What Makes a Successful Sales Training Program?

Two people looking at a laptop with sales training from Mindtickle

Every revenue leader will tell you that ongoing training is key to getting reps the skills and knowledge they need to close deals. 

While most organizations invest in a sales enablement department (84%), according to our 2024-2025 Chief Revenue Officer + Sales Leader Outlook Report, only 40% of these C-level executives said they can identify rep strengths and weaknesses for customized training.

According to research, only

of C-level execs can identify rep strengths and weaknesses
0 %

So, while leaders know that training is necessary, they lack visibility into where to focus training efforts. 

When effective, sales training becomes one of the most important investments in your sellers and an invaluable use of their time. In this blog post, we’ll define sales training and programs and why they’re important. We’ll then outline:

  • Why one-size-fits-all sales training won’t work
  • The essentials for a successful sales training program
  • Different types of sales training programs
  • How sales training technology helps
  • How to use Mindtickle for sales training.

What is sales training?

A sales training program teaches sales reps the skills needed for every step of the sales journey—from first contact through the close of a sale. It’s the ongoing process of teaching sales teams how to create deal-closing interactions with buyers. This includes in-person learning, e-learning, micro-learning, gamification, or other training techniques to help sales reps improve performance.

Although sometimes used interchangeably, sales training is not the same as sales enablement or sales coaching.

What is a sales training program and why is it needed?

Organizations need to develop personalized sales training programs for their sales teams so they can achieve and maintain sales excellence across the organization.

Ideal rep profile competencies

Once you’ve mapped out your ideal rep profile and understand the specific selling skills, behaviors, and knowledge your salespeople need to succeed, you can plan out courses and programs that focus on each area.

Start by defining the outcomes for each training program. For example:

Focus on on different product features to help reps run product demos tailored to prospects’ needs

Help reps spot when they’re using filler words so they can reduce the frequency of using them on calls

Focus on on common objections to help reps handle prospects’ objections confidently

Why one-size-fits-all training won’t work

If you choose a sales training program with a one-size-fits-all manual, you may be throwing away time and money.

Despite significant investments in sales training programs, the average rate of quota attainment has been declining for years. In fact, according to some research, only 42.8% of reps met their quotas last year. One-size-fits-all training programs assume there is just one way to sell and therefore fail at the very thing they are teaching.

According to research, only

of reps met their quotas last year
0 %

No two sales reps have the same needs or experience. Similarly, no two businesses are alike—a technology company and a retailer have different needs relevant to the industry and each has a unique sales process.

For example:

  • A retail sale — B2C —might require a shorter, but more personal interaction.
  • Reps selling products in B2B, like technology, require an intricate knowledge of customers, products, trends, and advancement in the industry.

In both examples, the sales rep must deliver a modern sales approach that can compete with information available online, and the complexities of each product require specific understanding. But the approach to these differing sales requires unique knowledge and techniques, meaning training must be suited to the individual rep, business, product, and customer.

While there is some benefit to be gained from any initiative, the results won’t be nearly as effective as those from an individually designed program that incorporates your company’s methodology and provides ongoing training and coaching opportunities.

The essentials for a successful sales training program

What are “the essentials” of choosing a sales training program, and why do they matter? Conventional training programs focus on behavior modification, communication, and negotiation skills. Those things play an important role in sales success, but other strategies can improve results faster and give your sales reps an advantage in the field.

The best sales training program for your company should include these essential features.

#1 Diverse training formats

Offering several different formats for presenting training material means teaching sales reps in the manner that they learn best.

Video provides a forum for role-play and live lectures, as well as narrated slide presentations to keep reps engaged.

Audio recordings work well for delivering training when complete attention is not necessary, like while driving or completing other activities.

Written materials allow reps to review and study resources in a written form with PDF files that can be made available for easy download and/or printing.

Gamification turns lackluster training modules into a fun, competitive learning opportunity. Video games, quizzes, and more can keep reps engaged and eager to continue their training.

#2. Customizable platform

While standard training programs can offer the basics, a customizable program allows you to add content specific to your business, including techniques that work well in your market or with your product, and change and grow with your needs.

At the program’s onset, expect a framework driven by your organization’s sales strategy and a practical understanding of your products, services, and process. Intuitive real-time editing means the program adjusts via sales rep input, evaluating what reps need according to what they have completed, how they learn, and even existing or desired customers. Front-line managers can coach teams and review analytics by utilizing easy-to-use mobile tools.

