The skills in each program help the participant navigate challenges specific to their current responsibilities.
This tiered approach works for three reasons:
- Selling skills build upon one another. New sales professionals start by learning the foundational skills. Then they develop nuanced capabilities later in their career.
- Sales professionals are more receptive to skills that are relevant. Leaders provide skills that are practical and pragmatic by limiting training to the selling behaviors that are most applicable to the professional’s everyday world.
- Sales professionals will find themselves among a familiar cohort. With a tiered structure, sales professionals can develop skills with others in the same role. This commonality is especially important when sharing new ideas and voicing challenges.
Different sales roles engage the customer in different stages of the sales cycle. For example, a lead development representative interfaces with inbound leads and requires skills like rapport building and questioning. In contrast, a field sales executive will need skills like team selling, negotiating, and resolving objections.
How Do You Pair the Right Modalities with the Right Skills?
Building a successful sales academy means more than covering the right skills. Leaders must also consider the way in which they deliver content. Examples of different modalities include:
- Instructor-led training
- Adaptive learning platforms
- Reinforcement tools
Choosing the right modality requires an understanding of the sales professional’s process. Field sales professionals spend much of their time out of the office and speaking with customers on-site. Inside sales teams leverage sales and marketing automation tools to reach more customers from the office.
Instructor-led training is more feasible for those in the office, while mobile enabled adaptive learning platforms are suited to field sales professionals. The benefit of a sales academy is that it blends modalities, a critical component of sustained learning.
Training should be blended because different skills require different styles of engagement. Role-playing, for example, is an effective way to condition sales professionals to use crucial communication skills in the moment when there is little time to determine a response to a hardline negotiation stance or an objection.
A blended approach is also critical for exercising different cognitive processes. We have different learning styles. Some absorb more information from the independent engagement that comes from digital tools. Others require the verbal exchange that comes with the classroom experience.
How Many Levels Are Needed for a Sales Academy?
Many leaders choose to develop their sales academy around the number of different sales roles present within the company. Commonly, there are as many tiers as there are seller types. Examples include:
- Lead Development Representative
- Business Development Representative
- Inside Sales Representative
- Field Sales Representative
The training program for each group should be unique. While some core skills will be included in all four roles listed above, each group is different and should involve different skill-building routines.
For example, a lead development representative needs detailed information on the product. They need this information to be conversant with all customers. In some cases, they may also need to develop lead qualification skills. Doing so requires consultative selling capabilities which use questioning skills.
Field sales representatives also need consultative selling skills. They also need prospecting skills and networking skills. They need to be able to leverage referrals and navigate gatekeepers. When thinking about the levels necessary for a sales academy, consider how a long-term sales professional will rise through the ranks of the organization. With each advancement comes a new tier and new training.