Training your team requires providing them with more than a manual and a few workshops before sending them out into the field. In fact, if that’s your current system, all of that hard work and training could be forgotten by your team in just a few months.
A white paper by Sales Performance International reads, "Research indicates that without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement, approximately 50% of the learning content is not retained within five weeks, much less applied. Within 90 days, 84% of what was initially learned is lost."
There is no room for failure in today’s competitive sales landscape. Instead of focusing on assigned reading and sporadic training sessions, concentrate on deeper sales training tactics that stick. Here are 10 techniques and tips the experts use.
1. Do more field training
Field training could be the key to unlocking more productivity within your team. It helps increase your ROI and gives your sales teams more real-world experience. According to research from Brainshark, when training is reinforced by in-the-field coaching, companies see up to 4x the ROI from training programs alone.
Get your team out in the field to give them the hands-on training and experience they need to succeed. It takes repeated action and practice for sales reps to become fluent in the process and be able to innovate in their roles. Start by partnering a junior sales rep with a more experienced one to walk through the process. But don’t discount the talent of your newest reps. They may have fresh insights from the field and innovative ideas to take your training to new levels.
Your team could also benefit from freshening up their skills with improv training. The only way to prepare for a live sales call where the conversation could lead anywhere is some improvisational practice. Play back some of the recordings of successful and painful calls and let your team critique them together. Not only will your team come up with fresh new insights, but they'll learn to collaborate and offer constructive criticism.
2. Use success stories to train and motivate
It’s not enough to talk through sales theories and simulations without examples to back them up. Sales reps need real-world success stories to get inspired. Choose stories and case studies that show examples of what worked, what didn’t, and how the process works from start to finish. It also helps to discuss common themes in a successful sales experience and look for patterns and metrics.
Once you walk through the success story and the results, break down the process into actionable steps so your team can replicate and apply them to their sales. You can also take the techniques and apply them to other areas of your training. For example, using a case study and practicing it in the field can give more context and build confidence in your sales team.
3. Incentivize your team
A thriving economy can make it harder to onboard new team members. Unemployment rates have dropped to 4.3%, with recruiters reporting difficulty finding enough qualified candidates to fill positions. Your business can’t attract and retain top talent easily when the competition is so fierce. And today's employees need more than just the industry standard and a decent commission salary.
Get your sales team motivated for high performance through a commission boost, flex time or better choice of products. Harvard Business Review also suggests removing commission caps on sales people. Otherwise, they’ll naturally scale back and stop feeling motivated to work. In the end, you want to retain your top players and keep over-delivering.
4. Schedule 1:1 Meetings with Sales Reps
Training shouldn’t be done with a set-it-and-forget-it mentality. Make ongoing check-ins and status updates part of your sales training and hold regular one-on-one meetings. The constant communication opens the door to exploring where your sales team is still struggling so you can address any weaknesses that may require additional training. See what’s working and what’s not, and develop a more meaningful and productive relationship with your team.
It also requires more than regularly-scheduled blocks of time to hold successful one-on-one meetings. Jot down some discussion points to make the most of the conversation, and ask questions about your reps’ sales process. Showing some gratitude for their help and hard work can also go a long way in motivating your team.
There is no right or wrong way to run a one-on-one meeting, but some are more successful than others. And more importantly, you want each meeting to yield insights and action. To get inspired on running a successful one-on-one meeting, download Yesware’s eBook on the topic. It's an effective way to get prepped in a minute for a one-on-one and how to make it a successful meeting for everyone involved.
5. Integrate your team with other departments
Look for breakdowns in communication in your company, and see how you can create a more streamlined experience. Creating silos may alleviate some of the operational stresses, but can isolate your sales team. Consider integrating your sales team with other departments to help train in areas like customer service, and get more insights into product development.
However, make sure all departments are on the same page about what their core purpose is. For most companies, customer satisfaction reigns, whether you’re in sales or customer service. The more your sales team understands the business from top to bottom, the more fluent they become during the sales process.
6. Train with thought leaders
Take a look at the other people in your office and your industry who are natural leaders and speakers. Product and sales training workshops and simulations are just the first step in getting your team up and running. Consider bringing in thought leaders in your industry to share deeper insights and their own experience. When your team learns from the best, they emulate those techniques.
Dedicate an hour or two a month to training time with an expert in the field. Invite someone successful in social selling, or a pro at closing complicated deals, to talk through their techniques and what’s worked for them.
7. Offer daily microtraining
Longer isn’t always better when it comes to learning. According to Shift Learning, learning in stretches of 3 to 7 minutes matches the working memory capacity and creates 50% more engagement. Creating bite-sized training can align with our brain’s natural ability and allow us to retain more information.
Apply the concept of micro-learning and training to your business to turn it into an ongoing process instead of an event. Offer your sales team micro training through videos, webinars and sales calls to refresh them on the sales process. You can also create a learning library for your sales team to reference as they work through some of the material at their own pace.
8. Focus on a specialty
No one skill always closes the sale. In reality, sales reps lean towards specific skills and turn them into strengths. Instead of trying to build a uniform sales team, draw out their strengths and encourage them to specialize. Pair your reps with other reps who thrive in different areas to foster a culture of continued support and cross-training.
But encouraging specialization and promoting those talents are just the first steps. Your team also needs the training to develop those skills further and ensure their weaker areas are still being addressed. To get ideas on what types of topics and specialties to focus on, try newsjacking. It takes a strategic approach to injecting ideas into a breaking news story so you can generate a flood of sales leads and grow your business.
9. Assign a mentor
Assigning a mentor can make a big impact on your sales team and improve retention rates. Millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).
There’s no need to assign all of your junior staff looking for a mentor to their baby boomer counterparts. Today’s mentors come from different generations and can be allocated to mentees based on capability and talents. A mentorship can also apply to a particular area, like mastering social media, and not necessarily to a mentee’s entire career. Your seasoned sales team can offer their younger counterparts wisdom and experience, but don’t dismiss what your new talent has to offer. For example, Millennials can bring their fluency in social media and crowdfunding to your team to give insights on trends in the marketplace.
However, a great mentor on paper may need to refine their coaching and teaching capabilities before helping guide someone else. Ensure the mentors in your company are well-equipped with a resource like Sales Hacker to help improve their coaching skills.
10. Offer more constructive criticism
Training isn’t just about going through systems and processes to establish best practices. A sales team that can handle constructive criticism is more willing to learn and improve on an ongoing basis. The added side benefit is helping your team develop a thicker skin while strengthening their resolve to be better salespeople.
In surveys run by development consultancy Zenger/Folkman, managers reported finding it stressful to give negative feedback, and one-fifth avoided it completely. 40% said they never gave positive feedback either. Make ongoing feedback a consistent, reliable part of the training process that’s focused on improving your sales team’s success.
Learning is an ongoing process
In conclusion, there’s no one way to train your sales team for success. But the underlying foundation should point towards a culture of learning and training. In fact, according to research from Aberdeen, less than half of companies provide post-training reinforcement, but companies that offer post-training support see 34% more first-year sales reps achieve quota.
Ask yourself what type of post-training reinforcements you’ll give your team to continue their journey, and empower your sales team to succeed by fostering continued growth. Make it your sales team’s real goal to learn how to absorb and apply new techniques, make changes and measure their results.
What sales training techniques have you used for your team? Let us know by leaving a comment below: