If you haven’t implemented a formal sales training and development program, you may not be getting the best out of your staff. While certain personality traits can make somebody a natural for sales, that’s not enough. Selling ability is as much of a learned skill as it is inherent.
Salespeople who have access to training and development can better overcome the challenges they face on the job. Even better, they will experience better outcomes.
This guide was created to help managers and corporate trainers learn how to create a sales training program, measure the success of that program, and avoid some common pitfalls.
How to Create a Sales Training Program
To learn how to create a sales training program, you must first understand your goals. Then, identify the shortcomings between those goals and the skills of each sales team member. After that, you can select or create the curriculum that will drive success.
What Is Sales Training and Development?
Sales training and development is the collection of resources and processes implemented to help sales team members develop the skills they need. It is something that evolves to meet the needs of the business and trainees.
As you learn how to create a sales training program, remember that the program you design might include:
- Classroom training
- Knowledgebase items
- Internet-based training
- Video training and webinars
- Mentoring and shadowing
Additionally, the subject matter you teach will vary depending on your industry, products, target market, and organizational goals.
Creating a Sales Training Program
What should your sales training program look like? It will take some time and resources to answer that question. You cannot achieve this with an “off the shelf” solution. Instead, you’ll need to engage in the process of analysis to identify your sales training objectives.
Choosing Sales Training Objectives
For any training program to succeed, it needs explicit, clear objectives. If you can’t identify what you want people to learn, you can’t create a successful training program, and you can’t measure its success.
You have to gather information on your current sales team, their skills, and their shortcomings to get started. Then, you’ll need to contextualize that information by seeing how it aligns with your company goals.
There are several sources of information you can use to better understand your sales team and their training needs. Start with any goals and KPIs that you have implemented already. If you have team members who aren’t meeting those consistently, that indicates a training need.
Look to your sales team managers, as well. They engage with their reports daily and have likely witnessed their struggle to succeed.
While you are doing this, keep in mind that training needs may also exist at the management and executive levels. Sales will suffer if your managers don’t have the knowledge and resources they need to guide their teams.
In addition to your managers, it’s also important to reach out to your other customer-facing staff. These are your retail workers, customer service agents, technicians, or other employees who deal directly with your customers.
They have a unique perspective in that they have their fingers on the pulse of customer sentiment. Chances are they know quite a bit about how your salespeople are interacting with clients and whether there are points of friction that you need to deal with through training.
Once you have these insights, you can create a list of sales training objectives to help team members develop essential skills and close any learning gaps.
Yours may differ, but these are some of the more common areas of focus for sales training objectives:
- Product knowledge
- Sales strategy development
- Administrative skills development
- Sales automation and technology
- Overcoming objections
- Win-loss analysis
- Peer to peer training and mentoring
As long as you have done your research and have a clear understanding of the needs of each sales team member, you should be able to create your list of objectives. Then, you can drill down into each to best determine the type and format of training required.
Developing Your Process
Your sales training process is the series of steps you will take to create and implement the sales training program your company needs. You’ll start this process by reviewing each objective you’ve identified.
For the sake of example, imagine that one of your objectives is to improve the ability of your sales team to overcome objections. However, you may develop sales training processes to address any training needs at once.
Create Learning Objectives
To create learning objectives, you need to identify the skills that your team members need to acquire to overcome sales objections.
Learning objectives will help you better communicate your expectations to participants, assess their mastery after training, and ensure that they can apply what they have learned.
Here are some learning objectives you might create for your sales objection training. Trainees will be able to:
- Ask appropriate questions and better understand customer objections
- Identify when an objection is due to a lack of information
- Reframe objections as needs, then communicate how they will be addressed
- Create genuine rapport with customers
- Differentiate between genuine complaints and excuses
- Master techniques to predict and address objections proactively
- The segue from customer objections to product benefits
- Increase the rate at which objections are overcome and lead to approvals
The learning objectives you create will help you identify how to approach the training process.
Determine the Challenges that Sales Trainers may Face
What are the barriers to success that might impact your sales training program? If you can articulate these clearly, you may take some steps to mitigate them.
