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A Guide to Sales Training Design and Development

A Guide to Sales Training Design and Development

Are you a sales trainer or sales coach looking to enhance your skills? Being a sales trainer is one of the most critical jobs at any growing organization. Yes, your first responsibility is to increase the skill of the sales reps on the team. But just as important, your training also impacts your customers, the company’s revenue, and possibly your shareholders’ investment in your company. Yikes! That can feel like a lot of pressure. In this article, we will outline the foundation for a solid sales training and development program. We will also give you some real-world practical suggestions you can implement today to improve your sales training outcomes.

What is Sales Training and Development?

First and foremost, sales training is about change. The objective is to improve the sales results of individuals and the entire sales department’s performance. Sales training is not telling a sales rep what to do. The best sales trainers follow a formal process that allows the sales rep to learn new skills and execute new behaviors. The purpose of sales training and development can be broad, from learning a new sales enablement technology, to improving efficiency, or simply getting new sales hires up to speed quickly. When a formal sales training and development program is succeeding, you will have favorable business outcomes and a rise in productivity — which is exactly what every CEO desires.

How do Companies Handle Sales Training and Development?

According to the recent research by the Association for Talent Development, participants directed 69 percent of their sales training expenditure toward internal services, 26 percent toward learning suppliers, and 5 percent toward tuition reimbursement. Clearly, most organizations are opting toward an internal resource for their sales training. Yet the average reported external expenditure per salesperson was over $2,000. Most companies require their sales managers to provide sales training. In a previous blog post, we outlined the issues sales managers face when trying to develop a sales training program.

Regardless if the sales training is delivered internally and/or by an external partner, all training is composed of two main elements–the curriculum itself and the process for how the training is delivered. Your sales training content is developed based on what your organization determines your sales team needs to know to accomplish the sales objectives. The delivery process is the method you chose to facilitate the sales training. Modern sales training can be delivered in a variety of formats that include instructor-led classroom learning, live virtual classroom, online sessions, and blended learning that involves self-paced components. No matter what format your organization selects, sales trainers are most effective when they have a deep understanding of the application of the curriculum in the sales environment as well as a strong appreciation of how adults learn.

What is Adult Learning Theory?

If you want your sales training and development program to be successful, it’s critical to have a background in adult learning theory. Here at Janek, our staff includes dedicated learning design strategists that collaborate with our clients and the instructional design team to deliver a dynamic sales curriculum for adult learning. Traditional sales training utilizes a didactic model, which is a fancy word for lecturing. Most of us have experience in didactic training, but adult participants learn best with active learning methods and experiential learning based on real-world scenarios. 

Dr. Malcom Knowles, the father of adult learning theory, believed adults have a need to know why they are asked to learn something prior to investing their time in the learning process. He also recognized that adults have a strong desire to learn something new if it can be applied to their immediate circumstances. For sales training and development programs to be successful, they must have well-defined objectives based on the participant’s current needs, not an outdated model that might have worked 20 years ago.  

The sales training program must also accept the fact the participants learn in different ways. This will require the training to utilize different methods of training to facilitate learning for all participants. Adult learning is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach like kindergarten. As Dr. Knowles is famous for saying, “the learner should be actively involved in the learning process.” When adult learning theory is applied to your sales training and development program, learning is accelerated and so is earning. 

What is the Sales Training Cycle?

The sales training cycle should not be confused with the common sales cycle. It’s an entirely separate cycle for the staff involved in the training. It is important that sales trainers understand the sales training cycle, just like sales reps understand the sales cycle. A modern sales training cycle will commonly include learning objectives, program design, implementation, sustaining & reinforcing the program, and evaluating the program. 

Creating Sales Learning Objectives

Most companies oversimplify the learning objective. Every company desires to increase sales when they start a sales training initiative, that’s obvious. But from the perspective of a sales trainer, there are two viewpoints: The learning objective and the training objective. You want to identify what knowledge or skills are needed to improve the performance of the participants. The second component of the sales learning objective is how the trainer will accomplish the sales learning objective. Too often, companies focus on what they want to teach, like handling objections, but do not give enough time and attention to how this objective will be accomplished.

Designing a Sales Training Program

The key to designing a sales training program is to ensure the participants learn all the skills, knowledge, and behaviors while having fun with the process. The biggest hindrance to adult learning is when the participants feel like learning is a chore. Aspects you want to consider for your sales training design include writing the content, creating the materials, and creating a sequence for delivery and evaluation. The sales objectives will act as your guide as you design your training. At Janek, we use a variety of methods that include workbooks, study guides, videos, virtual learning, instructor-led training, case practices, a digital reinforcement platform called Xpert, and surveying tools.

How to Implement Your Sales Training and Development Program

There are sales managers that think sales training is getting in front of your sales team and talking for sixty minutes every Monday morning. Then they check the box for sales training covered for the week and go about their other responsibilities. Professional sales trainers understand the companies’ goals and align developing the talent of the sales team with accomplishing those goals. In modern sales training, the best trainers are facilitators. This requires two-way communication. Facilitators create an environment where the participants are comfortable asking questions, having a dialogue, sharing ideas or concerns, applying the skills and discussing the information presented. In other words, they are experts at getting the participants involved. 

Sustaining & Reinforcing the Learning 

Studies show that sales reps, even those with extensive market and product training, will forget much of what they learned in the classroom within just a few months. The ability to turn new knowledge into lasting behaviors requires a reinforcement strategy. A holistic reinforcement strategy can include a mix of tools, coaching, and leadership support. For example, here at Janek, we offer a range of programs that help sustain newly acquired knowledge and skills through sales coaching or through tools that will enable sales managers to coach their teams more effectively. We also offer a digital reinforcement technology called Xpert that helps sales reps retain information without disrupting their busy schedules.

Think of the issue of not reinforcing sales training in these terms: A lot of companies spend time and money on training but wonder why the classroom learning is not being applied in the field. Sustaining and reinforcing training is a post-training strategy to help participants recall the new knowledge and practice the right behaviors. Creating a sales training and development program without a reinforcement strategy is like showing up for class once and thinking you are ready for the final exam. 

Ways to Evaluate Your Sales Training and Development Program

The reason you must evaluate your participants is that, without an evaluation, you cannot determine if the learning objectives were met as well as the impact that the training provided. Evaluations also help trainers develop new content or identify necessary changes if the learning objectives are not met. One way to evaluate participants is with a survey to assess their satisfaction with the training as well as questions around applications of the skills provided in the real world. Another way is to test behavior changes with role-plays, group evaluations, live interviews, or listening to recorded calls to evaluate if the participants are practicing the new skills. The final way to evaluate is to measure the business impact. Reduced turnover, improved customer acquisition, increased deal size, faster deal velocity, as well as increased revenue are just a few of the business metrics that can be measured in a post-sales training evaluation. At the end of the day, if training does not improve performance, it needs to change.

Conclusion

In this article, we have just scratched the surface of sales training and development. Sales training and development is a complex exercise. It is also a life-long learning process. They’re constantly evolving with new technology and methodologies being developed.