As a sales manager, do you take a moment every now and then and ask yourself whether there is something you can do to better prepare your team for success? Do you ask yourself:
- Does the team have access to the right tools to close deals?
- Are they struggling to schedule meetings and one-on-one interactions with clients?
- Are they able to build relationships with customers?
- Is every member of your team strong in the face of challenges and rejections, knowing when to persevere and when to stop?
This real-world problem allows us to look at the gaps and shake things up when needed.
Confucius once said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be a failure,” and this holds true for success in sales as well. This is where rigorous sales and skills training comes in.
So, what is sales training?
On the surface, ‘sales training’ implies imparting adequate knowledge about the product, its pricing and enhancing presentation skills. However, at a deeper level, it is an opportunity to create a sales army that is focussed on building long-lasting relationships with customers and not just closing deals.
Essentially, it covers everything from prospecting to closing a sale and all the skills needed to do that. It is a vast subject that is extremely challenging to address in a single training program.
The various aspects of a sales training program include:
Your sales training program should give your salespeople a glimpse into the sales culture that fits in your organization.
Why is sales training important?
As part of the research done by CSO Insights, companies with a high-quality sales training program reported an impact on four fronts:
- More sales reps achieved their targets
- Witnessed higher win rates
- Saw better alignment between solutions and customer needs, and
- Experienced lower sales force turnover or attrition.
While the above benefits are extremely tangible and will become visible on a day to day basis, there are some intangible, long-term advantages of integrating training to your sales cycle. Of course, the benefits of sales training
- Becomes a part of the sales DNA: Whether your team includes experienced sales professionals or newbies, a well-designed sales training course can help set a strong foundation. By continuously working with the team long after the course has ended, the core principles discussed in the training, become a part of the company culture and the very DNA of your sales team.
- Helps your team get organized from day one: Familiarizing the sales team with the sales tools and processes that have been established in your organization early on helps sales reps to hit the ground running.
- Helps improve productivity: Sales training programs improve productivity and focus on the result—closing deals. By helping the sales team enhance their presentation skills, manage their time, and understand the customer’s needs better, you are well on your way to impacting the bottom line.
So how can you choose the perfect sales training program? Where should you begin? Here are a few key points to keep in mind:
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” -Tony Robbins
- Define your business goals and ensure your sales training is aligned with the overall strategy.
- Ensure that the training isn’t one-off but backed by continuous improvement. Take concrete steps to communicate with the team before, during and after the training.
- The rule is simple — either change with the times or perish. Incorporate the latest trends in your industry to the training and the overall approach towards sales in your organization to stay relevant.
What is the cost of sales training?
The cost for a sales training course ranges between anything from $1,700 to $15,000 or higher, depending on who it caters to. For instance, there are several reasonably priced public training sessions to begin for small and medium businesses, but these follow the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy.
The higher the cost, the more the chances that the course will be customized to your organization and the overarching principles will be applied to your needs on a case to case basis. One may also have to take into account the cost of taking your salespeople out of the field for the duration of the training.
If it is an offline course, you will have to look at the cost of travel, accommodation, and meals as well. How much should you invest in sales training? Ian Altman, speaker, and sales advisor suggest not more than 2 percent of your annual sales. There are also plenty of free courses online that can get you started in the right direction.
5 Best Sales Training Programs
Here are our top picks for the 5 best sales training programs based on four main criteria – cost, duration, level, and channels:
1. The Art of Sales by Coursera
Duration: 3 months
Offered by North Western University, this sales coaching program comprises four parts: customer segmentation, how to communicate effectively or connect with prospects one-on-one, perfecting the sales pitch, and curating a sales toolkit that works for your business. It has over 500 reviews and a solid rating of 4.7/5.
2. SMART (Sales Messaging and Response Tactics) Training Program by Sales Scripter
Duration: 25 hours
Level: Beginner to Advanced
This training program covers the core concepts of sales and focuses a lot on the communication aspect like cold calls, email messaging and even what kind of voicemails to leave clients/prospects. It is available for free on YouTube and ranges from beginner to advanced levels, covering extensively on topics such as sales management, sales strategy, and sales performance.
3. Science-based Selling by preHIRED
Cost: Free and Paid versions
Duration: 33 hours
Level: Beginner to Advanced
This curriculum is primarily designed for software sales professionals and boasts personalized mentorship across this 15 module training. The payment options vary across the modules which cover everything from sales tools to sales meetings, workflows, and effective messaging.
4. SPIN selling program
Duration: 3 days
Level: Beginner to advanced
The SPIN® sales training course is a three-day program that claims to cater to 12,000 delegates every year and can help you and your team assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current sales processes and help adopt the right techniques to create a dependable framework for sales calls, selling skills and more.
