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Developing and training your sales team – The seven sales training fundamentals

One of the most effective ways to improve results in any sales division is through a structured training program. The difficult part can be deciding on what training, how much and how often does this training program need to be revisited. If you then combine this with time constraints, many sales managers end up opting for a classic three-day, intensive sales course where the team sit around listening to an ‘expert’ tell them stuff they either know or will forget by the time they get back to doing their day job.

The bad news is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to sales training. Your team members will all have individual strengths and weaknesses, so sending them all on the same course could be a waste of money and might end up discouraging your best performers.

The good news is, with little strategic planning, you can develop a program that will not only move your team in the right direction but will also help you to retain the best.

The question is, do you really know what your team needs?

Take the time to assess your team’s strengths and weaknesses, the gaps in their knowledge, both collectively, as individuals and the needs of your business.

Are you losing deals due to a lack of product understanding? Is your sales process robust? Do they have the necessary skills to use the tools you’ve provided to do their job?

Dive deep into your sales statistics from the last 2/5 years as this will give you something to measure against but most importantly you need to talk to the individuals in your team. Where are they experiencing issues? What could they do better? What support do you think they need? Speak to each sales person individually and assess their specific needs.

Now you know what’s needed and potentially what you want to achieve, what can you do to ensure that the training you’re about to give is going to work?

Well… Here are the seven sales training fundamentals.

1: Back to basics.

There are some skills that excel industry, product or sales methodology. Ensuring that your sales team is well-versed in the basic foundations of successful selling is something that a lot of sales managers overlook. Managers can also quite often overlook the practicalities of navigating the tools and systems your sales team are expected to use.

Are they competent enough to use the software you’ve provided for them? It’s crazy how much time you can save by making sure your team spends less of their selling time on basic admin duties.

Although we hear it a lot these days, emailing is far from a dead selling tool. Does everyone in your team understand how to put together an effective, professional cold email or customer response?

Are they expected to make cold calls? Do they know the best practices? There are plenty effective training programs available online covering these skills.

Believe it or not, many salespeople don’t fully understand the product or service they’re supposed to sell. You may need a more effective onboarding schedule for new and inexperienced staff or some refresher courses, especially if you have a product that constantly undergoes development or improvements.

2: E-learning and online material.

There’s no need to ship your entire sales team off to a training course, it’s simply not practical. This means your sales process stops for the duration of this session and is based on the assumption that all your team members have exactly the same needs.

Savvy companies have discovered the beauty of online training as it allows convenient scheduling and also means the training content can be chosen separately for each individual team member, so they can move at their own pace. If Heidi struggles with picking up the phone to cold call and Darran has no idea how to use a CRM, you can work on fixing these gaps in their knowledge.

3: No more crash courses.

Research has proven that without systematic, regular learning and reinforcement, approximately 50% of what people are being taught is forgotten within five weeks.

Have you ever sat through an intensive three-day training course? You know how tedious they can be. Even when people find both the presenter and the topic incredibly fascinating, most sales people generally have an attention span of 7-10 minutes. You need to focus on the regularity of training rather than intensity. Break it down to a 30 minute a week session over three months rather than one six-hour cram session.

4: Learning on the job.

It’s vital that training has a strong practical side and relates specifically to your own company, sales process, and product or service. When people notice a positive impact on their daily experience, it becomes much easier to keep them motivated when completing a long training schedule. You’ll reap the rewards by training your staff to effectively use the systems and tools that are already in place for your business. If you manage to get your team to enjoy using the tools you give them, you will create consistency which will lead onto incredible results.

5: Numbers – point’s mean prizes.

A sale is ultimately a results-driven activity. KPI’s (key performance indicators) should underpin any training program you develop. Is the training bringing the results you expected during planning? Your team may be really enjoying their training but if there’s no change in your results then you’re wasting everybody’s time.

Clearly set out KPI’s and agree on the expected results with each team member. Bringing in measurability is a great motivating factor and a tool that will create a strong sense of achievement.

6: Identify your experts.

The team with have different skills and experience levels which can be used to your advantage. Using a buddy/mentoring system is proven to work, especially when your sales process is a little long winded or complicated. Work with your senior staff members to develop a training schedule that can also work as an induction program for new employees making sure you pair new or inexperienced salespeople with a mentor within the team. Transferring and sharing knowledge in this way is highly effective and is also a fantastic way to discover the weak spots in your sales process. Make sure you bare point three in mind as you don’t want your best salespeople spending most of their time training rather than selling.

7: Inspire, motivation and taking care of your own.

You will need to schedule regular one-on-one sessions with your sales team and really listen to their feedback when giving them yours. Team meetings may save time, but most people are reluctant to admit flaws or failures in front of others. Put in place an incentive system. Public praise and acknowledgment of improvements in performance will make people feel valued and inspire them to keep going. AND, not forgetting a bonus system, all will aboard the sales train!

Sales training is forever changing, especially due to technology and you need to embrace that if you want to continue to grow. Creating a culture where learning and improvement is recognised and celebrated is one of the most important parts of successfully running a winning sales team.

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