For example, trainers frequently encounter struggles with scheduling and logistics. They may be trying to deliver training to remote sales teams, working with sales professionals who travel, or live and work in various time zones. By identifying this potential roadblock, they can design the training to work around it.
Identify the Best Training Methodologies
Which training methodologies are most appropriate, will help trainers be as effective as possible, and ensure that trainees achieve their learning objectives? Ideally, you will choose the best methodology for the subject matter, the needs of the trainees, and available resources.
Some of the most common training methodologies include:
- Self-directed learning
- Instructor-led training
- On the job training
- Group discussion
- Case studies
You may find that it helps to combine a few different methodologies to deliver training. This will allow you to better accommodate differences in learning styles and support employees who may not access training that you provide using one methodology.
Select the Technology
How will you use technology to implement the training methodologies you select? For example, it may not be possible to deliver instructor-led training in person. You may need to incorporate technology so that workers may be able to participate via Zoom or other communication software.
You may also need to select and implement a learning management system that helps training participants access training as well as track their progress.
Write or Purchase the Curriculum
To provide sales training in any format, you have to have a curriculum to deliver. Depending on your specific sales training needs, you might create that in-house, bring in a professional sales trainer, purchase sales training software, or choose a hybrid solution.
If you do choose to create your curriculum in-house, there are resources available to help you with instructional design. You can use these instructional models to build your sales training curriculum within an organized framework.
ADDIE (Analyze Design Develop Implement Evaluate) is one popular instructional model for providing business training. If you have stakeholders who are familiar with it, you can use AGILE methodologies in instructional design. You can also use ARCs and Bloom’s Taxonomy.
This is another part of the sales training development process where technology can be a real lifesaver. Training professionals can use tools such as Camtasia, Adobe Captivate, or Lectora Publisher to create training materials that you can deliver in a variety of formats.
Additionally, a quality learning management tool will include a course authoring model. It also provides a centralized location where you can store course materials and other learning assets.
Create the Assessments
Creating the assessments you need to determine whether your training is effective can be challenging. You will want to assess understanding at various stages for most sales training courses. These assessments and criteria include:
- Trainees understand the delivered material during the sales training process
- Testing overall mastery immediately after training
- Evaluating retention after trainees have returned to work
It’s helpful to have a plan that you will implement if you aren’t getting the results you want from your assessments. Making improvements to your sales training program is a critical part of keeping your employees motivated, engaged, and successful.
Deliver the Training
Once you’ve taken all of the steps here, you can begin to deliver the sales training program you’ve built. Depending on the scope of that training and costs, you might decide to offer training to a smaller subset of your sales team.
Offering training to smaller subsets will give you the opportunity to “beta test” your training before investing in the resources required to implement training across the organization.
Develop a Formal Method for Collecting and Analyzing Feedback
Even if your trainees pass their assessments with flying colors, it’s important that you collect meaningful feedback about the training.
Here, your goal is to learn more about the experiences trainees have had, their suggestions for improvement, and whether they perceive the training they received helped them achieve their sales goals.
Many organizations use the Kirkpatrick Model for instructional design evaluation. This evaluation methodology evaluates the impacts of training at four distinct levels. These are:
- Reaction to the training
- The amount and quality of learning that took place
- Behavior changes (i.e., determining whether the training led to changes in relevant behaviors)
- Results (i.e., did the sales training lead to changes that helped the organization?)
In addition to involving trainees in these evaluations, it is often helpful to get feedback from managers, customer service reps, even customers to see if they notice positive outcomes or not.
Refine Your Training
Developing sales training is an ongoing process. You’ll have to refine it based on the outcomes of your assessments and evaluations.
Additionally, you may have to change sales training over time as your organizational goals shift. You’ll also want to change your program when you offer new products or begin to target new customer groups.
Make Resources Available
This is the part of the training development process that is not necessarily linear. Successful sales team members need access to educational resources outside of instructional settings.
Making these knowledgebase items available in a centralized location empowers workers to pursue the education and information they need to become better salespeople.
These resources might include self-directed learning modules, wikis, best practices, frequently asked questions, case studies, policy manuals, and procedure documents.