5. Driving to close by John Barrows
Duration: Can be customized
Level: Beginner to advanced
Conducted by seasoned sales professional John Barrows, his background of almost two decades in sales is what makes this program unique. It is divided into two parts. First, “Filling the Funnel” which deals with all the processes and structures needed to ensure a big fat pipeline. And the second, “Driving to Close” program which contains actionable insights that can help your team execute messaging well, improve sales skills, negotiate and close deals faster.
Want to take it to the next level? Create a sales training program that works for you.
While the existing sales training programs are great, there can be difficulties that come with signing up your entire team for one of these courses like keeping track of everyone’s progress, and the return on investment. Since a lot of these courses cater to a wide range of audience, they may not necessarily work for your industry or organization. You may need something that is more tailor-made to fit your company and its values.
Why you need to develop high quality and effective in-house sales training program
No external agency or individual can cater to your needs the way an in-house program created from the ground-up can. You may use an online course as a starting point, or do it alone and design your own curriculum from scratch.
9 Steps to Creating Your Sales Training Program
1. Identify the sales training materials you have
Creating a sales training program from scratch isn’t that complicated. You can start by collating all the existing sales enablement materials: everything from email templates, buyer persona, product cheat sheets to sales process flowchart and cold calling scripts.
What if you don’t have these materials ready? Work with your key stakeholders from the marketing and sales team to create the basic sales enablement materials. Involving people from within the team will also ensure deeper learning and faster adoption of the course materials as it will be an inclusive activity, instead of having been forced on the team by a third party.
2. Allocate resources to train salespeople
Next, you need to identify the right people who can efficiently train your rookie salespeople and conduct the training program. It is best to consider senior-level resources from inside sales, sales and revenue operations, and sales development departments since they are aware of business milestones, sales processes of target markets, revenue per region, challenges in each region, etc. You may even consider hiring external coaches to conduct sessions based on their expertise. Sometimes an outsider’s view can bring a fresh perspective to the training.
3. Develop your playbook: the sales training plan
List down the number of sessions a sales training plan should cover and start structuring the curriculum.
Start with a well-detailed and elaborate training plan that covers sales principles from end-to-end and also breaks down the time you want to spend on each topic. Add an element of live demos or mock sessions that will help your salespeople to overcome common scenarios to make it more practical and engaging.
Include a session on how the sales team can handle common issues like handling objections and remain cool-headed during these situations. Once you have this, collate it in the form of a playbook and hand it to them for easy access.
4. Help your salespeople understand your product or service
No product knowledge means no sales. Ask the product or pre-sales team to conduct sessions to train salespeople on the product or services you offer. For this, share the relevant case studies of your product and some common use-cases on how customers use your product or service. Share the product roadmap, so they are aware of the functionalities coming in the future and talk to prospects accordingly.
5. Help your salespeople understand the customer
Let’s get real. Most successful sales professionals talk about the importance of building customer relationships. However, you cannot achieve that without understanding the customer’s pain points.
That in-depth understanding can translate to care and empathy and then every subsequent conversation will seem effortlessly real and customized. Your sales training program must help your team understand when to push and when to pull back in their interactions with customers and potential ones to build a comfort level and trust with them.
“Start working with your prospects as if they’ve already hired you.” – Jill Konrath
6. Help them understand your sales process and strategy
Your salespeople will come from different organizations and need to be attuned to your company’s sales process. Hence, you need to conduct sessions to walk them through the sales process of your organization to ensure all on the same page. How are leads qualified to the different stages of a sales funnel? Take sample customers or prospect and walk them through the stages they’ve traversed. This sales process will differ for small and medium businesses, and Enterprise companies. Break down the process and encourage them to ask questions around it, share the different strategies for each of the market segments to ensure sales success.
7. Provide hands-on experience with sales tools
Sales tools are often the ‘X-factor’ to close the right deals. However, the adoption of these tools is also a challenge, which is why it is important to start familiarising your team with them from the very beginning. As part of the training, make it mandatory for your salespeople to have hands-on experience with specific tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, customer relationship management (CRM) software, Outreach and more. Conduct sessions on how to use these products, and provide tips and best practices. This can help save a lot of time and make a difference in how effectively your salespeople sell.
8. Make the training milestone-based and not curriculum-based
Your salespeople need to make use of the sales training materials, instead of just learning and referring when needed. If you really want your training to be successful, take full ownership of it, follow up, and get feedback. Find the gaps and provide robust support, tools, and access to the right people wherever required.
9. Incorporate team-building exercises
Salespeople are driven by competition — and that’s great. But, as a sales leader, you have to make sure each of your sales reps are aligned with the overall business goals. This is important especially when you onboard sales professionals. Group exercises should be part of the training that can help them bond and get to know each other. An organization’s culture and employee retention are closely linked, and the role of a sales representative requires individuals to feed off each other’s energy to stay committed and motivated.
So, opt for a sales training course online or create your own program. Either way, it is important not to disregard this process in your sales journey.
For any program to be truly effective, embrace the mantra of continuous improvement and march forth bravely! Your investment in time, effort and money can go a long way in achieving this.