#3. Real-world scenarios

A successful sales training program uses real-world buying scenarios (and proven solutions) to train the team to handle any common situation. It must offer the flexibility to successfully address every aspect of a business reality. This type of program allows reps to practice real-world scenarios before they actually enter a high-stakes conversation with prospects or customers.

#4. Structured reinforcement

Effective training requires time, repetition, and detailed individuality. A customized training program enables your sales team to achieve milestones while continuing to sell successfully.

Reinforcement is key to helping salespeople retain what they’ve learned. Without systematic, continual learning and reinforcement, sales reps forget 70% of information within one week of training, and 87% within one month.

#5. Tracking and metrics

How do you know if reps use the program and if it’s working? A good sales training program should include progress tracking for each sales rep and analysis through quizzes, tests, and other assessments. This information should be used to generate performance metrics and continually improve the program.

#6. Different instructional modalities

Providing learning opportunities that meet your sales team where they are, physically and mentally, is the best way to get their attention and make learning fun and interactive.

Your sales team is always on the go. Training materials should be agile, available via streaming or download to mobile devices for use when the time is right.

Online lectures and virtual conferences provide a forum where everyone can participate without being in the same physical location.

Discussion forums, chat capabilities, and social interactions provide learning in an environment that enhances engagement through connection and discussion.

#7. Micro-learning capabilities

Micro-learning offers information as bite-sized, easily accessed, individualized content for sales reps. Usually focused on one topic or problem, it is presented in various ways like quizzes, videos, games, or simulations. Micro-learning uses information about how our long-term memory performs and incorporates the use of repetition over time. Learning that is fun and engaging—presented over time—helps learners avoid information overload and increases retained information. It is quick and easy to complete and provides the opportunity for tracking progress and identifying gaps for future learning.

#8. Gamification

When learning is less tedious and more fun, information is retained better. Reps are more likely to complete training modules involving video games, leaderboards, social networking, and gamified quizzes, even when they aren’t assigned. Sales reps are motivated to do the work, becoming increasingly skilled in the process, which drives revenue growth.

Different types of sales training programs

General sales skills include relationship-building, questioning, solution-building, negotiation, problem-solving, and proposal writing. Different types of sales training programs focus on different areas. When you choose just one area to focus on, not all reps on your sales team will benefit.

Here are a few types of sales training.

Teaches information or steps that improve the chance of a positive outcome. Usually a standard format, it creates a common approach and language for sales reps and emphasizes skill development.

Long-form modules with in-depth subject knowledge that teach essential sales skills. Reps learn how to sell with fundamental skills like finding prospects, active listening, asking questions, negotiation, sidestepping objections, giving presentations, follow-up, and other administrative communication skills. These skills have no expiration date and continue to evolve over time, as your reps’ confidence and knowledge grows.

Focuses on the product features and benefits, giving a sales rep a solid foundation regarding what they are selling, so they can focus on the customers’ needs.

Information refreshers that reinforce knowledge from training modules. Small, frequent updates prompt knowledge retention and connect information that reps have already learned for improved results.


How sales training technology helps

Enlisting a data-driven sales training program can change the game for your business. Technology-based onboarding alone can propel your success rate forward. A quality, customizable program offers cost-savings, flexibility, logistical simplicity, accessibility, and the chance for self-paced learning and repetition as needed.

Online or off, effective sales training programs should be customizable to adapt to the changing needs of any business. Key metrics provide a barometer for results. Diverse training opportunities coupled with a variety of learning modalities can help you reach your sales rep and improve retention. Micro-learning and bite-sized updates provide refreshers and continual learning.

Choose a training program that uses technology to make learning easier, empowers sales reps, and drives excellence.

Mindtickle for sales training

With a comprehensive suite of sales productivity applications, Mindtickle provides your sales team with a positive learning environment and never-ending learning. Sales reps learn and practice concepts from engaging, accessible delivery platforms that convey knowledge, offer role-play opportunities for eventual success in the field, and improve mastery for customer engagement.

Tracked usage offers accessibility and visibility—a window into progress and performance, that emphasizes knowledge retention through quizzes, gamification, and coaching. Mindtickle’s data-driven approach provides easy mobile access that ties individual performance to revenue growth with metrics that reveal what’s working, what needs adjusting, where gaps exist, and how training is affecting sales outcomes.

See Sales Training in Mindtickle

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This post was originally published in April 2020, updated in November 2022, October 2023, and May 2024.