Employees doing sales training

Sales training is a perpetually changing and growing landscape, one in which thought leaders are constantly attempting to come up with innovative frameworks to help organizations get their message across, reach more prospective clients, and ultimately sell more. RAIN group helps us understand the goal of all sales training programs by defining them as:

The process of improving seller skills, knowledge, and attributes to drive seller behavioral change and maximize sales success. Effective sales training should be viewed, designed, and executed as a change management initiative

As the world continues to see greater advances in automation and artificial intelligence, organizations must also adjust the type of training and resources they provide they’re sales teams to enable them to swiftly navigate today’s complex selling environment – one in which consumers are more informed and demand more from vendors than ever before.

In this blog we take a comprehensive look into sales training programs, we touch on:

Sales Training in Todays Job Market

Importance of a Sales Training Program for Your Organization

Which Sales Training Program is Right for You?

Key Skills to Develop in Your Sales Reps

How to Develop Your Sales Training Program

Online Learning for Sales Training

Sales Training in Today’s Job Market

One of the unique things about the world of sales is that it’s constantly changing and having to adapt to a variety of factors like changes in consumer behavior, the economy, technology, and other factors that influence your organization’s ability to maximize the revenue it’s able to bring in from selling a product or service.

In today’s market, one of the biggest factors sales teams have had to adjust to is the way technology helps prospects and consumers to be more informed than ever before when deciding what vendor they want to work with.

A Deloitte study of business-to-business (B2B) consumer trends found that customers across industries rely on digital means to research vendors before talking to a sales rep – 68% prefer to research online on their own, 75% use social networks to learn about different vendors, and 62% create a choosing criteria and vendor list based only on digital content.

Based on these trends, we can safely say that sales training that is relevant, up-to-date, interactive and allows salespeople to learn and practice complex concepts like soft skills (more on soft skills below) is a must have for all organizations. Sales training programs are no longer nice to haves, they are crucial to ensuring that your sales reps are ready to face a market in which prospects want to have informed conversations about what they’re looking for and how your organizations can help them.  

Want to learn more about what to look for when hiring new sales reps?

Check out this article!

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The Importance of a Sales Training Program for your Organization

Boost In Organizational Performance

Providing the right type and amount of sales training with the correct cadence is something sales experts, gurus and influencers try to teach us about daily, on every platform imaginable. Why? because providing your salespeople with the correct type of training that will enable them to succeed in finding and closing new deals for your organization is imperative -it will determine whether the business sees millions of dollars in ROI or stagnant growth and unmet revenue goals.  

Data on the stark differences between sales individuals who are provided with a robust sales training program and those who aren’t shows just how crucial this part of an organization’s L&D strategy is. A study done by RAIN Group’s center for sales research mentions that:

While you might expect those organizations with robust sales training to see better results, the difference was stark. Those with the highest overall sales training rating (a mean score of 4.0-5.0, out of 5.0) had an average win rate of 58%. While the others (a mean score of 3.0-3.9) had an average win rate of just 47%”

The study goes on to mention that the 11-percentage point difference shown in the data could represent tens of millions of dollars in revenue, which is a crucial part of the conversation and allows members of leadership to see the importance of investing resources into this area of learning and development. A robust sales training program, one that covers a variety of topics will almost guarantee better performance from your reps, in turn, this will create a snowball effect of sustained performance and productivity that is important for salespeople to see early on in their careers.

Increased Retention/Engagement

Anyone that has been in any type of sales role before knows it’s no walk in the park, sales roles tend to be fast paced and involve being able gain product knowledge fast, while making sure you’re hitting your KPI’s and sales goals.

Recent studies have shown the average turnover rate for sales teams to be around 35%, compared to the average for all other professions which sits at about 13%. This striking difference can’t only be attributed to the fact that sales roles are challenging – L&D teams also have to look at the quality of the training they are providing their salespeople and how that is affecting their ability to hit the ground running, see positive results early on, and continue to develop their skills past their first few months.

To contrast the previous data, we can see how much the quality and consistency of the training you offer your sales professionals matters. A study found that 68% of workers say they would stay with their employer throughout their career if the employer tried to upskill them, while 65% of workers said they would stay if they had reskilling opportunities.

This is a perfect example of how just how much developing a comprehensive sales training program within your L&D strategy matters when it comes to keeping your best employees at your organization for the long run.

Now, more than ever, employees want to work at a place that cares about their professional development enough to provide them with resources to upskill and grow. Considering the stark difference in turnover rates between salespeople and other professions, organizations must have a strong focus on using training as part of their retention and engagement strategy.

Improve your Employees’ Soft Skills

Another advantage of providing your sales team with a comprehensive sales training program that offers a variety of learning content in assorted styles is the way in which this will boost your employees “soft” or business skills and make them better salespeople and employees overall.

