A strong sales team is one of the important tools that a company should have to stay ahead of the competition. According to a McKinsey survey, multiple factors correlated with high sales performance, but one significant factor was the successful implementation of a certification-based approach to sales training. A survey found that nearly 26% of the sales representatives claimed that their sales training had minimal effect. This is likely due to a lack of leadership involvement. When sales leaders are actively involved in the planning and execution of training programs, they are more likely to be successful. In addition, leaders can provide valuable feedback that can help improve the program. By taking an active role in sales training, leaders can ensure that their reps are better prepared to sell and more likely to succeed.
A successful sales training program begins with identifying sales personnel’s core skills that need to be enhanced. The next step is to determine the most appropriate programs and forums to train them on those skills and create content tailored to the organization’s sales method.
According to a recent survey, 84% of all sales training is lost after 90 days. This is a huge problem for companies who invest time and money into sales training programs, only to see the results disappear a few months later. There are a few reasons why this happens. First, salespeople are often so busy trying to meet quotas that they don’t have time to really focus on the new skills they’ve learned. Second, many sales training programs are one-time events rather than ongoing learning experiences. As a result, the new skills are quickly forgotten. Finally, most sales training is focused on individual performance rather than company-wide goals. This means that there’s no lasting change in the way the company does business. To be truly effective, sales training must be continuous and focused on the needs of the entire organization. Only then will it lead to lasting change and improved performance.
Core elements of a successful sales training program
The components of a sales training program will depend on whether the business is an enterprise or a consumer business, and vary based on industry verticals and business segments. However, some core sales skills are relevant across industries and businesses.
What are the core sales skills?
- Communication skills
Communication is key in any sales or marketing situation – without it, nothing would get done. Sadly, though, many salespeople spend little time improving their communication skills and rely too heavily on scripts when talking to clients. Yes, a script can act as a helpful guide to keep the conversation flowing smoothly, but it’s essential to be flexible and adjust the script as needed depending on the client and situation. In order to be successful, salespeople need to be able to read their clients and adjust their approach accordingly. Communication skills can be learned and developed with practice. The ability to articulate one’s thoughts clearly, listen attentively, and relate to others will go a long way in sales and marketing. And while it may not come naturally to everyone, it’s definitely something that can be mastered with time and effort.
- Active listening Skills
One of the core skills that distinguish top salespeople from others is their active listening skills. By truly listening to their prospects, salespeople can build rapport, discover buyer needs, and convey that they understand them. Without active listening, sales representatives miss out on vital information that could help them close the sale. They also risk coming across as disinterested and unhelpful. According to research, 68% of buyers are influenced by sales personnel who listen, and according to buyers, only 26% of sales personnel are active listeners. Active listening helps to build trust, which is the foundation of all relationships, including buyer and seller.
- Confidence and motivational skills
Internal motivation distinguishes the top 20% of salespeople from others. Motivation is something that cannot be taught and comes from within. However, the management needs to support the team through highs and lows to keep them motivated. You need to be sympathetic to your sales personnel challenges and offer support through guidance and mentorship, which will enable them to overcome difficult situations.
Sales personnel need to be confident and sound convincing to be able to influence the prospects and buyer. The confidence should not be fuelled by ego, but backed by facts and figures.
The ability to collaborate with other team members to learn from their experiences of closing deals is important to succeed in sales. A strong community and team culture ensure knowledge and experience are shared across the organization for the benefit of everyone. Your sales personnel should have collaborative skills to connect with coworkers and leverage their experience.
It is inherent across all stages of the sales cycle, right from prospecting to final deal closure. Sales personnel should not concede too much to win deals, and neither should make customers feel that they are paying too much. The sales personnel should carefully negotiate to ensure a win-win situation.
Negotiating with customers can be stressful, but understanding the value you provide and taking a collaborative approach should help your sales personnel successfully negotiate with clients.
What is the objective of a sales training program?
- Product / Services Knowledge
Every sales personnel should have detailed knowledge of the product and/or services. The sales personnel should be capable of answering questions of prospective customers at different stages of the sales journey. The sales personnel should also be aware of the latest product updates and new services. The sales training program should aim to impart complete knowledge of the product and services to sales personnel so that they become experts.
- Soft skills
Sales is about connecting with people and establishing trust, for which soft skills are essential. Communication skills are the most important since it enables your sales personnel to convey about products and services clearly. It empowers your sales personnel to ask relevant questions and solicit information to understand customer needs better. Besides communication skills, listening and negotiation skills are other relevant soft skills that a sales personnel needs to be trained in.
- Customer use case
Customer use cases are a practical application of the product and services in a real-world context. The use cases describe all possible uses of the product and services in different customer contexts. The use cases enable prospective customers to fully understand the product and service functionality and its utility to them. The sales training program should make sales personnel aware of all customer use cases relevant to their target market.
- Tools and Resources
Technology has become ingrained in all business functions, and sales too is not left untouched. Within an organization, there are multiple tools and technologies being used by sales and marketing teams, from lead generation to deal closure. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the most important application from a sales perspective. The personnel should be well versed in it to communicate and track prospective customers. Besides CRM, sales teams use other applications that also interact with other tools, and a sales training program should help sales personnel understand and learn different tools and technologies.
How to design a sales training program?
If you are designing a new sales training program from scratch, then you need to consider your industry vertical, business segment, product, services and existing capabilities of your sales team. You need to plan the structure of training programs, evaluation process, and delivery mode. You need to then conceptualize, design, and develop course contents.
If you are trying to improve an existing program, then you need to review the previous program and identify shortcomings to enable you to make corrections in the updated program.
- Access to the training program
If you are delivering a sales training program through Learning Management System (LMS), then you need to connect it to the human resource (HR) system so that when a sales personnel is added to the HR system, they get automatically added to LMS. This enables sales personnel to instantly get access to training programs.
On enrollment, sales personnel should be made aware of different training programs and the sequence in which the program needs to be taken.
- Trainee Evaluation
It is important to evaluate sales personnel for knowledge retention and practical application of learning from their training.
The best sales organization realizes the importance of certification and ensures that it is recognized within the organization as a mark of excellence. The different levels of training should culminate into certifications, and a personnel progression to the next level should be contingent on acquiring the certification of the previous level.
Along with the revenue targets, sales personnel should also be evaluated on their performance in training and certification exams for annual appraisal. The incentive plan should incorporate these performance metrics so that the sales training program is given due importance by your sales team.
- Assess and iterate
You need to assess the training program periodically to identify improvisation opportunities. You can leverage reports from LMS to find out elements of programs that worked and that didn’t, and accordingly, make modifications.
The real assessment of the program will be the sales team performance in terms of the number of deals closed and the value of deals prior to and post training.
- Automating management
If you are a sales-oriented organization and have new members joining frequently, then you need to leverage automation to make onboarding personnel for training easier. When a sales personnel is added to LMS, they can be assigned to a specific group based on predefined criteria depending on their role and seniority level. This enables you to automatically assign courses to sales personnel as a group instead of individually assigning them.
Learning paths in LMS help to personalize the learning experience and ensure that sales personnel are getting the requisite training for their role.
The best sales organization equips their sales personnel with requisite skills and tools, and constant training to sharpen their skills. You should ensure your sales personnel remain on top of their game through a high-quality sales capabilities development program.