Written by Kathleen Davey
Last updated: 1 September, 2023
Sales are the lifeblood of most companies. Your sales team plays a vital role in achieving your business goals and driving your profits.
Sales training, then, is something you need to take very seriously.
The better you train your sales managers and reps, the better they can sell your product or service.
Seems simple enough, right? Yes. But, there’s a knack for getting sales training right.
We break those best practices down in this guide and answer all your burning questions, like:
Let’s get right into it!
Sales training is the process of giving your sales team the skills they need to perform their function effectively and help them close any knowledge gaps.
In today’s market, new technologies and products come along all the time, so continuous training is necessary to keep your sales reps competitive.
The best sales training programs focus on actual behavior change in your sales team members. They should learn, absorb, and then apply the new selling skills on the job.
This is why you should approach sales training programs as learning experience design for adults.
Teaching your sales team to be better at sales can take place in person, online, or through blended learning. You can do this in-house or through the services of a training company.
When performed correctly, sales training will increase close rates, improve sales cycle time, the average deal size, and more.
Next up, we go in-depth into the benefits that sales training programs can bring to your organization.
Let’s not beat around the bush—a good and comprehensive sales training course isn’t going to be cheap and easy.
So why should you spend time and money on it?
Well, because it brings many benefits to your selling organization. Here are the five main ones.
Arguably the most important benefit of a sales training course is a higher close rate.
In a nutshell, better salespeople will also be better closers.
If you’ve had to resort to desperate measures to motivate your sales reps to become closers, maybe it’s time to rethink how they’re being trained.
An effective sales training program will teach your team the right sales strategy.
Many sales reps waste their time using sales techniques and strategies which are not right, either for them personally or for the product or service on sale.
Identifying this misalignment and related skill gaps will give sales reps the right know-how.
When you discard incorrect sales strategies in favor of better ones, time will free up to streamline sales processes and close deals.
If movies like Glengarry Glen Ross and Boiler Room have taught us anything, it’s that sales is a tough and high-pressure environment.
So, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of employee turnover. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, estimates place the sales team employee turnover rate in the US at 27% annually.
Turnover in any department is costly for a company, but it’s especially felt in such a vital function as sales.
Can sales training programs help at all?
Yes, they can.
In at least two ways, actually.
Firstly, you can use your sales coaching to foster a supportive environment that empowers your team to grow and succeed. This will boost their performance (and sales).
Secondly, a supportive environment will help you hold on to your best salespeople and keep your new hires from leaving too soon.
That is; the closers, the sales leaders, the ones with a lot of sales skills who can afford to leave a company over culture fit issues.
A sales cycle covers all the steps needed to close a deal, from start to finish.
As expected, each of these steps takes time. There are many sales strategies to shorten the sales cycle.
They include making the value proposition of your product very clear and identifying the right person to talk to from the get-go.
Exactly the kind of things you should include in your sales management training, right?
By increasing the sales skills of your sales team through training, you can help them shorten the sales cycle.
If this is successful, a salesperson can save valuable time (which they can invest elsewhere).
Each company has different goals, but ultimately it’s all about the profits.
Financial goals are at the top of the priority stack, and since sales generate money, better sales results help you achieve your objectives.
This is why continuous sales training is a must.
Case studies have found that companies that reinforce their sales training see their new salespeople hit targets 34% more often.
So you see, there’s a clear correlation between how much you invest in sales training courses and how effective your sales team is.
Effective sales management training can also hones the necessary skills to accurately predict short-term and long-term results. This makes it possible to set realistic targets.
Objectives set too high or too low in a sales organization are damaging, and sales training programs can help avoid that.
Achieving your business objectives will result in more business growth.
Sales training has a role to play here.
When more profits pour in from things such as opportunities generated by good sales training, you can use them to grow your business.
Sales success is business success, in a nutshell.
This is true if you want to hire new team members, expand your market share, or acquire your competition.
A good stepping stone to all that good stuff is effective sales training.
More sales, more money, better bottom line.
We’ve convinced you of the benefits of sales training courses. But how do you make it effective?
We’ve seen the benefits. Now, it’s time to bring you back down to Earth.
All those benefits we discussed?
You’re not gonna see them if your sales-related corporate training courses aren’t effective.
There are some sobering statistics to consider. On average, learners forget 70% of what they’ve learned in just 24 hours.
This is the “forgetting curve,” and it’s the L&D professional’s nemesis.
Luckily, we’ve assembled five ways to do just that.
If you’ve been reading our learning glossary, then you already know—boring lecture-style learning experiences have gone the way of the Dodo.
