Sales training is just one part of a seller’s roster of responsibilities. According to the 2022 LinkedIn State of Selling Report, sellers spend 17% of their time on training. Unfortunately, that time could be a complete wash if the sales training doesn’t improve the knowledge, skills, and behaviors you know reps need to close deals.
But when sale training is effective, it becomes one of the most important investments in your sellers and invaluable use of their time. In this blog post, we’ll define sales training, sales training programs, why they’re important, 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, and how to use Mindtickle for sales training.
- What is sales training?
- What is a sales training program and why is it needed?
- Why one-size-fits-all 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
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.
Organizations need to develop personalized sales training programs for their sales teams so they can achieve and maintain sales excellence across the organization. Otherwise, companies will see sales teams living out the 80/20 rule, where the top 20% of reps deliver 80% of revenue and the rest of the team underachieves.
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:
- Knowledge-based training programs on different product features help reps run product demos tailored to prospects’ needs
- Behavior training programs help reps spot when they’re using filler words so they can reduce the frequency of using them on calls
- Skills training programs on common objections help reps handle prospects’ objections confidently
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 24.3% of salespeople exceeded their quota 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.
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.
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 six essential features.
Diverse training formats
Offering a number of 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.
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 onset of the program, 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 that the program adjusts via sales rep input, evaluating what reps need according to what they have successfully 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.
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.
Effective training takes time, repetition, and detailed individuality. A training program that offers customization enables your sales team to achieve milestones while continuing to successfully sell.
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.
Tracking and metrics
How do you know if reps are using the program and if it’s working? A good sales training program should include progress tracking for each sales rep as well as analysis through quizzes, tests, and other assessments. This information should be used to generate performance metrics as well as to continually improve the program.
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.
- On-demand – 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.
- Live – online lectures and virtual conferences provide a forum where everyone can participate without being in the same physical location.
- Social – discussion forums, chat capabilities, and social interactions provide learning in an environment that enhances engagement through connection and discussion.
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 a variety of 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 identifies gaps for future learning.
When learning is less tedious and more fun, information is retained better. Reps are more likely to complete training modules if they come in the form of video games, leaderboards, social networking, and gamified quizzes, even when they aren’t assigned. Sales reps are motivated to do the work, becoming more and more skilled in the process. That drives revenue growth.
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 on which to focus, not all reps on your sales team will benefit.
Here are a few types of sales training.
- Methodology 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.
- Baseline training: 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.
- Product training: 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.
- Bite-sized updates: 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.
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.
With a comprehensive suite of sales readiness 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.
This post was originally published in April 2020 and was updated in November 2022.