If you’re a SaaS company building your own sales training strategy, it can be tough to know where to begin. We may not have cracked the code to sales training ourselves, but we do know experts who have. That’s why we’ve partnered with Google’s Head of Sales Training, Brendan McGeever, to offer MasterSaaS: a sales training masterclass for SaaS companies.
Impactful sales training is much more than just a great PowerPoint deck or a motivational speech from the likes of Tony Robbins. It starts with a great overall strategy. In this week’s lesson, Brendan has five great tips and techniques for developing your own fit-for-purpose sales training strategy.
As Brendan explains, the fundamental step with building any great sales training strategy is to understand what sets you apart from the competition.
“At Google, we took a solid six months to talk with sales leaders and contributors from around the world. Instead of just taking a third-party product off the shelf, we built a rubric for what it takes to be a great salesperson in our organization.”
According to Brendan, this depth of understanding made a big difference when the time came to put Google’s preferred sales techniques into action.
“Once we had our distinct rubric clarified and brought in across the whole organization, it was a lot easier to implement a training strategy that lined up with it.”
When it comes to selling, every company has its own unique way of operating. For Brendan, it was critical to take the time to understand Google’s culture.
“One thing that drove a lot of impact at Google was the time we took to identify what it really takes to be a great salesperson at the company,” says Brendan. “My advice is to do the same, whether you’re a large corporation or a small startup.”
“You need to gather your leaders, gather your individual salespeople, and think through the elements that set you apart. In our case, we came up with Google’s three pillars: know your customer, engage your customer, and own your business.”
As Brendan points out, understanding Google’s three-pillar strategy unlocked some truly valuable insights about sales techniques.
“Having this information unlocked conversations about where we were strong and where we had to improve. This works at the micro-level too - each salesperson comes in with their own set of experiences, and their own strengths and weaknesses. You need a way to define the right training, e-learning, and resources for them to improve.”
So, you’ve got a clear view of what sets your business apart when it comes to your way of pitching the product you're selling. Now, you need to build a consensus for your strategy across your business.
“Whether you’re a small company where everyone is co-located, or you’re a global company with folks spread around the world, it’s critically important to build a consensus of what makes for a great salesperson at your company,” says Brendan.
"It’s critically important to build a consensus of what makes for a great salesperson at your company."
“It might be tempting to use a third-party tool to do this. But for us at Google, it was incredibly useful to build an understanding of the common threads between all of our successful salespeople. We took the time to have this conversation with different sales leaders, and we listened to people throughout the organization, as well as our customers.”
According to Brendan, this process has led to some great results. “Once you have that consensus in place - and I’m happy to report that we do have that in place at Google - then your sales training strategy will be more logical and more readily accepted by the organization.”
“Now, everyone understands what it’s all laddering back to - being a great salesperson.”
When planning your sales training, it’s natural to want to focus the conversation around what’s working. But as Brendan points out, you can boost your sales performance a lot by tailoring your strategy to address specific points of weakness.
“Once you’ve identified what it takes to be a great salesperson in your organization, you need another honest conversation with people. Ask them, if there are three or six or ten things that lead to excellent performance, where, as an organization, are we strong? Where do we want to get to, and what do we need to work on to get there?”
Only by taking a hard look at the existing skills or knowledge gaps - and getting your team to sign off and agree on that - will you be sure that your training can fill in the gaps and get your sales team to where they need to be.
For Google, focusing on these specific sales techniques has helped to create internal momentum. “Once you have that on a piece of paper,” says Brendan, “you’ll find it’s a much easier process to build excitement for the sales training you’re offering.”
Once you’ve got your sales training strategy down, Brendan has one more crucial tip: communicating your training priorities within your company.
“Once we had our three-pillar strategy in place, we had conversations about where we had the greatest chance to grow,” says Brendan. “We found it was within the ‘engage your customer’ pillar, specifically, around being a competitive seller. We were very good at being a trusted advisor, but we had room to focus more on the moment of engagement with customers.”
Sales trainers or L&D teams often receive a myriad of training requests from different teams and stakeholders. Often, frustrations are created when some team member feels like other training requests are prioritized before their own for no reason. Communicating your training priorities provide your team with the reasons.
"By communicating these priorities, we could build consensus throughout the organization and show how it all made sense for everyone.”
Related read: The Right Way to do a Training Needs Analysis
Often, frustration is created when some team member feels like another training request is prioritized before their own for no reason.
Stay tuned for next week’s lesson on how to build your sales onboarding path!
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