Here’s the thing: selling is one of the most valuable competencies of the day. Do you know why? Because at some point, we’ll all need to sell an idea, a product, or our own competencies (to an employer, for instance).
But perfecting the competency of selling is hard work and time-consuming. First, because it involves sales training. And then—although many of us don’t know it—because the cornerstone of sales is psychology, which requires intensive training too.
Now, the line between being too salesy and just persuasive enough to hit a sales mark is thin. And there’s only one way (besides practice) of growing the competency to avoid sales resistance or scaring customers away from your offer.
That’s enrolling in sales training programs. They’ll allow you to:
- Bring your innate sales abilities one step further
- Acquire more knowledge of sales techniques, strategies, and technology
- Build all the sales skills you need in your line of business
- Exercise the best behaviors to convert opportunities into customers
Whether you need to train your sales reps or design an online sales training course, this article is for you. It’ll unfold our selection of sales training topics and teach you what effective sales training looks like.
What is a sales training program?
Through sales training programs, your sales personnel learn new selling methods and perfect their selling skills. Those programs can take the shape of either online or in-person training that is either self-paced or instructor-led, depending on the training delivery method that’s more appropriate for your context.
And the full training program can be, for instance, a mix of online courses, webinars, and videos. This means a sales training program is a sequence of learning solutions—including activities and assessments. And they’re combined to achieve your company’s sales goals down the line.
Check out our blog post on types of training methods!
But overall, the goal of any sales training program is to equip sales teams (as groups) and their members (individually) with the knowledge, skills, and behavior they need to:
- Understand who their buyers are
- Approach leads, qualify them, and then transform prospects into sales opportunities
- Close deals quickly and confidently
- Build relationships with clients and customers
- Upsell and cross-sell
And the more customized your sales training program is, the more effective it gets for your budget, the size of your organization and sales team, and your sales goals. For instance, a learning experience designer can customize your sales training program to your industry and buyer persona.
To sum up, effective sales training teaches the theory behind the practice of selling. But it also creates scenarios to exercise abilities, develop skills, and rehearse the behaviors expected of the most successful sales professionals.
Sales training benefits
LinkedIn reported that top sellers spend 38 percent more time training than their less successful counterparts. But there’s a lot more than that to say about the perks of sales training programs, so let’s go!
Of course, the whole point of a sales training program is to increase your business’s bottom line. But at a more fundamental level, sales training boosts:
- The number of won deals—or the number of sales opportunities converted into paying clients or customers
- The average deal size—your total revenue in a month, quarter, or year divided by the number of closed wons (or deals agreed with clients or customers)
Together, these technical terms mean that sales training supports your sales force in multiplying revenue. And from a management point of view, it materializes sales quotas—or the small financial goals that sales managers expect sellers to achieve both individually and as a team by the end of a month, quarter, or year.
Sure, someone can be born with the ability to sell. Nevertheless, sales training programs are crucial to developing the competencies of sellers—their abilities, knowledge, skills, and behavior.
Experience counts, but there’s no way your sales reps would reach their full potential without training. Additionally, sales training programs allow for attaining sales goals and quotas faster.
That’s because training turns average employees into high-performers, and sales personnel are no exception. It all comes down to sales training programs enabling learners to understand the needs of their potential buyers better. With proper sales training, they understand the needs of your potential buyers better and end up selling more and faster.
Sometimes, the frontier between sales and marketing is blurry. But one marketing component must be mastered by marketing and sales professionals: communication.
How could your sales force communicate your unique selling points to prospects without proper training? They could learn them by trying out your product, reading documentation, and speaking to product managers. But it wouldn’t be as swift as a sales training program that includes modules to grow product knowledge. And they could miss out on an opportunity to learn to communicate product features clearly and in a compelling way to your potential buyers.
Plus, a sales training program will teach your sales reps to reach out to your audience with the right tone. That’s your brand tone or how they speak with and write to your audience, which can be formal or casual, provocative or neutral.
Sales skills training clarifies the way to communicate what your brand is. And they also elucidate the questions to ask a client, customer, or prospect and how frequently to get in touch with them.
Training a sales team to communicate effectively with buyers reduces the number of customer complaints. And the reason is simple: customers understand how your product can make their lives easier.
