World-class sales organizations don’t just train their reps during new-hire orientation, when the product changes, or during the annual sales kick-off.
The best sales organizations – those that consistently exceed expectations and retain their best reps – make sales training a regular, weekly discipline. It’s engrained in how they do business, prioritized as a required element with a direct tie to constant achievement of sales goals in an ever-changing external, competitive landscape.
It’s easy to let training slip, deprioritize it, slowly decrease frequency and quality of training opportunities. But here are eight ways to help ensure that doesn’t happen, to reinvigorate the sales training program for your organization to accelerate and sustain a higher level of results.
Make time for training within your regular business rhythm
Training will never be a priority, nor will it deliver the results you’re after, unless you make time for it. Dedicate time in your regular sales meetings for training. As you’ll see below, training doesn’t have to be long and extensive every time. There are teachable, trainable moments that can take just minutes but together, over time, can add up to something more than significant.
If you have daily huddles at the beginning of the sales day, include a 2-4 minute training reminder. Something that reinforces what they’ve already learned. A quick example or validation of someone succeeding based on something that was trained. A new best practice or tactic. It doesn’t have to be much.
Build a proactive plan of skills, then find or assign “owners” across the organization
Do you have a training plan? If not, start simply with an inventory of skills or lessons you want to impart across the floor. These can be cold-calling skills, negotiation skills, voicemail best practices, follow-up and nurture best practices, etc. As you build that inventory, think about how on the team currently is already doing a great job. Make them the owner of that skill.
As you build that skill and owner matrix, you’ll have the start of a training plan that can be executed over the coming days and weeks in your regular sales meetings and rhythms.
Get non-sales executives involved
Not just the CEO, but other managers and leaders from across the organization. Could someone in marketing teach your reps about how to find & listen for buying signals across the social web in their territories? What could product management teach your reps about what they’ve learned about how customers use your products and services?
Encourage leaders from across the company to share what they know, and come teach your reps. I bet you’ll be surprised at what sales skills exist across the company, that can diversify the sources of great training content for your team.
Expect reps to share best practices with each other
Similarly, build a program where reps are sharing with each other. This can be in the form of a veteran-to-newbie mentorship program, but also encourage reps to get in front of the group and showcase the best practices they use or have identified/discovered that work.
This is a great way to encourage broader & deeper best practice sharing across the team, plus helps further develop presentation and communication skills from your reps.
Create a best practices library on your intranet
All too often, best practices are shared and forgotten. If you don’t document the best practice, and create a repository for them (to reinforce and retrain as well as introduce those skills to new reps), you’ll waste a lot of time creating the same content again and again.
How you organize and present this information is up to you. If you already have a company or sales team intranet, create a section to file & organize best practices. Or just get a wiki or other, similar tool to keep them in one place.
Ask marketing and customer service to participate and lead training as well
At minimum, marketing should be briefing your sales team on a regular basis about upcoming campaigns, what’s being offered, and how that ties back to what you can do to help customers achieve their objectives, goals and desired outcomes.
But in that briefing is also a significant training opportunity. Let’s say marketing is running a campaign offering prospects a white paper. Many sales teams complain that a white paper lead isn’t a qualified lead. And although requesting a white paper isn’t a signal that someone is ready to buy, it is a signal that the content of the white paper was interesting to the prospect for some reason.
What is that reason? Is it an indicator of a need, or an early-stage buying signal? Marketing should connect those dots for sales, and both provide and train a set of consultative questions and messages to bridge the gap between offer and business/product need. That’s a clear training opportunity to help your reps increase conversion rates on their leads.
Learn from other sales teams
Sales leaders, work on building your network of peers – both in town and across the country. Join LinkedIn Groups such as Inside Sales Experts, and other active online communities such as SalesOpShop.
Subscribe to and read what other sales teams are doing – from SmartBrief, SellingPower, TopSalesWorld and more. Share your training best practices with others, and pull their training ideas & materials into your organization as well.
Incorporate direct prospect feedback
How often does your sales team receive feedback (directly and indirectly) about their sales techniques that, themselves, are teachable moments? Which of your sales reps consistently get the best feedback and satisfaction scores from their new customers? And how could you translate that into training for the entire team?
Why not invite a few customers to come in and brief your sales team directly? Find local customers (and prospects) who can share with your reps what their primary needs & pain points are, and answer questions honestly about how they react to and work with sales reps.
Similarly, find places where your target customers are congregating and talking to each other. Record these sessions, or summarize the key topics to share back with your sales team. The more your team can hear directly from the customer and prospect, the better.
Join Matt on April 10, 2013 in San Francisco for a half-day seminar, “Sales Training: Strategies & Best Practices for a Consistently Successful Sales Organization.” Register here.