Sales training can be a significant investment in your sales team. In addition to the career benefits for reps, such as increased knowledge and skill development, it provides numerous advantages for the organization, including greater quota attainment and higher margins. However, despite this, it would be a mistake for organizations to think they can just sign their team up for training and watch them succeed. To be successful, training cannot be a one-off event. It must occur regularly and work in conjunction with other company initiatives. Here are a few guidelines for organizations to boost the effectiveness of their sales training:
Create a Culture of Training and Coaching
Establishing a culture of training and coaching is one of the most significant things a company can do to achieve success. Without this, your team members are like students studying to pass a test—who promptly forget everything once the test ends. A culture of continuous learning shows your team they are valued. From the highest achievers to the greenest SDRs, it instills a belief that the organization wants them to succeed. More than words and phrases, the company will literally put their money where their mouth is and invest in them. From this, team members know what is expected, and they will buy-in to the organization’s long-term goals, which can boost morale and significantly affect retention.
Before choosing a provider or rolling out your own in-house training solution, define your desired outcomes. What do you want reps to take away from the training? This can range from traditional selling skills, such as tips on prospecting, engagement, negotiation, etc., to customer service and account management. Once you determine this, your organization is better prepared to approach training providers and inquire about their methodology, curriculums, and trainers.
Invest in Customized Training
Another significant way to boost the effectiveness of training is customization. In addition to making the training more relevant to sales reps, it is also a way to work toward your predetermined goals. This can include examples in the training curricula that relate to an organization’s specific business or industry and incorporates their unique language. Of course, for many organizations, off-the-shelf solutions can be effective, so it is vital your organization takes the time to determine if customization is worth the additional investment.
Ensure Interaction and Engagement
These days, there are many sales training programs. When choosing which is right for your team, some criteria are essential, such as making sure the curricula is interactive and engaging. Sales reps will learn and retain more when they communicate with each other and engage with the material. While there’s some value in straight lectures, most people nod off, checking in and out, missing essential information. However, studies show a significant increase in retention when learning is collaborative and, dare we say, enjoyable. Of course, there is a limit. The curricula must be structured and contain practical, real-world examples, but the more engaging, the better.
Promote C-Suite Buy-In
For training to be effective, team members must believe in it. Otherwise, they’re just going through the motions. Like leadership, buy-in starts at the top. From the C-suite on down, everyone must trust the training has value. This is a big part of establishing a culture of learning and improvement that resonates with both veterans and new hires. Without it, your team members will not invest in the training. Whether it’s students or professional athletes, everyone benefits from someone else’s belief in them, such as a teacher or a coach. This belief can be inspiring. It’s the same for your sales team. Without the support of the higher ups, your training investment won’t pay the dividends you need.
Require Management Participation
In addition to believing in the training, sales managers need to be participants. After all, they are the ones most responsible for ensuring team members are enabled to win. Unless they’re involved in the training, they cannot judge its effectiveness or determine if their team members are using it to their best advantage. Also, quality training initiatives are designed to create long-term behavior change. This requires coaching from managers who not only understand the trainings, but they have received specialized coaching instruction as well. In addition, management participation encourages team members to invest more.
Engage in Regular Coaching Not Tied to Performance Metrics
To be effective, sales training must be followed up with coaching. Of course, coaching that is tied to performance metrics should be a regular part of a sales organization’s processes, but after training, coaching should focus on sustaining the knowledge acquired. Rather than checking specific KPIs, such as number of calls made or deals in the pipeline, this type of coaching should check how team members are utilizing the training. In this, managers should observe reps interacting with prospects on the phone and over video. They should offer specific tips from the training as reminders. Continued role-play is also recommended to ensure that reps are consistently practicing the skills developed.
Encourage Reinforcement to Promote Retention
Top sales training providers include reinforcement tools built into their training. These are often periodic activities reps can complete online, from their phones or desktops, that are designed to provide additional practice to keep the skills fresh. The more reps utilize the skills learned, the easier it will be to incorporate them in the field, when it counts. Here, it is essential managers encourage and check that their reps are utilizing the reinforcement tools. Ideally, managers should set one or two skills at a time for their reps to practice and add more as these skills become second nature. This ensures your reps are constantly growing.
While sales training is an important investment for an organization to make in their team, it alone is not enough to get the best return. Like students everywhere, sales reps must continually practice and reinforce the skills learned to ensure they are not just “test smart.” After all, excelling in training and getting high grades is nice, and the results look great on the refrigerator, but the real goal of sales training is deploying the skills to close more deals. The more organizations do to enable their reps during and after training, the greater the ROI for everyone.