By Christine McLean
There’s a popular shopping centre in my town that I regularly visit. A few years ago, sales reps for various travel destinations in Jamaica would frequently walk up and down the corridors looking for someone who would even be remotely interested in day passes. I interacted with a few of them — some seemed timid, others were mildly convincing, and some just didn’t grab my interest.
Contrastingly, my fiancé (now husband) and I were in the supermarket one day looking at a selection of red wines when we saw a young woman out of the corner of our eyes. While picking up a wine bottle, she looked at us and asked, “Are you guys a couple?” We smiled and told her that we were engaged.
She used that as a way to build a connection with us and then explained the benefits of life insurance for couples. She handed us her business card and told us to reach out when we were ready to get life insurance. She found common ground with us and used that to sell what her company had to offer.
Different approaches, different outcomes. The insurance agent made me more interested in purchasing what she had to sell while the vacation destination sales reps didn’t. As a sales team leader, you want sales reps who are more like the insurance agent — able to build connections with prospects that keep the company top-of-mind and ultimately lead to a sale. However, achieving this feat depends on how well you train your sales team.
This article provides an overview of what your sales team training should look like and how you can use this training to empower your sales reps.
A sales training program is a structured way of developing the skills a sales team needs to create and explore new sales opportunities that lead to deals for an organisation. The best sales training programs are personalised and provide opportunities for hands-on learning.
A sales training process is a systematic way of creating and executing a sales training program. The process has five key steps which are described below.
There are two main things that you should assess when identifying knowledge and skill gaps among your sales team — sales skills and sales maturity. A pen-and-paper test won’t adequately reveal the gaps your sales team has in these areas. Instead, you’ll pick up on these weaknesses while working directly with each sales rep. Some of these weaknesses can be addressed on the job, while others require more detailed and personalised training.
Also, the knowledge and skill gaps will vary significantly based on whether there are new people on your sales team or people who are more seasoned sales reps. The latter would need more opportunities for keeping their skills up-to-date while novice sales reps would need more opportunities to upskill (improve their skills so they can level-up).
Sales training isn’t only about providing your sales team with the knowledge and skills they need to meet their quotas. It’s also about boosting their confidence and helping them achieve their professional goals.
Looking at the big picture and then breaking it down into smaller steps will help you set sales training goals that meet your team’s needs. Here are a few questions you can ask to make this part of the process easier.
I asked Lyndon H. Brathwaite, Founder and CEO of OPAAT-SWY Consulting, to share some obstacles Caribbean organisations must overcome when training sales teams. Here’s what he said…
“One of the biggest challenges faced by Caribbean companies today is that they haven’t adapted to the new ways their existing and potential customers buy. They’re still using traditional means and legacy names to grow their businesses.”
The key here is to examine your customers’ buying journey and keep up-to-date with how buying patterns are evolving in your industry. Knowing how your customers buy today (and how they’re likely to buy tomorrow) helps you teach sales reps how to meet the demands of those purchase behaviours.
Knowing your annual quota gives you a tangible figure to work towards. You’ll be better able to assess whether the sales training program worked based on how close your team was to meeting (and even exceeding that target). It also helps to map that annual quota against the individual sales quotas assigned to each team member. If your sales training program isn’t helping each sales rep get closer to meeting quota, something needs to be tweaked.
Invite these team members to be part of your planning session so they can provide their input and help you set relevant sales training goals.
In step one, you documented some gaps within your team that need to be filled. However, you won’t know the other sales-related challenges each team member faces unless you get their input.
That’s why you need a sales team training needs assessment template. We have one right here that you can use to determine what your sales team believes are the gaps that need to be filled. The important thing here is to analyse all the responses individually and collectively to determine the key areas of training focus.
A sales training plan outlines what your sales team training will look like, how it will be executed, and how the sales training goals will be achieved. It’s important to remember that training should be ongoing so bear this in mind as you work on your plan.
There are five critical areas that help a sales training plan seamlessly come together.
The best way to learn is by doing. Your sales training program should provide opportunities for your team to apply what they’re learning. It shouldn’t be that they sit down for hours learning how to do things in theory but then when the time comes for them to execute, they’re doomed for failure.
