Sales is an interesting field.
Someone can attend college for four years and study business management, human resources practices, business law, ethics, marketing, and various other topics, graduating with a business degree without spending a single moment learning how to complete a sale.
That’s pretty stunning when you consider that every business relies on its ability to sell a product or service!
Many people enter the field without having any formal sales training. Great salespeople often have the natural ability to connect with and persuade others. But it’s often the combination of mentoring and training that genuinely leads them to top-level performance. You have to offer the sales training they need to start them on the right track. Have you done enough to prepare your sales team for success?
To help with this, we’ve compiled a list of 9 key areas in which training can make all the difference. We’ll cover why each subject is important and provide some effective training ideas to help you team improve in key areas.
Why is Sales Training So Important?
When you create effective training programs, you empower your teams to attain the knowledge that they need to reach their goals. Ultimately, this increases and improves your sales pipeline.
It’s critical to invest time and effort into developing training programs that are relevant, effective, and able to address any skills gaps that are likely to become roadblocks to success.
With this in mind, here are 9 components that interactive sales training programs should address:
1. Product Expertise
Product knowledge is a key competency for salespeople. Consumers are smarter than ever, and your sales staff must be product-savvy to impress them.
When sales teams are in front of a prospect, there should be no question they cannot answer and no feature they can’t demonstrate.
This kind of sales training should cover the following competencies:
- Product customizations
- Tools, features, and integrations
- Advanced uses
- Product roadmaps
These skills can be developed using a variety of training methods, and sales training is a perfect vehicle for walking sales trainees through the use of technical products along with hands-on training or video demos. It may be helpful to bring in product designers and engineers to offer demonstrations, as well.
2. Objection Response And Turnaround
How do you overcome objections? Even better, how do you deal with an objection and turn the conversation into something positive? That’s a skill every salesperson must-have.
One option is to hold an interactive sales training session for your team. Create two groups. One is the “customer,” and the other is the “seller.”
The customer team will create a list of objections to bring up, such as:
- The competition’s product has more features
- It’s not in our budget at the moment.
- The product is too new, and we’re worried about bugs
The seller can then work together to create responses that allow them to implement effective techniques, such as showing empathy, asking clarifying questions, and providing targeted answers.
3. Ongoing Assessments
Sales training is a lengthy and complex process. From identifying training needs, designing sales training courses, navigating technical platforms, to presenting the material, it can be easy to overlook measurement.
If you implement ongoing assessments, a salesperson can identify their strengths and weaknesses. Then, when you use an interactive sales training program, your sales teams can then use the results of their assessments to select which courses they should take next.
Trainers and sales managers can also use the results of assessments to identify team members struggling with certain concepts and identify the items that need to be reviewed by the team collectively.
4. Sales Strategy Development
What does it take to create a winning sales strategy? The answer to that question can vary widely. It depends on:
- The salesperson’s disposition and experience
- The product
- The customer segment
- The current market or ecosystem
- The type of sale (inbound, outbound, subscription)
- The customer position (individual, SME, enterprise)
This is a niche in which salespeople can benefit from learning some general best practices and learning some techniques specific to the product they are actually selling.
This is a subject that definitely lends itself to collaborative sales training. This allows your team to approach the subject from different angles, with individuals playing various roles.
During these interactive sales training sessions, team members can work through a wide range of scenarios. For example, they may practice selling your product to an individual, a small business owner, or a decision-maker at a large corporation.
At the end of the session, the team can work together to create sales strategies that are targeted toward approaching the situations they will likely encounter.
5. The Art Of Prospecting
Prospecting is a key skill for salespeople to learn. It helps to ensure a constant source of potential leads. But, more importantly, if your team members can prospect, they will learn how to prioritize leads, identify their pain points, and put themselves in a much better position when it’s time to make those challenging cold calls.
Do you have team members that are struggling to make their numbers? Their troubles could be due to a lack of prospecting over the past few months, especially if they simply don’t understand how to prospect effectively.
Depending on your needs, you may choose to focus your sales training on inbound prospecting, outbound prospecting, or both. Here are some of the essential skills to learn and some ideas for creating interesting, dynamic training sessions for each of them:
The more you know about your sales prospects, the better. Sales team members can use the information they find for two purposes. The first is to qualify them. The second is to identify traits and information that they can use to approach individuals with an effective, tailored pitch.
