A Guide to Executing Sales Training for Your Team
The following is a simplified four-part plan for initiating a sales training programme within your organisation.
1. Evaluate Different Sales Training Formats
Leaders have many options when choosing a training programme. Making this difficult, but critical decision means understanding three things.
- How much time can the organisation devote to the development of the course?
- How much time do the leaders want their sellers to devote to the programme?
- What is the budget for sales training?
The answers to these questions clarify which of the following sales training format is best:
- In-house implementation
- Off the shelf training material
- Self-guided learning paths
- One-on-one coaching
- Customised training material
- Outside consultants
Each option presents a trade-off. In-house solutions are often more affordable but lack the insight that comes from working with a professional sales training organisation.
Off-the-shelf and self-guided options can be implemented fast but lack the customisation of other options.
One-on-one coaching offers intensive and highly specialised training but often at a higher cost. Similarly, customised training and outside consultants are frequently more expensive than non-specialised training but offer greater value because the programme is customised to the seller’s specific challenges.
Find out why customisation makes a difference in the success of your training programme in the blog post: What Does Customised Sales Training Mean and Why Does it Matter?
2. Choose a Content Delivery Option
Whether a leader chooses in-house implementation or a customised training option they will also need to choose how the material is delivered.
To understand which method is best the sales leader must know how immersive they want the training to be and how much of the seller’s time they want to devote to the programme.
There are four ways of delivering a sales training programme:
In-Person Instructor-Led Training
In-person instructor-led sales training is the practice of face-to-face sales training between facilitators and sellers.
This approach requires sellers and the sales leader to schedule time when the team will be part of a classroom experience. During in-person training, each seller is focused entirely on the instructor’s content.
The key benefit to this approach is that it earns the seller’s undivided attention. In-person instructor-led training presents opportunities to:
- Engage in role-play exercises
- Ask the instructor questions in the moment
- Tie concepts to sales opportunities that are in pursuit
Virtual Instructor-Led Sales Training
Virtual instructor-led sales training simulates the classroom experience in a digital setting. The instructor works over video conferences to teach selling skills.
A virtual approach enables sellers to have direct access to instructors without the logistical challenges and costs associated with in-person learning. The sales organisation doesn’t need to fly a distributed team into a central location. Virtual sales training presents opportunities to:
- Use polling, group chat, and breakout groups to boost engagement
- Create individual accountability with periodic assessments
- Help learners get comfortable with online interactions common to selling today
Digital Sales Training
Digital sales training uses video, workflow tools, assessments, and CRM functions to offer sellers a self-guided learning experience.
This sales training approach allows sellers to learn at their pace. This method is effective for sales leaders who want to train their teams while keeping them engaged with their leads. Skills can be quickly brought into the flow of work. Digital sales training presents opportunities to:
- Develop training that is highly customised to changes in the market
- Create a curriculum that can be quickly expanded with supplemental courses
- Give sellers freedom to train the way they want
Sales Coaching Training
Sales coaching training is the act of equipping sales leaders and managers with the skills needed to develop the capabilities of their sales team.
The idea behind this approach is simple: developing effective sellers means first developing effective coaches. If the coach understands the critical selling skills that win and the ways to instill them in a seller then the company will succeed. Sales coaching training presents opportunities to:
- Seize on everyday opportunities to coach in the moment
- Build a sense of trust across a sales team
- Improve performance incrementally by moving sellers into a “stretch zone”
Explore each delivery modality in greater detail in the blog post: Four Methods for Delivering Sales Training
3. Consider Implementation Factors
Once the structure and delivery method have been decided the leader can begin to account for the details of their sales training needs. For example, when considering implementation, leaders should assess:
- The number of sellers to be trained
- The different roles that need to be trained
- Where the critical skill gaps are found
- The degree of customisation necessary based on the complexity of the industry
- What sustainment plans must follow training
- How the trained skills will be embedded in the CRM
- How the sales managers will coach to the trained skills
Leaders should remember that implementation is about more than logistics, it is also about earning buy-in. To benefit from training sales professionals need to believe the programme has been developed with their interests in mind. Therefore, the sales leader must preface training with an explanation of how it will directly benefit the sales team. Sellers are eager to win. Any demands on their time will be seen as an imposition unless the leadership can clearly illustrate how the programme leads to more success. Make buy-in part of the implementation process.
Our Approach to Customised Sales Training
All Richardson Sales Performance training is highly customised to fit the precise needs and nuances in our clients’ businesses.Learn More
4. Focus on Proven Characteristics of Success
While different selling organisations have different needs there are a few key characteristics that are common to all successful sales training programmes.
During our more than 40 years of providing sales training, we have learned that three key factors are present in all effective sales training programmes.
Blended learning is a form of instructional design that combines online learning with traditional in-person instruction. This approach leads to deeper engagement with the material.
One of the most effective ways to leverage blended learning is to prime the learner with digital learning. Doing so means using digital tools to get a baseline assessment of the participant’s skills. This approach serves two purposes. First, it helps the sales leader and trainer determine where skill gaps reside. Second, early assessments lead to the “pre-testing effect” which boosts retention by providing early exposure to the learning content.
Instructors can then follow online learning with in-person instruction. The immediacy of the classroom experience means learners can practice live exercises, simulate the pressure of delivering in-the-moment responses, and apply concepts to in-pursuit opportunities.
Customised Role-Play Exercises
Role-play exercises encourage sales professionals to respond to simulated challenges like facing customer demands. Additionally, students become active participants in the learning process. Instead of relying entirely on the instructor, students work together in a cooperative learning structure.
The benefits of cooperative learning stem from Social Interdependence Theory. This theory suggests that a sense of “positive interdependence” emerges when each learner understands that goal attainment is a group endeavor.
Learners can’t practice what they don’t remember. Without a structured sustainment plan, participants begin forgetting material the minute they leave the classroom.
Sales training works when there is a plan for carrying concepts from training to real pursuits. One effective way to do so is with mobile apps designed to test the seller's knowledge in brief, daily exercises. This approach makes it easy to reconnect with concepts in the office or in the field.
Leaders can also ensure sustainment by embedding the new sales methodology into the sales organisation’s CRM platform. Doing puts the new skills in the flow of work and creates a record of the seller’s dedication to the methodology.
Developing a sales training plan is a complex task. Simplify it by focusing on these four areas. The results of sales training are directly proportional to the thoughtfulness applied to the design process. That is why at Richardson Sales Performance we customise each of our sales training programmes to the sales team’s unique needs.
Get industry insights and stay up to date, subscribe to our newsletter.
Joining our community gives you access to weekly thought leadership to help guide your planning for a training initiative, inform your sales strategy, and most importantly, improve your team's performance.