Critical to the success of a sales team is skill development — not just as a whole, but for each contributing representative. Sales professionals are expected to be experts in their industry and the products or services they sell. And today’s sophisticated buyers expect salespeople to understand their businesses and needs before interacting with them.
Sales training programs offer your reps the opportunity to develop their sales skills and connect with customers more meaningfully — when set up and executed properly.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss why you need formal sales training and how to guarantee its success.
Components of a successful sales training program
What does your sales training program need in order to have an impact? Rather than traditional classroom-style training, combine various elements to make learning more engaging and less time-consuming for sellers.
Salespeople can’t afford to waste their time. Time is money, and anything taking them away from making calls, sending emails or meeting with prospects and customers may be met with skepticism. Virtual training materials allow reps to view lessons and videos, complete quizzes and practice pitches from their laptops, phones or other devices — all at their own convenience. Training applications also allow you to personalize training content for every individual, focusing on their specific strengths and weaknesses.
Rather than talking at your sellers for hours on end, encourage participation by opening up the discussion and allowing them to share knowledge with one another and brainstorm solutions together. Even role-playing pitches can be a team effort. Have reps record their pitch, share with fellow team members and managers, then offer feedback to one another. Feedback from peers can help reinforce and supplement training from managers.
Involve other departments
Your sales team doesn’t work alone; it takes the effort of multiple departments to help reps do their jobs. Without product teams, there’s nothing to sell; without marketing, salespeople don’t have collateral to engage buyers. If possible, bring those departments into the sales training for discussions and/or to present updates. Marketing can showcase new content, and the product team can discuss roadmaps and specific features to give reps a better understanding of what they’re selling.
Involve a customer
Who understands your customer experience better than an actual customer? Invite customers to participate in the program and talk through their experiences with your sales process, including any hiccups that may have occurred along the way. Ask them to discuss the value your product has brought to their businesses — with tangible data to back it up, if possible — to give sellers a firsthand perspective of how your solution addresses industry needs.
Benefits of sales training
The purpose of sales training is first and foremost to build sales reps’ — both new and experienced — sales skills. But there is so much more to be gained with an effective program.
Develop interpersonal skills
Today’s buyers are looking for a positive experience above anything else when it comes to sales conversations. Sales skills are important, but to really have an impact, your team also needs the ability to connect with buyers beyond a vendor-business relationship. Customer-focused training materials and sessions help salespeople improve their empathy, communication and ability to directly correlate your solution to buyer needs.
Enhance customer appreciation
Taking a step back and seeing the customer experience from a new perspective provides invaluable insight for salespeople. By including a customer session in your training program or spending time reviewing the buyer’s journey with your team, you allow them to better align your solutions to customer needs. In turn, they will provide better customer service and a better overall experience.
Promote team building
Salespeople often work in silos, focused only on their own individual achievements and closing their own deals. Gathering the salesforce in one room to share ideas and work together to figure out solutions encourages collaboration and knowledge-sharing moving forward.
Improve win rates and quota attainment
Ultimately, sales training boosts the skills that contribute to sales performance: customer empathy, product knowledge, communication proficiency and so much more. Therefore, training leads to KPI improvements as well, including better win rates, higher quota attainment and shorter sales cycles.
Reduce employee turnover
Between brushing up on their skills and having time to connect and collaborate with their fellow sellers, reps typically leave training feeling a renewed sense of confidence and excited to return to work. Additionally, training contributes to employees’ professional growth and makes them feel valued by your organization, in turn motivating them to stick with you longer.
Building a sales training program
Training should be just one element in your larger sales enablement strategy. Consider that strategy and follow these steps to develop an impactful sales training program that involves leadership, members of your marketing team and others who either support sales functions or could benefit from the training.
1. Establish objectives and KPIs
What are your sales training objectives? In general, you’re likely aiming to boost sales performance, but breaking it down into more specific goals — improving win rates, increasing quota attainment, shortening the sales cycle — will inform the sessions and supporting materials you integrate into the training. Based on these goals, set performance and productivity KPIs to track throughout training and beyond to determine its success, such as quiz completions and content usage.
2. Identify areas for improvement
In addition to looking ahead, review individual and team numbers from the previous month, quarter and year to spot gaps in performance and issues that require further attention. These gaps reveal opportunities around which to focus training sessions and materials. For instance, a majority of sellers struggling to sell a certain product shows you that they may not fully understand what the product does or its value to customers. Develop content around it and make it the focal point of a session or sessions.
3. Make materials accessible
Training sessions shouldn’t be a “one-and-done” initiative. Repurpose presentations in shorter, more digestible content formats and make them readily available for sellers to use whenever and wherever needed. Doing so not only makes learning more convenient and less of a burden, it also allows reps to review what they’ve already learned, improving lesson retention over the months following training.
4. Reinforce learning
Speaking of retention, did you know sales reps forget more than 80% of what they learn in training within 90 days? Considering the time and financial investment you are putting into training, take proactive measures to ensure it sticks. Regularly update digital training materials and modules for sellers to review and brush up on their own time. Sales coaching is also essential to keeping up momentum. Managers and other leaders should be regularly meeting with members of their teams to provide additional guidance and strengthen the skills taught in training.
5. Gather feedback
Regardless of whether your training is held virtually or in person, or is offered in segments over a certain period of time, it’s important to get a qualitative understanding of how the training was received. Provide anonymous surveys for not just sales reps, but sales leadership and other departments involved in the program, that allow them to answer questions and offer their honest thoughts. Take their responses to heart and use them to inform future sessions and content.
6. Use supporting technology
Developing your sales training agenda, creating content that serves multiple formats and measuring KPIs are a tall order for sales enablement professionals charged with assembling the program. Sales enablement software automates some of the peskier tasks associated with sales training — content distribution and access, personalized lesson plans, performance tracking — streamlining the process for not just enablement teams, but all involved.
Sales enablement program for sales training
The Showpad platform automates and scales learning, freeing up time for sales leaders and sales enablement teams to focus on coaching and improving outcomes. Marketing can easily distribute and update content, making it readily available for sales reps and managers alike via a web- and mobile-friendly dashboard.
Unlock the potential of your sales training and overall enablement strategy — learn more about Showpad’s capabilities today.