Most likely, you’re already pretty proactive about supporting your sales team. They are, after all, directly responsible for a lot of your company’s revenue. But often, companies are so focused on quotas, they forget to hone their salespeople’s skills. A few sales training best practices, though, could increase their sales team’s productivity.
Sales training is often overlooked or consists only of product training focused on what reps need to know to sell more. As more and more companies make the shift from in-person to online training, the opportunities for offering your sales teams more useful training continue to grow.
Sales presents some unique challenges when it comes to training. But learning best practices for online sales training can help you share the skills and knowledge they need in ways that make training relevant, engaging, and overall successful.
The (mis)conceptions about sales training
The sales profession presents some unique challenges when it comes to training. Here are some common objections that companies or sales managers will, understandably, present when thinking of training their salespeople:
- “Salespeople change jobs frequently, so why train them?”: Sales is a field that traditionally has a high turnover, so many companies, and their senior management, hesitate to invest in people development. Even though this is something that could increase retention.
- “I don’t want to take my sales reps away from their job.”: The nature of sales means salespeople are busy and likely being pulled in many different directions as they keep up with clients’ needs. Taking time away from work for training can seem like too big a sacrifice in the face of short attention spans and work goals that won’t wait.
- “All they need to know is our product.”: Often when people think of training for sales reps, they immediately turn to product training. After all, the sales team’s job is to understand and sell the product or service the company offers. But product or technical training overlooks other aspects, highly important for the job, like communication, negotiation, etc.
- “They learn on the job anyway.”: The skills people need to do their jobs in this field are often seen as more practical. So when they think about how to train salespeople, leaders tend to think it’ll happen unofficially on the job. They don’t feel the need for a regular, continuous learning program.
What sales reps need
These are all fair objections or hesitations. But are they enough to dismiss sales training? Let’s have a look at the other side of the coin: what do salespeople want when it comes to training, and how could that impact their jobs?
Sales teams need intentional employee development as much as anyone else in the company. They want to grow their careers and they want to gain new knowledge that will help them reach those challenging quotas.
They’ll obviously benefit from content like good communication and strong product knowledge. But there are also more nuanced skills and knowledge sets that could have a huge impact. For example, content around relationship-building, conflict management, “how-to” training on your CRM, and sales and marketing automation techniques.
And training isn’t only about supporting your sales staff for today. It’s also a way to prepare them for new roles down the road. For example, an employee could move from general sales to specialize in operations, handling large accounts, or managing the whole buyer journey. And they’ll need the right skills to step up.
When you invest in employees’ futures, they see that you genuinely care about them and their careers. They’ll be more satisfied in their jobs, and you’ll see greater productivity and increase employee retention.
Sales training best practices
So, there we have it: One one hand, some reasonable concerns about sales training. And on the other, hand, some clear benefits. Rejecting sales training completely shouldn’t be an option. But ignoring those challenges won’t help you build a successful training program.
What you can and should do, instead, is design a plan that tackles the challenges and focuses on salespeople’s needs. Here are six best practices to keep in mind as you develop your sales representative training.
1. Transition to online, asynchronous training
Online training is a great way to address many of the sales training challenges. With the right employee training platform, you’ll reduce disruptions by providing on-demand learning. This means that salespeople will have access to training material, online courses, and recorded presentations, whenever they need to. They’ll also be able to craft their own training calendar so they don’t fall behind their tasks.
For example, they can jump in on a particular section to answer a client’s question promptly. Or, they can start taking a course when their schedule permits and resume exactly where they left off the next time they log in.
In addition, many LMSs can sync with your CRM. This way, your team can work in the program they know and be automatically linked to the training they need without learning a new interface. Combining powerful tools makes the connection between work and training clear.
2. Focus on sales enablement
Successful salespeople need more than just product knowledge. They need to know how to use modern tools and techniques for facilitating sales and they need to understand the full customer lifecycle. So, your learning strategy should include sales skills that go beyond the basic sales onboarding training.
Design content around how to make a sales pitch, prioritize leads, or nurture those leads. Include courses that dig deeper into the specific features or services you offer, and analyze the various pain points. This way, your salespeople will be able to reach their quotas more easily, as they’ll identify the right solutions for the right audience.
Your training should also help make a salesperson’s day-to-day smoother. You can streamline their workloads by offering courses on the tools your teams use—like your company’s CRM or a time-management app.
3. Teach soft skills too
To be truly successful, sales reps also need the skills to connect with customers and work well with others in the team. You can help them out by providing soft skills training. That means offering content around things like communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and productivity.
And while pitching is a very visible part of a sales rep’s job, listening is an equally important skill.
Giving people the skills to interact effectively with others will create a stronger, more collaborative working environment. It’ll also help them build and maintain strong customer relationships.
4. Be practical
To sell something, it’s best if your salespeople have hands-on experience with it. This is not always possible, though, whether we’re talking about physical products or digital products and services.
However, your training could create an environment where salespeople will test or play around with a product, or watch a video demonstration of your services. And that goes beyond onboarding training.
Every time you want to refresh your salespeople’s memory or every time you launch a new feature or a new service, make sure that you deliver interactive training. Let learners click and drag to see the different pieces of physical products, or click through prototypes of digital products. You’ll help them get a feel for the customer experience and understand how to talk about what they sell. You could also compare your products and services to those of your competitors so your salespeople understand how to position your benefits.
5. Incorporate role-playing activities
Scenario-based learning is another useful technique for enhancing learning. Have learners role-play actual situations they may face in real life. For in-person or hybrid training, provide example situations and pair people up to work through them. For online training, use video or text to set up a scenario and let learners practice appropriate responses.
Whether it’s troubleshooting with a disappointed client or handling customer objections, give people the chance to practice using useful scripts in a risk-free environment. It’ll help them feel free to try new things and build the “muscle memory” they need to recall those skills during tense moments on the job.
6. Add a gamification touch
Learning is more engaging when you add an element of play and maybe even some friendly competition. In one survey, 85 percent of employees said gamified software would motivate them to spend more time using it.
And salespeople are known for their “competitive” nature anyway. They’re well aware of targets, coming up with strategies to reach out to potential customers, or even “spying” a little bit on the competition.
That’s why adding gamification components to your online sales training could speak to your salespeople’s hearts. Create competitions between members of your sales team. Award points and badges for completing challenges within the course. And let employees track their progress compared with their colleagues with leaderboards.
Gamification will motivate learners to log in often complete their training quickly and ultimately boost learning.
Train smarter for sales team success
An effective sales team training doesn’t just happen once. It’s an ongoing process. It’s not enough to limit it to basic training for a new sales rep or a reactive response when one of your team members is underperforming.
With these sales training best practices, you can grow your people’s skills on a regular basis. Preparing your employees will help your company thrive as they do their jobs more confidently and develop stronger relationships with your customers.
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