Here are some tips for incorporating hands-on learning into your program:
Include practical assignments that require each sales person to go out into the field and practice what’s being taught. Part of the assessment could be for them to explain what they’ve learned after the experience either in written format or orally.
Provide opportunities for team projects where teams must work together to complete a task related to specific learning objectives.
Combine online assessments with in-person assessments based on real-life scenarios.
Have newer sales team members shadow more experienced sales reps on your team.
Gamification is the process of using games, challenges, and competitive activities to make learning fun. Research shows that employees who participate in gamified training feel more motivated, while 61% of those who receive non-gamified training feel bored and unproductive.
One way to apply gamification to sales team training is to create a leader board and assign points based on completion of various learning and development activities. Rochelle James, Founder of the Caribbean Society of Human Resource Professionals (CSHRP), explains how this can work in a recent podcast episode.
Here’s an audio snippet you can listen to so you can hear what she had to say.
Encourage your sales team to create a 30-60-90 day plan at the beginning of the training program. A 30-60-90 day plan breaks goals over a three-month period into 30-day chunks. What should each team member be able to achieve 30 days after the training program? 60 days? 90 days? This plan will help you and your team members keep track of training goals and how close they are to achieving them.
Whether you’re using an online platform, in-person training, or a hybrid approach to your online training, your content should be based on the knowledge and experience of seasoned sales professionals. This experience should be within the context of sales challenges in the Caribbean and the specific needs of your organisation. You want teachers or trainers your staff can relate to, respect, and feel motivated to learn from.
Are there ways you can provide mentorship opportunities for both your new and more experienced sales reps? Mentorship can help accelerate the development of recent hires and position more experienced reps for leadership roles. Combining theoretical knowledge with mentorship opportunities and hands-on learning experiences for your sales team will help your business experience significant success in the long-term.
We dive deeper into this point in the next section but what’s important to note here is that a hybrid approach to sales team training can deliver exceptional results. At its core, hybrid learning makes it easier to facilitate collaboration and peer-led instruction. Instead of sitting through mind-numbing hours of lectures, your sales team gets the opportunity to absorb information in manageable chunks and work together to apply what they’ve learned.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re training your sales team on building effective relationships with prospects. Your hybrid training could involve 5 to 10-minute online learning modules (hosted on a learning management system) that break down key areas of the topic in an easy-to-understand way.
Those modules could then be supplemented by in-person practical sessions where you break your sales team into groups and ask them to work together to complete tasks related to each module. Your LMS can then support testing and certification of your sales team so that you know how much of the information they’ve actually grasped.
The work doesn’t end when you certify your sales team. Truly measuring the success of your training program means evaluating what happens after the training ends. The results of the sales training program must be linked back to on-the-job performance and how that impacts the annual sales quota.
There are also other important metrics to track including:
Improvement in a sales team member’s soft skills and confidence
Better collaboration and camaraderie among the team
The year-on-year growth of revenue (and how your sales team contributed to it)
There should be a way to measure that the training is working. However, there should also be coaching to support this process so that it’s easier to achieve these KPIs.
There are three training options that can be used for sales teams:
Oftentimes, in-person sales team training is ineffective because it isn’t structured in a way that facilitates learning. Gathering large groups together in a room to sit through hours of presentations won’t help them retain information so they can apply it to improve sales outcomes.
A hybrid approach that combines online and in-person learning helps provide the right balance. In-person training is particularly beneficial for the hands-on and social aspects of learning while online training helps each person learn at his or her own pace. Online training also makes testing and the issuing of certification easier.
Ongoing training moves your sales team from average to exceptional. You give each team member the opportunity to not only upskill, but also become better at closing more deals. Making sales team training a priority positions your business for long-term success.
One On One is here to help you create an online training program for your sales team based on content specifically tailored to your needs. Our content development team will help you create courses that close skill gaps and cause your team to excel. Our LMS will help you keep track of each employee’s progress, gamify learning, and so much more. Schedule a demo to learn more about how we can help your business.