In order to excel in sales, employees must develop skills like emotional intelligence, active listening, and complex problem solving – these are all soft skills.

On the customer facing side, bolstering your salespeople’s soft skills will help them drive their individual KPI’s and sales performance by teaching them how to actively listen to their prospects and client’s pain points, enabling them to sell your organization solution or product in a prescriptive and empathetic manner that will engage prospects.

Internally, it will enable them to communicate effectively with their manager and teammates, this encourages the free flow of feedback and ideas within your sales org which are all things that will help you shape a healthier work environment, one in which employees know how to communicate openly and efficiently to strategize how to drive results.

Which Sales Training Program is Right for You?

Choosing the right training resources for your organization’s sales enablement program is crucial. This decision should be shaped by the specific needs of your organization and are usually based on the size of your workforce, remote vs in-office employees, industry, the maturity of your L&D program and many other factors.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best sales training courses, this list includes online, In-person, and one-off seminars and training that have become popular for their effectiveness in different areas of sales training.

Online Learning Courses:

  1. The Art of Sales: Mastering the Selling Process Specialization (Coursera): Offered by the University of California, Irvine, this specialization delves into the fundamentals of sales, covering topics like prospecting, qualifying leads, building rapport, handling objections, and closing deals.
  2. Professional Sales Certificate (Udemy): This comprehensive course provides a structured approach to sales, covering everything from sales fundamentals to advanced techniques like negotiation and closing.
  3. Inbound Sales Fundamentals (HubSpot Academy): This free online course offers a solid introduction to sales concepts, covering topics like understanding the sales cycle, identifying your ideal customer, and building a sales pipeline.
  4. Sales Negotiation Masterclass (Skillshare): This course focuses on the art of closing deals, providing practical strategies for handling objections, negotiating effectively, and securing the sale.

In-Person Trainings:

  1. The Brooks Group: Renowned for their Challenger Sales methodology, The Brooks Group offers in-person training that teach salespeople how to take control of the sales process and drive results (Also available online).
  2. Corporate Visions: This sales training company provides in-person trainings based on their unique Selling Story methodology, which emphasizes the power of storytelling in sales.
  3. Ignite Selling: This sales training company provides in-person trainings that emphasize the importance of building relationships with customers and selling with authenticity.
  4. Janek Performance Group: This sales training company offers in-person training that focus on the psychology of selling, helping salespeople understand how to influence customer behavior.

One-Off Seminars:

  1. Sales Enablement Summit: This conference is designed for sales enablement leaders and practitioners. It will cover topics such as content strategy, training, and sales technology.
  2. The RAIN Group Sales Training: RAIN Group offers one-off seminars that focus on their Consultative Selling methodology, which emphasizes building trust and rapport with customers.
  3. Sandler Annual Sales & Leadership Summit: This summit is designed for sales leaders and managers. It will cover topics such as sales strategy, leadership, and motivation.
  4. LeadsCon: This conference focuses on sales and marketing professionals who are focused on lead generation. Attendees will learn about the latest trends and best practices for generating leads and converting them into customers.

Key Skills to Develop in Your Sales Reps

Although some employees can have an easier time connecting with customers, building rapport, and sparking their interest in your product enough to continue a sales conversation or even buy, its crucial to train every single employee in these pillar skills of the trait. Although training in these skills may be just an upskilling opportunity for your top performers (nothing wrong with a little upskilling!) It often proves to be a crucial part of helping your new, and most importantly, those middle and underperforming reps succeed.

Customer-First Mentality
Sales reps have to be motivated by helping prospects and customers succeed. They provide feedback to the company about unmet needs with products or services, so the company can improve sales by better meeting customer needs.
Active Listening
High-performing sales reps ask the right questions and then listen fully to prospects’ answers. Through active listening, they facilitate two-way conversation and don’t make assumptions about what the prospect is looking for.
Emotional Intelligence
As businesses increase use of technology-based service and artificial intelligence, your employees’ emotional intelligence becomes a crucial differentiator in how prospects experience the sales process. Human connection will never be outdated, and successful reps understand that well.
Quick Problem Solving
High performers also understand that their work all comes down to solving problems. Building connections requires building trust, and that comes from finding solutions to prospects’ and customers’ challenges.
Thorough Knowledge of Products and Services
To find those solutions quickly, sales reps need to know your company’s offerings backwards and forward. Keeping them up to date with product training is the easiest way to boost your sales results.
Desire to Delight
For your sales reps to truly delight prospects, they need the freedom to make decisions that will keep the prospect happy, even if it’s at your company’s expense. High performers know how to do this well, so the small expense to your company turns into a highly valuable increase in Customer Lifetime Value.

How to Develop Your Sales Training Program

Define How Company Culture and Values Will Shape Your Program

A good starting point is to lay out your organization’s core values and mission statement and think about how you want that to shape your new reps understanding of what selling is like at your organization. As an example, our core values of building successful partnerships, freedom to fail, enjoying the journey, getting smarter every day, respecting others, passion to be the best, and giving back are the main pillars of our sales enablement program, this applies at the rep level as well as to sales leadership training.

