Employee Development

Improving Sales Performance: A Guide to Sales Growth Through Training

In the early 20th century, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto hypothesized a theory that is known now as the Pareto Principle; his principle states that 80% of an outcome is the result of 20% of the work.

In sales, this principle is seen through the stratification of sales reps and their performance – often, sales teams are kept afloat by a handful of high performers. These high performers make up a small portion of their sales teams, but typically make up a large portion of sales revenue.

As a result, sales growth strategy often revolves around asking recruiters to identify and hire “sales superstars.”

Just look at these job postings:

Job posting for sales superstar
Job posting for sales superstar

This strategy is not cost effective and leads to high turnover in sales. In fact, sales can be brutal – there’s about a 34.7% average turnover in sales positions, and about two-thirds of sales turnover is involuntary.

It’s time companies adopted a growth mindset for their sales teams, rather than hoping they snag a “superstar” who can come in and save the business.

When companies approach sales growth as a team effort and focus on the skills their sales reps need to succeed, they’ll see better results, a more sustainable sales team, and be in a much better position to achieve their sales targets.

Training the Team Beyond Sales Performance Basics

When sales performance is down, it’s tempting to take your focus away from development and just keep pushing people to do more.

But just doing more often results in spinning wheels that aren’t moving the company anywhere. That’s because working smart is just as important as working hard – and how do people get smarter? They learn!

When your teams are focused on learning the multitude of skills that will help them become more effective at their jobs, the results affecting sales are plentiful.

High quality sales training translates to:

  • More reps hitting and exceeding quota – more revenue
  • Higher win rates – higher morale and motivation
  • Being able to align solutions to customer needs – higher customer satisfaction
  • Less turnover on the sales team – reduced turnover costs and better culture
  • Managers becoming coaches – employee satisfaction with career development

Training on how to use a CRM, what processes to use, and what products/services are offered all seems pretty straightforward, but a high quality sales training program that is expected to improve results needs to go far beyond that – especially for sales managers.

Teach Your Sales Managers How to Be Great Coaches

Often, sales managers are sales leaders who have a history of success and who want to achieve the next step. It’s important that sales managers understand how to overcome objections and strategize their sales conversations, but they also must be able to teach their employees what they know.

Often, a sales manager sitting in on a sales call takes over to handle more difficult or complex situations. While this may help the organization secure a new deal, it doesn’t teach reps to be more self-sufficient. And if that tricky situation arises again, and the sales manager isn’t available to deal with it, reps might lose an otherwise attainable opportunity.

A good sales leader can listen to a sales call, identify what could be improved, and then ask the right leading questions to help their reps figure out what went wrong or could be improved.

In Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, he writes that an effective way to persuade people to do something is to, “Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers. By doing so, the idea will stick with the person and he or she will take more away from the idea since it is ‘theirs.’”

This is exactly how good coaches operate – train sales managers to be better coaches, and you’ll see your reps improve their sales numbers across the board.

Train the Behaviors You Want to See in Your Reps

In an effort to drive sales performance, you must first identify behaviors that work against sales goals, and reinforce behaviors that work towards sales goals.

Consider every step of the sales process – from the time that a lead goes from prospect, to opportunity, to negotiations, and to being a customer, how many interactions occur, and what behaviors should occur during those interactions?

Working with sales managers will help you find the skills and behaviors needed for each stage. For instance, if your organization relies on cold calling to source new opportunities, it’s important you teach reps how to sound friendly and open on the phone.

They also need to be able to send well-worded, convincing, and concise follow-up emails. Sales emails are a skill in themselves and reps should be trained on how to craft them. Finally, they need to be able to move a conversation into a meeting.

It takes time and a great deal of patience to work with reps and identify what skills could be improved. But a focused effort on individuals will lead to higher retention in your sales team, and better results.

Establish a Culture of Learning With Online Training

A sales team that grows through learning, rather than through recruiting, is more sustainable and effective, but giving employees the tools they need to learn on their own, through just-in-time learning, can transform your results in a powerful way.

Your sales reps likely sit near each other and hear every sales conversation that goes on. They likely ask each other for and willingly offer advice to one another. An online learning platform can be a new source of information sharing, one that contains only the best information curated by you or by your content provider.

Empowering employees to share good information creates a sustainable culture of learning where information flows freely, empowering individuals to succeed.

Watch the video below to hear Thomas Harrell, an L&D professional, discuss how BizLibrary’s online sales training helped transform the culture of learning at Master Electronics, and led to strong sales numbers:

If you want to learn more about using training to improve your team’s sales performance, check out our free ebook, “How Soft Skills Training Boosts Sales Growth!”

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Derek researches, discusses, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. He regularly interviews L&D and HR professionals, sharing their insight on trends and best practices that help organizations create stronger training programs, and help to grow their employees and their business.