Some sales reps are naturally good at selling, while others need a little more coaching. Either way, you can keep your team working at their best with regular sales training.
From improving communication skills and sales methodologies, to learning new software and sales automation tools, sales training can keep your team up-to-date on the latest techniques and trends in your industry.
Sales training can be expensive, but a good program will improve your bottom-line by providing your team with actionable skills that they can apply to their work.
What is sales training?
Sales training programs come in many different forms, from online lessons, to in-person workshops held at your office or corporate event space.
Programs may cover topics such as cold calling, closing deals, building a relationship with customers, and more. They’re designed not only to teach theoretical skills, but to boost your team’s confidence and cohesion, often with interactive exercises.
They typically address one of four curriculum areas:
- Product sales
- Sales automation
- Sales methodology
- Sales management
Product sales training is meant to increase your team’s knowledge of the product that they’re selling. After all, how can you sell a product that you don’t understand?
These training's are less about sales techniques, and more about the product itself, and they’re especially important for sales reps who give demos of SaaS products.
Your reps should be trained in how to use the product, what customization options are available, the average ROI, the product road map, and more.
Sales automation training is intended to teach your team how to use a particular piece of sales software. Major software changes, such as rolling out a new CRM, typically call for training to ensure that your team knows how to use it to its full potential.
If you implement new software without getting everyone on board, then you’ll wind up with teams who manage to adopt the new system and those who don’t.
As sales automation software gets more complex, training is essential, especially for sales reps who haven’t used the technology before.
Sales methodology training is probably what you’re most familiar with when it comes to sales training programs. These include programs like Selling With Stories by David Hoffeld and Driving to Close by John Barrows.
Workshops last one to two days and typically take place on-site. They may be targeted toward sales reps, managers, and other business leaders, and can focus on B2B sales, customer sales, phone sales, account-based sales, and more.
Different methodologies are suitable for different businesses, so it’s important to find the one that’s the closest match for the skills that your sales team needs to improve.
Finally, sales management training is intended for sales managers, and is focused on learning how to lead a sales team. Topics include everything from leadership to sales strategy, and are relevant not just for current managers, but any star sales reps you might choose to lead your team in the future.
In the end, sales training is about providing your sales team with the tools they need to do their job. From improving their soft skills to expanding their product knowledge, an effective sales training program is tailored to the specific needs of your team.
You can choose from one of the many professional sales training workshops available, or implement your own sales trainings to keep your team in tip-top shape.
Try these 8 sales training ideas to improve your team:
1 Role-play difficult scenarios
One of the biggest challenges that sales reps face is getting over their fear of rejection. This can be a barrier for both new and experienced sales reps alike.
While the best way to work through your fear is to simply start making calls, role-playing with your peers or your managers can soften the blow.
During your training, take turns playing the role of the customer and the sales rep. You can use the exercise to practice overcoming objections, dealing with difficult customers, delivering a product demo, closing a sale, and more.
Your reps will learn what it “feels like” to be rejected, even in a hypothetical situation, and will be able to apply what they learned to their next phone call.
For an added challenge, record audio or video of these conversations so you can play them back later and deconstruct them line-by-line.
2 Write sales scripts
Another useful training technique is to teach your team to write effect sales scripts. You can use the role playing conversations you’ve just had for inspiration.
Create sales scripts for different scenarios your team will encounter, including cold calls, warm calls, inbound calls, product demos, common objections, and more.
The key to a good sales script is coming up with responses that are easy to remember, but that don’t make you sound like a robot.
Have your team take them home and practice them, and update them as necessary to keep up with new products and sales techniques.
3 Teach your team how to email
While cold calling skills are built into many sales training workshops, cold emailing often gets overlooked -- even though it’s a growing part of many sales teams’ strategies.
Some reps think that blasting out hundreds of emails will do the trick, but there’s a fine line between sending out legitimate sales emails and spam.
Here are a few email lessons that every sales team should know:
First, don’t assume that your recipient knows who you are. Even if your email address has your name in it and comes from your company’s domain, introduce yourself. Give your recipient a reason to read further.
Second, use the customer data in your CRM to personalize your message. If the only personal info you include is your prospect’s name, it looks like spam. If you reference their city or the company they work at, then it comes across as more personal.
Finally, teach your team how to craft engaging subject lines and write good copy. Use your CRM to track responses and send automated follow-ups. Close with a question or call-to-action that encourages the recipient to respond.
4 Look for red flags
Not every lead makes a good customer. And while your CRM can provide you with help when it comes to lead scoring, knowing what red flags to look out for is key.