What does this look like in practice? – New reps should be clear on what’s expected of them at every point of their journey within your sales team. Instead of tiptoeing around what their ramping quota or sales target is, and what happens if they fall short (freedom to fail), it should be clearly laid out within the first few days of their training program.

Employees should also understand how your organization approaches customer and prospect interactions. Does your organization expect them to take a qualifying approach? Is your sales style more consultative or direct? Will they be expected to follow a set approach to their conversations, or will they need to develop their own talk tracks and sales “scripts”?

Company culture should also be highlighted within your training program. It’s crucial that your salespeople know they are part of a team, even though they may be pushing to hit their individual goals and KPIs, and what that means at your organization. Make sure your training program provides the spaces for activities like shadowing, call reviews, role plays, group training sessions and anything else that develops them through collaboration between team members.

Set Measurable Goals

One way to visualize what business impact you’re looking to drive through your sales training program is to align its goals with broader organizational objectives early on. This will help you determine if you want to prioritize early sales cycle activities like prospecting, demo set percentages, multithreading, or deeper sales cycle skills like how to run discovery calls, how to close a sale on the phone for B2C customers, how to set next steps to close a deal, contract negotiations and more.

Organizational objectives will also help you work backwards from ARR (Annual Recuring Revenue) goals your organization is looking to achieve, to what your reps quarterly and monthly quotas need to be to stay on track with those goals. These numbers will also help sales managers to determine team and individual KPIs as well as what their approach to helping their team succeed.

Provide Training Resources for Every Role

Providing general training resources that touch on who your ideal customer profile or IPC is, and what approach your employees should take when speaking to different prospects and customers is important. However, make sure you’re including learning materials for specific roles within the sales org to assure each employee is learning and reinforcing the most important skills they need to be successful in their roles.  

As an example, it’s often necessary and useful for a sales development representative (SDR) to be exposed to the entire sales cycle at your organization and why it works the way it does. However, training content for an SDR should be heavily focused on prospecting skills like building rapport over the phone (cold calling), account finding/selection, social media prospecting and other skills that are specific to the day-to-day activities of the position.

Accounts executives and account managers on the other hand would need to understand how to lead an effective discovery conversation with skills like industry knowledge, in-depth product knowledge and soft skills like active listening and creativity.

Providing more role-specific training content is a smart way to ensure your reps are exposed to the skills they will use the most in their role and can continually work on them. It also makes it easier to expose those top performers that may be ready to move on to higher positions within the sales team to the specific skills they will need for their new roles.

Weave in Spaces for Continuous Learning and Coaching

Your sales training program shouldn’t end after onboarding week. Sales training must be an ongoing effort to teach, upskill and reskill your reps with the goal of continuous improvement.

Providing spaces for your salespeople to engage with the learning resources you’re providing them and continue to work on the skills that will help them be successful in their roles is a critical part of building out your sales training program. Be sure to include these spaces in your sales organizations calendar and clearly promote them as dedicated learning and development time blocks.

A great way to make these time blocks engaging is to also weave in some coaching and mentoring sessions with members of management, more senior members within the sales org and even sales leadership. This will encourage the free flow of feedback, ideas, and important conversations among the entire sales team that will lead to employees learning new tips and tricks of the trait from one another and will build a positive and productive team culture.

Online Learning for Sales Training

As we’ve discussed, sales training comes in all sorts of formats and learning styles that can be beneficial depending on your organization’s needs. However, online learning offers significant benefits to both employers and employees that make it a must-have for any sales and service training program.

To start, online learning allows employees to engage with concepts sales reps need to be trained in like active listening, emotional intelligence, and quick problem solving through engaging microlearning videos that don’t require days to be completed. This makes for a boost in productivity for the sales team given the time savings that online learning offers them while also keeping employees much more engaged in their development, compared to long and outdated content.

Online learning also reduces the barrier of entry to training for your reps. Being able to access training modules from any device, wherever it’s most convenient means that hybrid, remote and in-office employees can use online training tools when it best fits their busy schedules, be it for their mandatory training or to take upskilling and reskilling courses that will help them grow their skillsets and further their careers.

Closing Thoughts

Sales training programs come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s crucial to understand how critical they are to the success of sales teams across all organizations and how to create a program that best fits yours. L&D teams must work toward adjusting to the challenges that economic uncertainty, artificial intelligence technologies and the most educated customer base in history bring to the sales world.

Training your sales team in all the technical and soft skills they need to be successful in their roles has never been more crucial for organizations that hope to keep their most talented employees, prepare their future sales leaders properly, and meet their growth goals.

Curious to learn how we can help you develop a successful sales training program for your organization? Contact us to learn more!

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