The Sales Management Association recently conducted an extensive study on the state of training and development within sales organizations. The results are slightly disappointing. Only 43% of respondents rate their sales training as effective overall, with the remaining 57% rating it either as ineffective or somewhat effective.
Everything around sales is dynamic. New, often tech-enabled, products and services enter the market. Consumer needs shift and expectations keep rising — because customers themselves have changed and are savvier than ever before. In short, you can’t rely too heavily on outdated sales methodologies or apathetic salespeople anymore.
If you’ve been looking for actionable sales training ideas to revamp sales training or create it from scratch, you’re in the right place.
8 ways to improve sales training for your team
These are the 8 best sales training tips to create training that fulfills its purpose and adds to your bottom line.
1. Know your customers
You can teach employees all the sales techniques in the world. They still won’t work if sales employees are unaware of your customers’ needs. So, before addressing any other sales training topic, start with getting to know your customers.
Study your customer personas until your sales reps feel they’re their next-door neighbor. From standard demographics to competitive products they might be considering — the more details, the better. By doing so, sales employees will be able to make relatable value propositions and leave little room for objections.
What’s more, they’ll be able to identify customers that are not a good fit for your offerings and direct them to a more suitable product or service. If sending customers away sounds counterintuitive, consider the damage negative reviews can do.
2. Try a different approach to product training
Product training is the bare essential for a top sales training program. Usually, it ties features into benefits and how those meet consumer needs. Product training must also look into the market your business operates in, as well as into competitive brands.
A lesser-used approach to product training is spending some time in customer service. Shadowing a customer service employee and listening to customer feedback first-hand will help sales employees have a better understanding of both your customers and your product. This practice is most useful for new members of your sales team and should be applied during onboarding.
3. Keep it relevant
Off-the-shelf sales training courses are suitable for generic topics like sales methodologies and soft skills. However, additional courses should always be developed in house to ensure that sales training makes sense in your business context.
For example, you can’t teach sales methodologies without studying your products and customer personas and later bringing it all together through practice. If training doesn’t resonate with employees, it fails to engage and eventually has zero impact.
To achieve relevance, management and sales reps should also collaborate closely to identify skills gaps and address them with the appropriate sales skills training. This might be different for each employee. For example, some might struggle to handle difficult customers, while others have inadequate product knowledge.
4. Apply blended learning
The best sales training courses include practice sessions and real-time feedback. This means that some live, face-to-face interaction with an instructor and fellow sales reps is required.
Classroom training, though necessary, presents two major challenges. First, it’s expensive and impractical to organize, especially with a dispersed sales team. The cost rises even higher considering that time spent on training is time lost from sales interactions. The second challenge is that classroom training is usually long, which makes knowledge retention a hard achievement.
If only there were a middle solution! Except that there is, and it’s blended learning. With blended learning, sales employees can work on their sales skills or practice with their instructor via a virtual classroom. Most straightforward topics, like product knowledge, can be taught via self-paced online courses.
Looking for an intuitive and feature-rich sales training software that supports blended learning? With TalentLMS, you can facilitate learner autonomy through eLearning courses and hold live training sessions through virtual classrooms and webinars.
5. Say yes to microlearning
Let’s dive a bit deeper into what happens with the self-paced part of sales training. Giving sales reps the option to study at their convenience benefits both parties. However, you can’t ignore their short attention spans or busy work style, which often requires them to travel.
Taking into account these challenges, online sales training is best delivered in a microlearning format. This means that each unit must address one topic at a time in 8 minutes or less. The content should also be 100% mobile compatible and available for offline viewing.
Thanks to its brevity and preciseness, microlearning doesn’t cause information overload, which makes it ideal for product knowledge training. For the same reasons, microlearning resources can also be used as Performance Support Tools.
6. Facilitate best practice sharing
According to a research report on Salesperson Learning Preferences, best practice sharing among salespeople is the most used sales training technique. It has also been rated as the most effective.
Knowledge sharing can be achieved in multiple ways. The most formal and structured approach is sales coaching. During sales coaching, the sales coach observes the employee on the job and then offers personalized guidance. Sales coaching is truly effective when it’s long term and consistent. Frequent meetings, ideally on a weekly basis, are required to monitor progress, discuss concerns, and follow through.
Other ways to facilitate best practice sharing is through course discussions, as well as seminars or webinars held by expert salespeople.
7. Provide opportunities for practice
Practice is an indispensable component of the best sales training programs. Sales employees need to practice to overcome their fear of rejection, perfect their sales approach, and master objection handling. Whether in-person or online, practice sessions are also excellent assessment tools that provide instant feedback.
Role-playing during in-person or virtual ILT sessions can sufficiently prepare your sales reps while increasing engagement with training. To enable self-study and create opportunities for individual practice, develop dialogue simulations and branching scenarios on your LMS.
8. Never stop being curious
79% of B2B customers expect salespeople to be knowledgeable and act as trusted advisors who add value to their business. How can you help sales employees stay in the loop with market changes and meet consumer expectations? Turn corporate sales training into a continuous affair.
You can do so by organizing webinars and staying consistent with sales coaching. It’s also vital that you regularly share industry news and quick selling tips. To keep their skills sharp, encourage your sales reps to try new scripts and different techniques. Evaluate how prospects respond during sales coaching and share successful examples with your sales force.
What should you expect from sales training? Effective sales training, not surprisingly, increases not only the number of deals closed but also job satisfaction. In a sector with very high turnover rates, the latter is a substantial benefit.
Sales are an intricate process, however. Reps that know sales methodologies but don’t know people rarely achieve quota or engage clients. That’s why the best sales training courses are those that bring soft skills into the equation. If you don’t know where to start, have a look at our post on 10 critical soft skills your sales team can learn online.
| Tags: Sales Training