Create a sales prospecting scavenger hunt. Give a team of sales trainees the name of a company and let them loose to research. Have them check off each of the following items as they find the information:
- Contact name
- Company size
- Current projects
- Email and phone number
- Social media profiles
- Website bio
- Recent mentions
Once trainees make it through the list, they can engage in discussions about the best ways to use the information about the company and the decision-maker to determine whether the account represents a qualified lead. Next, they can address how the information can be used to best approach them and meet their needs.
One of the most challenging elements of the outreach process is getting past the gatekeeper. These might be administrative assistants, office managers, or others who can prevent salespeople from reaching the decision-maker.
Influential sales professionals know how to handle gatekeepers gracefully. Even better, they can use techniques to turn them into allies.
Like objection response training, this is an excellent opportunity to work in groups. For example, the gatekeeper group can come up with a list of common responses to outreach calls, such as “they aren’t taking calls right now” or “their calendar is full.”
The prospecting team can work on responses that fall within these guidelines:
- Respects the gatekeeper and their position
- Approaches with a value proposition (e.g., I’m trying to reach Bob Smith with information about his tech support issues.)
- Avoids selling
- Avoids outright lying or misleading statements
During this interactive sales training exercise, trainees should remember that success comes in different forms. If they can gather some additional information, learn a better time to call, or even reach a voicemail, they’ve made some progress.
6. Live Mentoring And Shadowing
There’s no trainer like an expert, especially one who is familiar with your products, processes, and target customers. Your experienced, successful salespeople are in the best position to teach incoming personnel tips and techniques about selling your products and engaging your customers.
Consider creating a mentoring and shadowing program to facilitate this. Mentors and mentees can work together to establish goals, analyze metrics, and stay in touch regularly to overcome obstacles.
By shadowing a top salesperson, newer employees can learn best practices and see them in action. Even something as simple as being conferenced into a cold call to listen to an experienced professional in action can be exceptionally educational.
7. Peer Training
Peer-to-peer learning is a highly effective interactive sales training tool. Peer learners can learn important sales techniques from their colleagues. Even better, since everyone is on an even footing, they may feel more at ease critiquing or challenging one another.
If you are a trainer interested in learning more about your trainees or identifying the roles they are most suited for, peer training can also help you.
One method that works well in remote or digital training sessions is having peers create video lectures or demonstrations. You can even have each one submit an idea or proposal for the topic they’d like to present.
8. Sales Automation Tools
Salespeople use various tools and technologies, like Salesforce, to automate mundane processes to spend more time using their talents to sell products. Chances are that your business has licensed a few of these products to help your staff work with greater productivity.
How well can your staff members use those tools? Are they maximizing the potential of the tools that have been provided to them? Have you offered training on these tools?
The truth is that many salespeople have plenty of access to tools, but they are never really taught how to use them well. As a result, your sales team may not know how to use the best or most advanced features of the tools.
You can always use the training offered by the software vendors. Many companies offer this for free, including advanced training. Another option is to hold interactive sales training that you design in-house. By doing this, you can focus on specific modules and features that are going to be most relevant to your team members.
9. Win/Loss Analysis
Every rejection and every closed sale can teach your sales team something. That’s why it’s vital to have roundtable discussions in which everyone can analyze the latest win-loss reports.
Keep discussions open and honest and avoid too much congratulatory banter over the wins. The idea here is to learn from both!
Open each win/loss sales training session with the following goals in mind:
- Better understand which features or benefits are most attractive to customers
- Increase awareness of buyer behavior
- Improve your sales strategy
- Create a better value proposition
- Earn a competitive advantage
- Identify customer frustrations
- Recognize techniques that work and ones that don’t
Have an experienced salesperson or manager facilitate these interactive sales training sessions. They can point out important items that trainees might miss and can provide a well-rounded perspective.
Best Practices for Creating Sales Training Programs
Now, you have some great ideas for training your team in some of the most important aspects of sales. How do you create these interactive sales training programs and deliver them effectively?
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Use a Great Learning Management System
A learning management system is a technical platform that you can use to create and deliver training material company-wide. Learning platforms have features that allow you to develop assessments, build learning tracks, and create quizzes to track progress.
The best systems even provide functionality for shared video training and offline training, as well.