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[Checklist] How to Choose a Sales Training Provider

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Written by Erica Schultz
Chief Marketing Officer, RAIN Group

When you invest in sales training, you’re committing time and resources with the distinct possibility of failure. From misaligned goals to lackluster adoption, there are many reasons why sales training doesn’t achieve desired results.

Proper planning is a must for sales training that works. That means doing your research and finding an effective training provider to partner with and guide you through the process. Fortunately, you can set up your organization for success when it comes to sales training. The 22 green flags in this checklist give you a rubric to analyze potential providers, ask good questions, and form the foundation of your decision making. Download it as a quick reference or refer to our more detailed rationale below.

It’s estimated that 85-90% of sales training fails, but if you do your homework, your training can be among those that succeed.

Click here to download the checklist (no form required).

Hiring a Sales Training Provider

Breaking Down the Checklist: How to Choose a Sales Training Provider

1. Transformational Experience

Provider approaches sales training as a change management initiative. Training is crafted, delivered, and designed to enable sellers and the organization to get results. Understands how adults learn, how people work (and work together), and how behaviors change.

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make with sales training is treating it as a fire-and-forget solution. While many conceptualize training as a several-hour learning session in a conference room, it should be an ongoing process built to enact and reinforce change.

Sales training isn't one size fits all. The definition of a “transformational experience” will differ between organizations. On a broad level, you can determine whether training is transformational by asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. Is training tailored to meet your business results?
  2. Does training focus on immediate application?
  3. Does training include ongoing support around behavior change?

We’ll get more into the granular factors that lead to change later in this article, but sales training should be constructed with your team and business results in mind.

2. Value

Provider understands how this sales training will help your sellers drive more customer value. Delivers sales training that connects directly to the value sellers can bring forth to your buyers.

Sales training isn’t about making quick fixes; it’s about giving your team the skills to best help their buyers. Increased competition means that sellers who win do so by becoming a valued resource to buyers.

It may seem like the abilities to offer value and hold engaging sales conversations are innate, but they’re skills that can be taught like any other. If your sellers are coming to the table with new ideas, incisive questions, and the ability to collaborate with buyers, they’ll win more sales and keep existing clients loyal. A strong sales training provider offers curricula that help your team drive value, adopt soft skills, and stay focused on the buyers’ needs.

3. Leadership Support

Provider can garner buy-in and support from your leadership. Your leadership is committed to working with the training provider and the sales training program to help execute training, as well as monitor its application.

Organizational change starts with leadership. When you retain a sales training provider that understands your organization’s needs and desired results, it stands to reason that your leaders should also be invested in the planning, execution, and follow-up of sales training to achieve the best outcomes.

While sales training providers are there to bring their expertise to the table, it falls to leadership to keep their sellers informed and accountable. If they don’t coordinate with the provider or commit to the success of training, there’s less buy-in from the sales team, and training is much less likely to succeed.

4. Sales Manager Training and Coaching

Provider offers a coaching process that enables sales managers to support their teams so sellers know exactly what to do, have support for when they’re not in their comfort zone, get feedback to calibrate their behaviors, and are held accountable for taking action and being productive.

The best sales managers motivate their sellers to achieve top performance and be as productive as possible. Our research shows that top-performing sales managers are the linchpin in making sure motivation and productivity happen across the sales team. Managers do this by adopting five coaching-related roles, in addition to five management-related roles.

Yet too many organizations overlook training their sales managers. The sales training provider you select should offer manager-specific training that equips managers to excel in their management and coaching roles so sales teams attain high win rates and achieve sales goals.

5. Motivation

Provider explicitly builds this critical success factor into their training. Not everyone is motivated by the same things, but without it, you won’t change sellers’ behavior.

Motivation is already a major factor in seller performance, and it’s a requirement for training to succeed. Sustaining seller motivation should be baked into an organization’s culture, whether done through incentives, recognition, or other methods.

The same goes for your sales training provider: is motivation baked into their training programs? The secret to motivation is that it isn’t static, it’s a skill you can refine over time. Training should account for that and provide ways for sellers to reengineer their habits and make new skills something they want to adopt.

6. Proven Results, Case Studies, and References

Provider has demonstrated experience and achieved results in changing seller behavior and making training stick long term. Strong record of implementation and client service. Review the providers’ awards and case studies. Ask to speak to references for candid information on what it’s like working with provider.

Just as referrals are among the best ways to bring in new prospects, you’ll want a training provider known to produce reliable results. Whether you’re familiar with the provider or not, there are several ways to gauge the reputation of an organization.

Many providers will have case studies and awards available to browse, but they should also be able to share client references so you can get direct feedback on their experience. As noted later, research and sales-specific content can also give you a sense of a provider’s knowledge and expertise.


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7. Industry Expertise

Provider has deep experience in your industry. Understands your industry’s challenges, business model, current issues and changes, and selling environment. Without industry experience, trainers will be hard-pressed to keep sellers engaged and involved with the training.

You wouldn’t hire an architect as a lawyer, or vice-versa. And even though both types of firms have sales teams, you shouldn’t run sales training the same for both.

