If you haven’t implemented a formal sales training 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.
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
- Knowledge-base 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.
Why is sales training important?
Sales training is important because it sets your team up for success. Improving sales performance doesn’t just positively impact your bottom line. It boosts morale and motivates sales professionals to enhance their performance.
Employees often know when they lack the skills and competencies to succeed. That’s demoralizing and may discourage them from continuing training. You indicate a willingness to invest in their success and development by offering them training.
How to Create 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.
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.
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.
Here's the 10-step process to creating effective sales training programs:
Step #1: Define 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 sales training program, and you can’t measure its success.
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.
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's training needs. Start with any goals or learning and development 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.
Step #2: 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.
Step #3: Determine sales training challenges
What are the major challenges to 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.
Step #4: Identify the most effective sales training method
Which sales 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 sales 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.
Step #5: Use modern sales training 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 a sales training tool 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.