May 10, 2022
Sales training and coaching are often reserved for new hires and low performers, with the rest of your team getting a brief refresher during your annual sales kickoff. But according to the Sales Management Association, only 30% of sales managers rate their sales training as “effective” for improving low performers.
A study from the Sales Readiness Group Training Industry found that 45% of companies only cover two to five training topics with their sales professionals, but “those with effective sales training tended to offer a wider variety of topics.”
To improve the effectiveness of training, you need to cover a full range of sales training topics on a continual basis. This will help all your reps build the skills and knowledge required for any selling scenario.
Sales training topics
- Pipeline management
- Prospecting and outreach
- Qualifying leads
- Call planning
- Building relationships with customers
- Identifying customer needs
- Presenting the value of your products
- Competitor knowledge
- Managing objections
- Closing deals
Your sales reps need to be able to build their pipeline, prioritize leads and prospects based on lead quality and sales urgency, and measure their results. McKinsey found that pipeline management is the sales skill with the biggest difference between high- and low-performing sales reps. This research suggests that effective pipeline management is closely linked to rep performance.
Training in pipeline management can set junior team members up for success. They’ll be able to keep track of all their deals in your CRM, know what pipeline stage their deals are at, and determine whether they have enough conversations in progress to hit quota.
Sales prospecting and outreach are two competencies that go hand in hand. Business development reps (BDRs) need to find and identify good-fit potential customers and then craft compelling messages to engage them. According to Crunchbase, “top sellers spend an average of six hours every week researching their prospects” to ensure they’re reaching out to good-fit prospects that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Cold calling and outreach emails are essential skills for BDRs to master if they want to bring new prospects into their pipeline. You can provide training and coaching via verbal and written role-plays to help reps practice these core skills. In fact, we found that learning to prepare cold email intros is the top use case for written role-plays by BDRs in the Mindtickle platform.
Nurturing or repeatedly contacting bad-fit leads is a waste of your reps’ time and energy. According to Oracle, following up with a prospect they know isn’t interested is one of the top five frustrations reps have with their jobs. And if a lead is a bad fit, they’re more likely to book time with your reps but never show up: 37% of prospects ghost sellers because the prospect was a bad lead or not a good fit.
One way to cover this in sales training is to share bite-size quizzes to test reps’ ability to qualify leads and their familiarity with your ICP. Then, if you identify knowledge gaps that may be affecting their lead qualification capabilities, you can follow up with AI-driven coaching.
Your sellers need to know how best to prepare and plan for a call with a prospect at every stage of the sales cycle. For initial calls, sellers need to make a good first impression. For later calls, they need to build rapport with prospects and become trusted advisors.
Oracle found that 11% of prospects ignore sellers because the seller wasn’t properly prepared for their conversation. Call planning is essential for all sellers, but just 37% of companies provide reps with pre-call checklists to help them plan and prepare for calls.
You can create training materials such as pre-call checklists or run practice calls for product demos, discovery calls, or closing calls. These will allow your sellers to appear professional, knowledgeable, and trustworthy to prospects.
Relationship building is another essential skill because, even in B2B sales, you’re still dealing with another person. Buyers rated “trust in the relationship with the salesperson” as one of the top five factors influencing their buying decision, so it’s essential that your reps get training and coaching to help them develop this skill.
Use tools like Mindtickle’s Call AI to record and analyze calls with prospects. It looks at reps’ confidence, talk time, clarity, and sentiment to understand their behavior on calls. It then identifies areas to improve. You can use these insights as a starting point for your coaching sessions or share dedicated training exercises to help them further develop the necessaryskills.
LinkedIn found that 43% of buyers feel it’s an “immediate deal killer” when sellers don’t understand their company and its needs. Sellers need to be able to identify customers’ pain points so they can show how your product will solve them. If they can identify customer challenges and needs, they can tailor the conversation to address those challenges and focus on the features and use cases that are most relevant to the customer.
You can listen back to call recordings or view call analyses, then score reps based on their ability to identify customer needs. If reps struggle with this, you can run training exercises such as practice calls or role-plays to give them more opportunities to develop their abilities in a low-pressure setting. Manager-led coaching helps provide personalized coaching to all your sellers, targeted to their individual needs. Learn more about Mindtickle’s manager-led coaching solution.
Sellers not understanding their own product or service is another deal killer for 44% of buyers. Your reps need to be able to provide effective demos that illustrate how your products will save buyers time, money, or effort. They need to be able to show the value of your product and not just run through a list of features.
You can provide different training formats for this:
- Short quizzes to test product knowledge
- Practice demos and virtual role-plays
- Dedicated training sessions from your product team when you roll out new features
Product training will help your reps learn how to use your product and ensure they’re able to accurately present its value to potential customers.
Prospects won’t just be speaking to your sales team. They will be comparing different product options, so you need to be able to show how you measure up against your competitors. Familiarity with other products in your space is essential knowledge for sales reps, as 34% of buyers say “not understanding their competitors’ products and services” makes them unlikely to continue with a specific seller.
Train your reps on your competitors’ products by creating battle cards or in-depth instructor-led training sessions to go over the key differences and where your product excels against the competition. Then, test reps’ knowledge with quizzes that go over the material covered in the training session. Spaced reinforcement helps improve information retention, so your reps can speak confidently about your competitors months after their training session.
Our research found that 63% of sales calls contain “more negative sentiment than positive,” with negative sentiment “including anger, uncertainty, hesitancy, competitive mentions, objections, disappointment, and tentativeness.” Managing objections is an important skill to master because no buyer will say “yes” right away. Your reps need to be able to confidently address concerns to reassure prospects that they’re making the right choice with your product.
Dedicated training will help reps improve their ability to handle the most common objections faced in the sales process. You can have reps complete practice calls or virtual role-plays to practice this essential skill.
If an account executive can’t close a deal, they won’t last long in sales. Fortunately, research has identified some of the most important selling behaviors when it comes to closing deals: 56% of buyers say “maintaining relationships with existing customers” is essential, while LinkedIn identified five factors that consistently influence buyer behavior:
- Trust in the brand
- Return on investment
- Trust in the salesperson
- Salesperson’s industry knowledge
If you’ve already worked the nine previous topics into your sales training, then you’ll be well on your way to addressing all of these, but you can also provide specific coaching to help your reps master conversations around pricing.
Help your reps improve sales readiness by covering a wide range of sales training topics
Sellers face constant change, so the more frequent and varied training and coaching you can provide, the better equipped they are to adapt to different selling conditions, buyer needs, and market changes. Don’t limit sales training to just onboarding or a couple of topics during sales kickoffs. Create a culture of continual learning and improvement to help your sellers excel.