By focusing on customers’ needs, your sellers will more accurately explain how to use your product. And interestingly, the more complex your product is, the higher value your sales training will bring to the buyers.
Nowadays, clients, customers, and prospects have high expectations of salespeople. And the distinctive factor is in the way of selling rather than product knowledge.
Your buyers must feel that your sales personnel are their advisors and partners. And a sales training program is the tool you need to change your sellers’ mindset and earn your target audience’s trust.
Salesforce found out that 81 percent of buyers are savvier now than ever before. They research more before speaking with sales reps, which demands the latter share more than basic product knowledge.
Also, 89 percent of buyers want sellers to challenge them. And sales training prepares sellers to do that as experts in your product and the buyers’ pains.
Current and future buyers still expect sales staff to know products like the back of their hands. That includes what each product feature is about and how to operate the product. And the goal is for staff to be able to answer any question about the product.
But the true value of sales skills training lies in changing the perspective and narrative of your sellers. They must focus on your buyers, not your product per se. They must learn and comprehend your buyers’ perspective and the problem they need to solve. And only then should your sellers explain how your product fixes the problem.
Frankly, sales training enables your sales force to prioritize which potential buyers to contact. Because your product is most likely to address some problems better than others, and some problems bring in more revenue than others.
However, that’s the seller’s point of view, not a buyer-first perspective, and it can cost you many deals. LinkedIn found out that 72 percent of top sellers and 65 percent of sellers in general always put the buyer first.
The good news is that it’s totally up to you to grow a buyer-first company—through training! Effective sales training programs develop the right selling skills and coach sales reps to put buyers first. And that’s quite significant since LinkedIn says organizations:
- Don’t have sales teams with the proper skillset (43 percent)
- Aren’t committed to training at all (41 percent)
- Lack adequate sales coaching initiatives (38 percent)
Did you know that only 53 percent of salespeople spend most of their workdays actually selling? That sounds intriguing, but on second thought, without automation software, someone had to do things like reporting progress manually.
Sales training programs can prepare your sellers to execute tasks with the help of appropriate software. And as a result, they’ll be able to hit quotas faster and focus on what they do best, which is selling.
Sales training increases the confidence of sellers in their deal-closing competencies. Because during sales training programs, they participate in activities and do assignments that mimic real-world situations with buyers.
And so, sales personnel get the chance to simulate their response to sales resistance. They do it in front of their peers and trainers, who enable the bilateral communication it exists in real life with customers. Plus, the more they do that, the more confident they get in overcoming any customer objections and hitting the mark.
For instance, train your sales staff in negotiation techniques by interacting with each other. And you’ll notice that they’ll become resourceful when talking to your clients, customers, and prospects.
When sales training is effective, moving from a training environment into the real world is exciting! Your sales force will feel prepared to meet their quotas, making them highly motivated to do their best to surpass those goals.
But sales skills training goes beyond satisfying sales quotas. It has a remarkable impact on the satisfaction of your sales reps with their job.
Training will not only improve the performance of your sales team but also reduce your employee turnover. We mean, which seller would turn their back on a company that invests in their career development? Instead, they’re loyal to the organization and make employee retention levels rise.
Sales training programs reduce costs associated with sales activities in different ways. They build skills that allow your salespeople to make fewer calls before closing a deal. And they also teach your sales personnel to use software to streamline sales operations.
Additionally, sales training decreases the need for managers to assist and supervise their sales teams intensively. After all, training aims to enable learners to become more autonomous in managing their own work.
Most common sales training topics
Here are some sales training ideas you can borrow to design your own online sales training programs.
There’s not one single effective sales rep who doesn’t know how to communicate with clients and customers. And much of the mastery of communicating effectively depends on being empathetic in client relationship management.
But empathy might not be a trait your sales personnel were born with. Or they might not know how to use it strategically. And that’s why you must include empathy training in your sales training programs.
Now, to better understand client and customer needs, your sales professionals must learn what customer experience is. They must be fully aware that every interaction with a client or customer impacts that experience. And that if the customer experience is positive and unforgettable, they’ll buy from you time and time again.
Teach your sales force to empathize with what clients and customers feel throughout the sales stages. And you’ll see that they’ll write cold emails and make cold calls and product demos that convert more.
Most buyers (89 percent) prefer a brand when its seller changes their way of thinking. And what better way to change a buyer’s mind than through storytelling and appealing to emotions?