And in the context of selling, why would you ever have non-interactive training sessions?
Selling is one of the most interactive human activities, so naturally, sales training should be interactive too.
One great way to make sure it’s interactive is to use role-playing. There’s a reason why it remains a tried and true training tool.
Online interactive courses are also a great idea. From online roleplay simulations to interactive images to exercises that encourage trainees to think and participate, e-learning is a surefire way to get your sales reps engaged.
In general, you want to avoid the kind of learning experience where people can just doze off while they listen to someone drone on.
Interactive sessions allow learners to practice their communication skills in real-world scenarios and simulate a customer relationship. In the end, this leads to better sales conversations.
Great sales are as much an art as a science.
A lot of the selling process is about getting into the mindset of the person you’re selling to.
Nobody knows the buyer’s experience better than the customers themselves.
This is why you should invite your customers to participate in training sessions. This will give your sales reps a unique and valuable perspective.
And with today’s video conferencing tools, it’s easy to have someone patch in from anywhere in the world.
Most of the top Learning Management Systems (LMSs), such as Docebo, integrate with webinar and video conferencing software so you can include customers in your sales training.
For instance, you can organize and hold virtual sessions within the LMS and share surveys, resources, and training courses.
Use that to your advantage by having one of your customers come in and give their insights to the salespeople.
Motivating your employees is the key to productivity, achievement, and engagement.
Sellers typically have two main motivations:
The latter is beyond the scope of your sales training course. But the former is not.
Training and learning are a process. And we’re more open to submitting to any process when we see clear benefits.
So, explain the ‘why’ behind the training.
If your salesforce believes that training can help them get new customers and, with it, more commissions, they’ll be much more motivated to absorb the training content.
Then you can just sit back and watch new sales opportunities pour in.
LMSs can also help with motivating learners.
Features such as gamification and leaderboards make learning more engaging and interesting.
Plus, some LMSs, like Docebo, have potent social learning features to encourage trainees to take the driving seat. For example, learners can participate in discussions, share training content, and ask in-company sales experts questions directly on the platform.
These are good takeaways to include in your company’s general learning culture.
To get the most out of sales training programs, you have to be ready to put the pedal to the metal.
After all, your business goals and growth are at stake here.
One excellent way to push it to the max is impact training.
Best suited for urgent, short-term sales issues, this is a boot-camp-style exercise that lets you get your entire salesforce on the same page fast.
Depending on your situation and needs, you can host a virtual or instructor-led Impact training session. Alternatively, if your salesforce spends a lot of time out on the field (or working in different states or time zones), online sales training works best.
There’s only one way to know how your sales training program is fairing–by defining clear metrics and KPIs.
You must know how your sellers are performing and how far they are from achieving their goals.
Regular pulse checks reveal urgent skills gaps and shed light on what’s missing from the training.
Ongoing coaching also helps. It’s a chance for sales leaders to follow up, give feedback, and reinforce the knowledge and skills the sales reps picked up during training.
Sales training should take place continuously from the time of onboarding onwards.
Comparing close rates before and after a sales training program will also give you a feel for how effective it is.
In short, you have to put processes in place that will give clear metrics on how effective your salesforce is.
You can then use this data to both design and evaluate training programs.
Next up, we look at what skills to evaluate in your salesforce.
Of course, the skills your salesforce need will depend on the industry, company values, client profile, etc. But here are six fundamental skills every good seller needs to have to excel in their job.
Whether they’re scoping out potential customers or about to hop onto a cold call, these basic traits will serve them well.
Making sure your sales team has these skills is a key step in your sales enablement.
Sure, having a high IQ is great, but what about emotional intelligence? Also called Emotional Quotient (EQ), this is the ability to be aware of your own emotions as well as the emotions of others.
And research shows that those sellers with higher EQs outperform those with lower ones and make more successful sales.
Well, it has to do with the five components of EQ:
Each of these components has an impact on the sales process.
Self-awareness means your sales professionals are less likely to annoy potential customers with their own negative emotions.
Self-regulation means they’re better at adapting to the needs of the job, basically not letting personal emotions get in the way of sales success.
Those with good social skills are better at sales prospecting because of their larger social networks and communication skills.
Empathy will make great sales because the seller understands the customer’s emotions better.
Finally, sales reps with stronger intrinsic motivation get more done.
All of this is why your sales training program should take EQ into account.
You may be wondering how to train on EQ.
While it’s true that some people may have a naturally higher EQ than others, emotional intelligence can absolutely be learned.