A bad customer can be damaging to your bottom line in more ways than one, including wasting your time, leaving bad reviews, and requesting refunds. The longer your sales funnel and the pricier your product, the more of a drain on resources they can be. Plus, they can impact your sales rep’s mental health and harm your team’s morale.
How can you teach your sales team to recognize red flags and avoid wasting time on problem customers?
First, teach them proper boundaries. A prospect who is pushy and aggressive from the start is unlikely to change their ways once they purchase a product.
If a prospect is sending you unprofessional emails, calling you outside of work hours, or expecting immediate responses to their messages, they may be crossing a line. Remind your sales reps that they shouldn’t have to be pushed around in order to close a deal.
Second, be wary of prospects who want to close too quickly. Often, prospects who are too eager to close haven’t thought things through and may regret it later.
This is less of an issue for small-ticket items, but for clients with larger accounts, you’ll want to make sure that they know what they’re signing up for.
Otherwise, they may have an unrealistic idea of your product or services -- and blame you for it when it doesn’t meet their expectations.
5 Consider business improve training
Although it’s similar to roleplaying, improv training is more focused on communication and active listening skills, rather than specifically on sales techniques.
It’s especially useful for teams that work collaboratively or do in-person sales, since it can help you read body language, anticipate responses, and think on your feet.
One of the principles of improve is saying “yes, and,” instead of “yes, but” or “no, but.” This is a great way of engaging with what a customer has to say, rather than simply responding to it. They’re more likely to feel heard and less likely to get defensive.
By thinking of your customers as collaborators in a scenario, rather than adversaries, you’ll be better able to work with them to create a mutually-agreeable deal.
Many improve companies offer trainings designed specifically for corporate teams, and it may be worth considering if you’ve learned all you can from classic sales training.
6 Have a “shadow” or mentor program
If you want to keep your training in-house, consider implementing a shadow or mentor program instead. This is a great way for your managers and senior sales reps to pass on some of their wisdom to new members of the team.
You can have your new sales reps listen in on sales calls, or go out with your field sales reps to sit in on conversations with established clients.
Mentor-ship can be more effective than group sales training because they provide your reps with more individualized support.
Mentors can offer constructive feedback on sales calls, or even step in to help a new sales rep close a more difficult deal.
This may not be an option for very large sales teams, but if you can spare some time and attention, it can go a long way toward bringing your new reps up to speed.
7 Master the art of the follow-up
Some sales reps give up on prospects too early, while others don’t know when to quit. With proper sales training, your team can master the art of the follow-up with a mix of automated responses scheduled into their CRM -- and some clever psychology.
One strategy that should be in every sales rep’s toolkit is the “breakup email.” Instead of leaving an open loop with a prospect whom you haven’t heard back from, you can send them one last email letting them know you won’t reach out to them again.
This may have the desired effect of encouraging a response before you give up on them for good. But at the very least, you’ll be able to close the conversation thread.
For best results, offer them something of value, such as a link to a related resource, and let them know that they can always reach out to you if they need you again.
8 Encourage ongoing self-study
This sales training idea may seem out of step with the others, since it doesn’t involve outside training or a workshop. But it’s key to building a sales team that can take the initiative and stay up-to-date on their product knowledge.
What does this look like in practice? First, encourage your sales representatives to be active users of the product they’re selling to customers.
Colin McIntosh of Sheets & Giggles suggests that “companies should require new sales team members to actually use the product or service on a daily basis.”
This will be easier for some products than for others, but it’s important if you want your sales reps to understand the user experience and customers’ pain points.
Send your sales reps home with samples of your product, or require them to use your SaaS product for their own daily activities at work.
Second, create a self-service wiki or knowledge base that your sales reps can turn to for answers -- in addition to any customer-facing knowledge base that you have.
This encourages them to be self-sufficient, and avoid coming to their managers for help answering simple questions.
You can also provide how-to videos for new employees, or a whisper course via email, which is essentially a micro-lesson delivered to their inbox every day.
Choose this strategy if you’re hiring lots of new employees in stages, and won’t have the opportunity to provide product training to them all at once.
The best training starts with the right CRM software.
Effective sales training can boost your bottom line, but providing your team with the right tools to do their job is important too. A quality CRM will take some of the mystery out of these sales techniques, by automating dozens of steps in the sales process.
For example, with OnCourse, you can manage customer profiles and view sales scripts from within the in-app dialer, while recording calls for coaching and mentorship. You can schedule follow-up phone calls and emails, and use lead scoring to filter out low-quality prospects. And of course, you can view automated reports and sales forecasts.
Don’t wait until you’ve finished your sales training to choose a new CRM. Reach out to OnCourse to schedule a demo and find out how our CRM can help your team today!