Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that sales training is a formal process that happens only in the beginning of a sales rep’s employment. That couldn’t be more untrue.
Sales training should be an ongoing process, and it doesn’t have to be a formal procedure either. We’re big proponents of using every moment as an opportunity to teach (for the sales manager) and learn (for the sales rep).
There are many opportune times to mentor/coach/train a sales rep, and there are also many ways to do so.
Offering constructive criticism is always a good way to impart knowledge. It’s honest feedback that shows sales reps how they can do better. Managers must be knowledgeable in giving SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely), constructive feedback, and sales reps must always be open to receiving them. Incentives also always work. Recognizing and rewarding achievements motivate employees to aim higher and make the most of their training. And of course, clear and direct mentorship is also a proven way to train sales reps.
Aside from constructive criticism, rewards, and mentorship, there are other strategies for sales training that managers can exercise so they can build a formidable, high-performing team.
Here are 13 other ways:1. Hands-on Approach
It’s imperative that your reps know everything about your product/service. Technical knowledge is not enough. They need experiential training by using the product/service themselves.
Let them experience what they’re selling so that they will fully understand the customer experience. They can see the benefits of the product and share these wholeheartedly with the customer. They will also most likely see some challenges and areas for improvement and prepare themselves for questions and comments regarding these.2. Field Training
After initial training, send your reps out into the field so they can experience the market (or the “real world”) and receive on-the-job training from you. Practice makes perfect, they say, and they’ll get all the practice they need when they experience interacting with clients.
But don’t send them out solo. Use a buddy system and pair each new rep with a more senior partner who can supervise and coach the newbies. But it’s not enough that new sales reps see how it’s done. They should also be allowed to interact with clients and receive feedback on their performance after. Supervising reps should observe the new reps’ actions, listen in on their calls or to recordings, and provide constructive and specific feedback that will help them improve.
New reps can also watch “how it’s done” and learn by example off the field. Have them observe how the seasoned reps operate—how they make sales and cold calls, negotiate, present or pitch, attend to clients, and more. And encourage the new reps to ask questions regarding any of the things they observe.
4. Role Playing
Have members of the team play the role of clients and sellers and act out real-life customer and sales rep scenarios. This helps sales reps prepare themselves for any client engagement situation, especially the difficult ones. It’s especially crucial to play out client scenarios where difficult questions are asked, objections are raised, and doubts are mentioned. They need to know how to handle these.
It would seem awkward or even funny in the beginning, so it’s important that the whole exercise is done professionally.
Feedback on the role-playing is very crucial. You can even have these “performances” recorded and play them back for review.
A one-on-one training is the most popular because you get to really focus on the sales rep, and have very specific discussion points and questions. The sales rep also has the opportunity to ask all his questions, including those he’s shy to ask around other people.
However, one-on-ones require more commitment—they take up more time and effort from the manager/supervisor. So make sure that these are properly scheduled, especially for big teams.
But one-on-ones don’t always have to be long, exhaustive procedures. Regular—even surprise—check-ins can be used to provide quick coaching sessions.
Those quick check-ins are microtraining, and it’s one of the strategies we really believe in. Bite-sized coaching ties in with our belief in using every moment as an opportunity to teach and learn. In fact, short, in-the-moment coaching can be even more effective than hour-long sessions. Information is quickly grasped and the frequency helps create a pattern of productive behavior.
Microtraining doesn't always have to come from the manager/supervisor. Provide microtraining by sharing blog posts and videos, enrolling reps in quick webinars (more on these below), making learning tools accessible, and other similar initiatives.
7. Integration with Other Departments
Sales is no longer just the responsibility of the sales team. Other departments—like marketing, product, customer service, business development, etc.—all provide sales enablement tools and strategies.
It would be wise that sales reps get holistic training by integrating them with other departments. They will see how the other teams operate in relation to sales. The more the sales reps understand how everything is correlated and how everything should be synergized to work efficiently, the more effective they will be in attending to clients’ concerns.
Just make sure that the other departments are streamlined in their processes before you begin integration.
8. Learning Depot
Have a “storage space” for learning tools that may include training books and videos, resource books, reports, case studies, sales materials, and the like.
It’s best to have this in digital, which makes it more accessible to everyone anytime and anywhere.
Gamification draws out the competitive spirit inherent in most sales reps. The allure of winning and getting rewarded is a great way to train sales reps.
Run contests that test their product knowledge and interpersonal skills. Not only is it an effective and fun exercise, it also builds confidence and collaboration (for contests that are team-based).
We’re all for holistic training for all sales reps but it would also be foolish to ignore that some sales reps have very clear strengths that you can maximize. Identify the strengths of each sales rep and build on those. Train them to fully develop their strong potentials.
In the end, you will have a more well-rounded team of sales reps with specialized skills.
11. Mentorship Assignment
Mentorship is a given, but is it clear to each sales rep who his/her mentor is? Sales reps must be getting direct, explicit training from an assigned mentor. Not all sales managers can provide ongoing coaching to every member of their teams. But it's still their job to make sure that mentorship exists within the team. This is where they should use the different levels of experience and seniority that exist among their reps. Senior reps can act as big brothers to the junior reps.
Assign a clear mentor to every sales rep and require feedback and updates from these mentors.
12. Success Stories
Techniques, strategies, and theories are all well and good. But nothing is more effective than showing sales rep how these strategies translated into success stories.
Have case studies ready for sales reps to review and analyze. Make sure these studies outline the steps in the successful sales process and that your sales reps can extract actionable insights that they can replicate.
13. Other Learning Sources
You can also foster learning by tapping into these other sources:
- E-learning Program: You can invest in digital training videos and modules that basically run like short courses for your employees.
- Webinars: Many third-party companies offer quick webinars that will cost your company very little.
- Third-Party Consultant: Huge sales teams may require the services of an outside consultant so that the manpower can be effectively managed.
- Workshops: Workshops can happen within your company, using your own sources. Or you can hire a coaching company to perform these for you.
- Conferences: There are many, but learn to choose ones with targeted topics that are relevant to your team and business. These conferences are also great venues for networking.
- Thought Leaders: Thought leaders are naturally inspiring. Consider inviting them to do a special talk for your employees.
Just remember: Training should be an ongoing process in your organization. It's the best way to develop a culture of learning AND winning within the team. Good luck!
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