Telling a story grabs your prospect’s attention. After all, we all love hearing about how others struggled yet overcame their challenges. And once you have a prospect’s attention, it’s easier to engage them with your product and establish a meaningful, memorable connection.
Sales training comes into play when telling stories doesn’t come naturally to your sales reps. It gives them actionable tips they can use to deliver more compelling sales pitches by telling relatable stories. And as a result, they’ll be more likely to hit their sales quotas at lightning speed.
By training your sales personnel, they’ll learn to trigger the magic of imagination in your prospects. And possibly make them dream about your product and idealize how it could make their life easier or better.
For instance, you can teach your sales force to source their stories in your case studies and customer testimonials. Your prospects don’t expect sales pitches to sound like novels, but they do expect to hear about real-life scenarios your product can solve or improve.
Dealing with objection
Customer objections are like bumps in the road. You can still get to your destination—the won deals—but it’ll be hard. However, that’s business as usual for sales professionals, and that’s when sales training programs make a case.
They teach sales reps to answer customer objections, if not every time, most of the time. Sales training changes sellers’ mindsets, so they concentrate on comprehending buyers’ problems and building customer relationships. And then, by offering solutions that solve those problems, they obtain buyers’ trust.
Learning to overcome objections also means opening up prospects’ minds to new insights and perspectives. That’ll inspire those prospects, make them reassess their priorities, and ultimately buy from you.
A large portion (76 percent) of top sales reps research prospects before reaching out to them. But the number drops to 47 percent for average sellers. This makes it safe to say that research raises the performance of your sales personnel. But how do they learn to do that research?
We’ll tell you how. Through sales training programs!
Sales prospecting consists of finding, identifying, and contacting prospects—or qualified leads—with the ultimate goal of making sales. And by offering your sales professionals effective sales training programs, you can teach them to do each one of these tasks.
For instance, your sales force can learn to:
- Research leads on LinkedIn, on other social media channels, and by looking at company information online
- Figure out when someone matches your buyer persona
- Write cold emails, make cold calls, or pitch your product to your target audience via social media messaging (as personalized as possible)
This is no news to you: to become productive, we must manage our time conveniently. But that’s way easier said than done! And for salespeople whose compensation is fully commission-based, being productive is imperative.
Productivity and flawless time management actually give sellers more time in the day to sell more. So, you must make sure to include these topics in your sales training program:
- Task prioritization
- Workday planning and routine
- The 80/20 rule
- Time estimates
- Time tracking
- The Pomodoro technique
- How to use productivity software
- Task batching
Virtual and social selling
According to LinkedIn, 31 percent of sellers closed deals of over $500,000 virtually. And that makes total sense since sales staff worldwide are selling to remote clients via online channels.
Many sales meetings are taking place in a virtual environment, whether in a videoconference room, an email service, or social media. But these environments pose unique challenges to sales forces besides calling for technological proficiency.
Your sales professionals must learn to communicate, network, and create content online. They must know the intricacies of sharing knowledge online and get used to it. Because that’s how they’ll establish a reputation in the virtual world.
And that’s how they’ll build stronger relationships with your audience. Besides, they’ll be able to reach out to more clients, customers, and prospects globally.
Keep the example of LinkedIn in mind: sales reps who sell via LinkedIn hit triple their yearly sales quota.
This is the goal of any negotiation: keep the price point as high as possible while not making a huge discount. And sales training programs equip salespeople with techniques that make them stellar negotiators.
In return, you get to keep your profit margins while making your customers happy. Because, at the end of the day, negotiating benefits both parties to some extent.
The trick is to communicate the value of your product to the prospect instead of overfocusing on the price and to be ready for buyers who are effective negotiators. As a result, your sales team will also become skillful at overcoming customer objections.
Strategic and key account management
Although many companies think they’ll only thrive in business by selling to new customers, that’s a mistake. They must also keep selling to existing customers and clients.
But some accounts—key accounts—carry more weight than others. They bring in more revenue or sales opportunities.
Strategic account management will prepare your sales personnel to build customer relationships and upsell. They’ll convert more prospects into buyers and grow existing accounts. And they’ll learn to identify key accounts and strategically distribute their effort across accounts.
