Given the increased demand for speed and agility in sales—as well as the advent of the highly independent, educated buyer—there’s no room for slip-ups in sales training techniques.
But in order to avoid any missteps, sales training efforts need diverse, all-encompassing strategies that feature a combination of elements, from the technical, to the practical, to the personal.
And even then, that’s only half the battle. Sales training techniques should also be reimagined as a continuous process that supports all sales reps, regardless of tenure. Research suggests this is extremely important, as ongoing reinforcement can vastly improve quota rates for new hires and seasoned reps alike.
Here’s how you can begin paving the way for better sales outcomes through optimized training techniques:
Research indicates that up to three-quarters of workplace knowledge transfer comes from social interaction. This seems to suggest that training depends, at least in part, on information gleaned from our colleagues (i.e., from the proverbial “water cooler” culture).
A clear way to take advantage of this trend is to encourage a more human approach throughout your training. You can do this by implementing programs for interpersonal learning to pair off reps with colleagues of varying skill levels at various points in time. These ongoing solutions can include:
Another strategy for investing in human-focused sales training is to use role-playing (or even simple public speaking practice), in which newer and more experienced sellers can rehearse and refine their technique.
This kind of interplay offers real-time feedback for reps who might be struggling, allowing them to witness themselves in action and make adjustments as needed. An added bonus: Role-playing also affords seasoned reps a chance to perfect their own skill sets as they put their talents on display for rookie sellers.
No matter your chosen strategy, sales success will always require practice: both in simulated situations––like the role-playing drills mentioned above––as well as in real-world scenarios. Practice is so essential that HBR even suggests that businesses adopt a continuous “practice culture” across all levels of performance and experience, with sales teams reviewing all phases of the sales cycle at periodic intervals.
But that’s not to say all practice happens in rehearsal.
Sometimes real-life repetition can be just as educational as practice sessions conducted in “safe,” low-pressure spaces. Real-life trial and error can also count as meaningful practice, since it forces a shift in mindset from “learning” to “doing.”
In other words: Sales training practitioners shouldn’t be afraid to take the training wheels off sooner rather than later. Plus, rethinking practice in this way can help support sales coaching as well as sales training, establishing processes designed to offer guidance in both the short and long term, ultimately laying the foundation for extended growth.
Why should sales coaching be an integral part of sales training overall? Because actionable sales training technique takes time.
Start acclimatizing your teammates to the idea that sales learning is for the long haul and training is never a “one-and-done,” zero-sum process. Some critical sales concepts can only be learned in context out in the field, while others may only come to light after a few years on the job.
Remember, though: protracted learning doesn’t necessarily mean protracted lessons. Microlearning can be a very useful tool for sales training practitioners, in large part because it can help improve engagement by up to 50%.
Consider folding in a mini-lesson or two on a daily basis to keep reps minds’ sharp and to boost their memory functions. Should you need added assistance, a comprehensive sales training and/or sales enablement platform can embed smaller, more digestible lessons into everyday workflows to help encourage continued learning.
Much like it does in real-life sales, data serves as a powerful ally when building sales training techniques. As you construct your sales training curricula, be sure not to overlook what data can offer in the way of feedback and insight.
A robust solution for sales training and guidance, for example, can gather and synthesize engagement data to track seller progress, and can even quantify results in terms of your bottom line.
And, once reps move out of onboarding and into more of a sales coaching space, buyer engagement data can also be harnessed to help reps match the appropriate content to the right kind of customer and/or to the appropriate buyer stage. These types of educational benefits mean data should always be a fundamental component of your sales training processes.
Truly efficient and impactful sales training techniques require a delicate balance of patience, practice, analysis, and, above all, humanity.
But the work doesn’t stop there.
As you apply these tenets to your day-to-day training activities, be aware that sales training and ongoing sales guidance shouldn’t just be the cornerstones of your sales operations––they should also be deeply ingrained in your company culture.
In mapping out sales training, make an effort to align sales team wins with broader company objectives, rather than measuring achievements solely according to quota. (This will go a long way toward ensuring lasting success.)
Conversely, be sure to encourage non-revenue-facing teams to count continued seller education as a win for everyone: from C-suite to consumer. It’s crucial your colleagues across all departments understand that ongoing sales training can spell company-wide victory, and, as such, should be supported at every turn.