EQ training gives your sales team the tools to build empathy, recognize and regulate their emotions, and communicate effectively. Roleplays and group discussions are fantastic ways to put the theory into practice.
These can be delivered in person or online via an LMS. Online roleplay simulations have proven particularly effective in building EQ.
Learners are placed in a real-life sales situation, such as dealing with objections and must handle the situation using the tools and techniques covered in the training. They receive immediate feedback at each step of the roleplay, and get to reinforce their EQ skills in a risk-free environment.
At the end of the day, putting everything else aside, sales conversations are about persuasion.
Your salespeople need to be able to persuade potential customers that your product is the right one to fit their needs.
A sales rep who’s mastered the art of persuasion can speak with authority and product knowledge.
What do you get when you mix top-notch persuasion skills with high emotional intelligence? A pretty amazing salesperson.
So, don’t skill these two fundamentals in your sales training program.
Everyone in your team, from sales managers to sales reps, should be good at persuasion.
We all think we are good at listening. But are we really? Are we listening to what the other person is saying, or are we just waiting for our turn to speak? Any stellar salesperson knows the importance of active listening.
It means listening carefully to what the other person is saying. Easier said than done, however.
Most people, especially confident A-type personalities (which good salespeople are prone to be), don’t listen to others with enough intent and care.
Thankfully, you can teach active listening as part of your sales training.
Those who listen actively can better understand the needs of a potential customer, which leads to higher close rates.
Including recorded sales calls or videos of sales meetings in your training is a great way to hone your sales team’s skills. They must put their active listening skills to use and complete a quiz or customer profile using the information they picked up on.
Let’s face it, confidence is sexy.
It’s also an integral skill for any salesperson.
People don’t want to buy products or services from a sales rep that doesn’t seem sure of themselves or the product.
Confidence in sales calls means communicating clearly, making decisions quickly, and having an appropriate level of assertiveness during the sales process.
Confident people inspire confidence in others, meaning potential customers are more likely to buy what you’re selling to them.
This is especially beneficial during consultative selling, where the potential customer is relying on your sales rep for actual advice.
You might think that people are simply born confident, but this isn’t the whole truth. Yes, some are just naturally more confident than others. But it’s also a skill you can teach and use in training.
As the saying goes, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Your sales training program should have a module about how to appear confident in sales situations.
If you’re delivering the training online, why not ask learners to rate their confidence at the start of the module and again at the end? That way, you can see if the training has done its job and boosted your sales team’s confidence.
Ask 100 people what their biggest fear is, and we wager at least 50 of them will tell you it’s public speaking.
We get it. It’s scary to stand in front of an audience and risk getting judged or falling flat on your face.
But, for salespeople, it’s a big part of the job (and closing those sales).
Demos and presentations are a common occurrence for your sales team, so your sales training should give them the tools they need to excel.
If getting the whole sales team in one room to run a public speaking workshop is a logistical nightmare, take it online. Virtual public speaking sessions are just as effective and will help your salesforce hone their skills.
Honesty is the best policy.
During sales prospecting, your sales team should be transparent and not push a sale on someone who isn’t a good fit.
Regardless of reasons such as pain points or budget, your sales managers and everyone else in your sales team should be honest.
Integrity shouldn’t just be a part of your ethics compliance training, you should also include it in the skill development of your entire sales team.
Again, this may seem like a tricky topic to train on. But it’s certainly possible.
Integrity training should cover your organization’s values and sales processes, as well as how to handle common situations.
If there’s one thing we know as L&D professionals, it’s not to throw too much at learners at once. So, if your organization has a lot of relevant documents, such as a code of conduct, sales policies and procedures, etc., don’t include all of that in the training.
Instead, focus on the key information needed to develop integrity-driven sales and direct trainees to the other documentation at the end of the training.
Setting up a knowledge base on your LMS to host important documents is a fantastic way to store this information under one roof. Sales teams can easily access the information when they need it, and HR teams have an easier job managing it.
Time to recap everything we’ve learned so far in the next section.
Sales enablement is about ensuring your salesforce has the necessary skills to succeed.
The best way to give them these skills is to conduct regular sales training programs. Trust us; you won’t be sorry.
From increased close rates to higher profits, investing in effective sales training will hugely impact your sales team for the better. Plus, your sales team will feel more confident and motivated.
Delivering sales training via an LMS is a flexible, cost-effective way to ensure all of your sales staff are getting the training they need, whether they’re onsite or in the field.
What’s more, thanks to features like social learning and gamification, online sales training is often more engaging and garners higher levels of knowledge retention.
Do you want to brush up on the key terms and trends in L&D? Then head over to our glossary.