Networking in business paves the way for sales opportunities and an extended customer base. But to develop meaningful relationships with buyers, your sales staff must master a few skills, such as:
- Inspiring trust
- Following up on qualified leads and old buyers
- Listening actively to clients, customers, and prospects
- Share common interests, opinions, and experiences
- Nurture leads
- Building rapport with buyers by mirroring their body language, tone of voice, verbal expressions, and communication style
Knowing how to speak to an audience is essential for sales professionals. But some struggle to feel comfortable in the role of public speaker.
It doesn’t matter whether they’re launching a product in front of hundreds of people or demonstrating a product in a trade show booth. In their minds, the fears are the same.
And the only way to overcome those fears is to get sales training in advance. With an effective sales training program, your sales force will learn to:
- Structure, design, and deliver a presentation
- Customize product demos to your buyer persona
- Become proficient communicators with a strong presence
A good seller is an excellent persuader. But effective persuasion takes knowledge and practice, which is why your sellers need sales training.
You must teach them to act and sound credible, work through buyers’ emotions, and make solid arguments. This is social influence, and it’s based on psychology.
For instance, offering a free sample or trial establishes a quid pro quo relationship. And that makes your prospects feel like they owe you something, which improves your odds of closing the deal.
Another example is generating a perception of scarcity. For instance, limited stock or time-framed product sales do that trick. Train your sales reps to use scarcity tactics and lead prospects to take action before they might regret it.
But don’t teach your sellers to manipulate buyers! Because your prospects will see it and run from your sales team as fast as they can. Salespeople must be authentic.
Customer relationship management tools
In modern sales operations—especially global sales—using customer relationship management (CRM) software is unavoidable. That’s why sales training programs must include modules about using CRM tools to:
- Keep, search, and update customer and account information
- Report and track the progress of sales activities
- Integrate CRM information with data stored in other sales systems
Make sure to customize your CRM training to your company’s sales processes. Because that’s what makes the difference between custom sales training and the user manual of your CRM software.
It’s one thing to be an effective salesperson. It’s a different thing to be an effective sales manager in charge of a sales team. Each role involves distinct skills, and you must provide sales management training to help your sales managers:
- Transition to a management position
- Develop the careers of their team members through coaching, for instance
- Lead their teams to great results
- Hire and onboard new sales reps
What Makes a Sales Training Effective?
This is our curated list of tips for making your sales training programs elevate your team’s performance:
Rely on your sales personnel to identify the areas in which they need to improve their performance. After all, they’re the ones you’ll create the sales training program for and the ones who strive to perform better every day. Ask them to review their performance and pinpoint what they need to get to the next level.
Make your online sales training content available at all times. Or in other words, design learning materials and activities that are quick to access, searchable, and easy to go through. And later on, your sales staff will effortlessly
- Find recommendations to address their selling challenges
- Refresh their knowledge of sales techniques, strategies, and tools
Develop personalized learning paths. Because you won’t create a sales training program for each and every one of your sellers. But you can make your online sales training program fit your sellers’ learning goals and career path. And a simple yet effective way of doing so is to offer varied courses and activities within your program. Then, each salesperson chooses what courses and activities they need to take. Besides, you must tailor your courses and activities to your industry, product, people, culture, and sales processes.
Go practical and align with real-life selling conditions. Set the context for your sales professionals to put their sales knowledge, skills, and learned behavior into practice. Do it with
- Guided practice—by having your sellers deliver online sales pitches and product demonstrations, improve those presentations by following the trainers’ advice, and repeat the process
- Video-based learning—by using video clips that exemplify successful selling experiences or sales situations that have gone wrong
- Role-playing—by asking sellers to take turns in guided practice and put themselves in your buyers’ shoes during simulated online sales meetings
- Case studies—by thoroughly reviewing past stories or data that show your product brings benefit to your clients or customers
- Simulations—by practicing negotiation skills with mock buyers in online scenarios that mimic the real world
These methods reinforce the theory behind sales skills and facilitate the retention of knowledge. Consequently, your sales training program becomes more actionable, and your sales team becomes more prepared to interact with actual buyers.
Measure the effectiveness of your sales training. Ask your sellers to do an assessment at different times in the training program, including the beginning and end. For instance, ask them to deliver the same sales pitch at each one of those times. And use the appraisal of that assessment to track your sales force’s evolution, identify further learning opportunities, and verify your sales training ROI.
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