How to Create a Sales Training Program (And Get Results)

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:

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
  • Lectures
  • On-the-job training
  • Roleplaying
  • Group discussion
  • Mentoring
  • Simulations
  • 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.

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Step #6: Build out training content

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.

The ADDIE model of instructional design is one of the most popular frameworks 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 a tool such as Continu 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.

Step #7: Develop sales training 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 sales team motivated, engaged, and successful.

Step #8: Deliver the sales training program

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.

Who should deliver sales training?

Sales training can be delivered by a variety of professionals in and outside of your company. Depending on the type and format of training, you might choose the corporate trainers within your company, sales team managers, experienced sales staff, or professionals from outside firms.

You will probably see the best outcomes if you implement blended learning that allows sales team members to learn from many different instructors. For example, if you want your employees to master a sales automation tool, you might get better results if you bring in a trainer specializing in that software. 

At the same time, 80% of on-the-job learning happens through interactions between employees. That’s a good reason to have experienced staff mentor less experienced staff.

Step #9: Collect and analyze training feedback

Even if your trainees pass their assessments with flying colors, it’s important that you collect meaningful feedback about the sales 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, and even customers to see if they notice positive outcomes or not.

Step #10: Refine the sales training process

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.

How to Measure the Power of Sales Training

Here are the steps to take to measure the impact of your sales training initiative:

  • Create key metrics such as the lead-to-close ratio
  • Establish a baseline such as closed leads in an average month
  • Set a reasonable goal for improvement
  • Measure for improvement after training and in the future

Ideally, the measurements you collect will show that your sales team is improving satisfactorily.

BONUS: Make sales resources available whenever

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 knowledge-based 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.

What causes sales training to fail?

When sales training fails, that can mean thousands of dollars in wasted money as well as lost time that you can’t recoup. Sometimes, training failures become clear during or immediately after delivery. Participants are frustrated, trainers feel they aren’t making an impact, and assessments show that workers aren’t getting what they need.

It doesn’t become clear there are issues until months or weeks later in other cases. You take a look at your metrics and see that your sales team still isn’t meeting their goals. Regardless of when sales training fails, it’s usually due to one of the following issues.

1. Too focused on skills instead of knowledge

It’s important that your sales team members understand and execute the processes that are proven to close sales successfully. At the same time, they also need a foundation of knowledge about your company, products, services, and customers.

2. Lack of a sales training roadmap

Even with the best training, salespeople may feel rudderless or overwhelmed if they don’t have processes and procedures to follow. 

Without these essential guiding elements, every sales opportunity can feel like it requires reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch.

3. Failure to follow up

Nobody is going to retain and implement all of what they learn in a training class. They will probably need refreshers or simply a mentor to check in with them to ensure they are still progressing.

4. Not identifying business or training needs

Are you focusing on the right things during your sales training program? Does the training you are providing include what your workers need to learn? Does it align with your overall business goals?

5. Lack of personalization

Your sales team isn’t a monolith. It’s full of individuals with varying personalities, learning styles, skills gaps, and training needs. Chances are that you are going to miss the mark with a one-size-fits-all approach to designing a training program. 

That doesn’t mean that you have to customize every element for each person, just that you should expect to have to provide some training to address individual needs and goals.

Drive Meaningful Learning

Successful sales training often looks very different from one organization to the next. However, there is usually one element in common. Companies have successful sales teams with reliable tools to drive training and development.

When you combine the power of a learning management system like Continu with your understanding of your sales team’s needs, you can create training that is virtually unbeatable.

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