDR on how to set high- quality, high-value meetings for other AEs. This sort of mentorship role also lets the new hires see a path they can take within the organization. Having context into how your role impacts the rest of the organization will allow them to have a better appreciation for their own role.
One of the most effective online sales training techniques available to a sales organization is sales call role plays. This is one of the quickest ways to instill a new habit. Make-belief sales calls have the benefit of helping someone apply their new skills in a low-stake environment – practice makes perfect, so the saying goes. Since this is an important training exercise, here are some detailed tips with videos on how to conduct online sales training via call role-playing within your operations:
To get the most out of a role-play exercise, sales reps need to do them consistently. It’s a good idea to practice at least once a week. Sales reps can work with either their sales managers, their mentors, or other reps to do this exercise.
You should try to make sales call role plays as believable as possible. If you primarily sell over the phone, go to the other room and actually practice over the phone. If you sell in person, dress as you would for a sales meeting and conduct your exercises in person.
Sales call role-plays are meant as practice, so there should be some curveballs and challenges in there. However, it is important that the person playing the buyer is being fair. These are not the times where you should be the most difficult buyer possible. Try to respond realistically to a situation if you are playing this role.
Sales is a skill, and, like most other skills, you must master the basics first. Don’t try to work on everything all at once. Pick one skill as the objective for your role play session and focus on perfecting it before moving on to something else.
An onboarding is a great time to make sure all your new reps have the baseline of soft skills that they will need, but sales team training exercises shouldn’t stop once this is complete. Over time, sales managers and leaders must help their entire team hone and upgrade their skills, not only new hires. So, how can you improve training for your existing team?
It’s not practical to pull salespeople away from their jobs to conduct in-depth and in-person sales training sessions every time. Thankfully, there are a plethora of eLearning or online sales training options to help improve training for your entire team. With online learning, sales reps don’t have to be trained at the same time, allowing for each of them to take on training at their own pace.
eLearning can also be carried out in bite-size form, such as in brief chunks of 30 to 45 minutes. This way, sales team members can incorporate it into their daily task flow and benefit from learning in context. Another benefit of using an online solution for ongoing training is customizability. Not every rep will need help in the same area, so this way, you can give each seller the online sales training course that is appropriate for them and their challenges.
To improve sales training for your whole workforce, be sure to pick the right content for the right role. Account Managers may have overlapping skills with an AE that is hunting for new business, for instance, but they are fundamentally different roles. The Account Manager needs training that is specific to maintaining and building relationships with existing clients to cross-sell and up-sell. They need content that is specifically catered towards that.
When choosing your sales training company, make sure they are able to offer sales training courses that are catered to each role within your sales organization. If you have chosen to build your own sales training courses, the same rule applies. It might benefit an SDR to also get trained on closing deals, but this should not come at the expense of them learning skills like cold calling or objection handling since these skills are more relevant to their current role.
It’s okay to give all your sales reps a broad set of skills. However, to create the best sales training program for your team, ensure there are training courses that are purpose-built for each sales role.
A successful sales manager also must be an adept sales coach. It is their job to guide their team members over challenges and hurdles. To do this, sales managers and leaders must regularly check in with their team. This means having one-on-one sessions with your reps to help them hone their skills and strategize on their existing pipeline.
To have a successful coaching session, both the seller and the manager should first be prepared in advance with an objective for the meeting. For example, is there a deal that has been stuck in the funnel that the rep needs help with? If so, the seller needs to come to the meeting with some ideas, and the sales manager should know enough about the opportunity to give actionable advice.
If there is no specific deal to strategize on, it is highly beneficial to prepare for the one-on-one coaching session with a recorded phone call. If your team isn’t already recording their phone calls for coaching purposes, you should start right now. Not only do these recordings contain a wealth of information that benefits the onboarding of employees, but they also enable for more efficient coaching. An effective sales manager will be able to pick out the good and specific areas of improvement on every call recording. To keep your team’s coaching efforts on track, develop a sales coaching blueprint.
While online and eLearning training options are great for honing skills, sometimes you need to get your team excited by bringing them together. Hosting a well-planned on-site sales training session can enable greater collaboration, build crucial skills, and improve camaraderie.
When you get the team together in person, it does not necessarily have to be training related. Often times, it’s beneficial to bring in thought leaders within your industry or sales performance. For example, if you have a theme for the upcoming year that has to do with adding new business, it might be a good idea to bring in an expert that can speak to new business development. This can be not only educational but also help set a tone for the rest of the quarter or year.
When it comes to how to train sales reps, this is just the tip of the iceberg. An effective sales training strategy is what separates average sales organizations from the more successful ones. Use the techniques mentioned above to build and enhance your sales skills training strategy. If you need additional resources, you can always find free sales eBooks and resources, or get in touch with us today at Funnel Clarity for a free 30-minute consultation.
Abin Dahal is a practitioner dedicated to elevating his craft as well as helping others refine their skills. His impressive track record includes making hundreds of cold calls per week and scheduling over 500 meetings with VP and C-level prospects. He is a prospector, nurturer, and Inside Salesperson who brings integrity and spirit to our profession. At Funnel Clarity, he’s in the unique position of using and demonstrating the methodology in his sales efforts, leading his prospects and clients to say “I want my team to sell like that!”