Beyond general experience and results, you want a sales training provider that knows the ins and outs of your industry. Beware of prepackaged solutions and talk with potential providers about how they might approach certain challenges in your organization, market, and industry.

8. Research-Based Training

Provider delivers research-backed training. Sales training providers that conduct their own research can share relevant insights and strategies for succeeding with buyers based on current, and anticipated, conditions.

One of the biggest challenges of working in sales is adapting to constant change. Between economic conditions, industry trends, new technology, and cultural norms, sales is always evolving.

The best sales training providers are up to date on the latest in sales and can back up their knowledge with research. Training should be informed by recent research, and in-house research initiatives indicate that a sales training provider is invested in achieving strong long-term outcomes for their clients.

9. Variety of Delivery Methods

Provider delivers multi-modal training to boost retention and application. This can include instructor-led training (onsite and virtual), eLearning, mobile, email, video, microlearning, simulations, gamification, and coaching.

Just as motivations vary among sellers, so too do preferred methods of learning. In addition, recent shifts to a virtual or hybrid selling environment means that sales training providers need to be able to meet sellers where they are.

Multi-modal and hybrid sales training ensure that programs can be adapted to meet your team’s needs. But virtual training isn’t just a few sessions on Zoom—it means using a variety of tools to deliver and reinforce training. This is a necessity for keeping your sellers engaged and helping them retain and apply what they’ve learned.

10. Simple and Rich Method

Provider’s sales training content is simple to digest, understand, and apply with deep and rich layers for advanced understanding and application.

While sales training should be tailored to fit the needs of your team and your organization’s goals, your sellers will lose interest quickly if the material is too dense. Content should go beyond the theoretical and focus on practical application. When looking for a provider, ask yourself the following questions about their sales training content:

  1. Is it relatively free of jargon?
  2. Can it be immediately applied?
  3. Does it fit with other content in related programs?
  4. Does it focus on lasting solutions and behavior change?
  5. After reading, could you summarize and/or explain it?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, it’s a good sign.

11. Reinforcement

Provider offers robust and just-in-time reinforcement utilizing modern learning technologies such as video, simulations, AI, microlearning, tools, etc.

Habits fade quickly if not reinforced. Furthermore, 70% of B2B sales reps forget what’s learned after a week of training.

In contrast, 80% of information is retained after 60 days with the use of spaced repetition. With the efficacy of this simple tactic, it’s no wonder the best sales training programs have built-in reinforcement. But follow-up is only one piece of the puzzle. Look for a sales training provider that offers a range of learning tools to help keep training fresh and relevant to sellers.

12. Common Language

Provider offers a common language throughout the portfolio of programs with tools that build upon each other.

A new day offers new opportunities to learn and grow, but each day shouldn’t be day one. It’s important for sales training sessions to build on each other as sellers build their capabilities.

The frameworks and terminology used in the last session of a program shouldn’t feel divorced from the first, or even from a session on a different topic. Building a common language in sales training is important for digesting the training, retaining the content, and building a strong sales culture. This is especially important to consider when training different teams across your organization (sales vs. vs. account reps vs. support) to ensure they have a common language and tools.

Does the sales training provider you’re considering have a cohesive set of offerings with a common language?

13. Tools to Transfer Training to the Job

Provider offers the right amount of—and not too many—tools that are easy to use and help sellers transfer new skills to the job.

The purpose of sales training is to drive results, and the best training can be used on-the-job to do so immediately. This is also important for behavior change and reinforcement. If your sellers are making use of what they learn in an actual sales environment, they’re more likely to integrate it into their selling activities. Additionally, sales training can be used to help upskill new sellers to a point where they're able to contribute to the organization.

Tools help facilitate these changes, automate processes, and track results. However, introducing too many at once can overwhelm sellers and prevent change. Find a sales training provider that integrates a steady adoption of sales tools as part of their curriculum.

14. Breadth and Flexibility of Offerings

Provider offers training in the specific and focused areas your sellers need. Can quickly customize training curricula to meet the specific needs of your sellers and the organization, and are laser focused on exactly the skills they need.

Sometimes you need to get your whole team up to speed on the fundamentals of sales. Other times you need to give veteran sellers specific skills necessary to get an edge over the competition, BDRs the skills to break into target accounts, and account managers a planning process to grow their accounts.

Strong sales training providers offer programs that are valuable to all sellers, whether they’re new to sales, been at it for decades, or have specialized roles. This is also why identifying organizational goals is key to successful sales training: if you know what levers to pull to improve your outcomes, you can customize your training to ensure none of it goes to waste.

15. Customized Training

Provider supports and encourages tailoring and customization, including examples, templates, planners, tools, case studies, and so on. Training is tailored to your industry, market, offerings, and selling situations so it’s engaging to sellers; the skills learned will be adopted and used because they actually help sellers get results.

I really can’t emphasize this enough: sales training should fit your needs. A competent sales training provider should be able to adjust training according to the following factors, among others:

  • Your industry
  • Your competitive position
  • The skill level of your sales team
  • The size of your sales team
  • Your offerings
  • Your existing tools and processes
  • Where you and your sellers work
  • Who your buyers are
  • Your sellers’ motivations
  • Your desired results
  • The needs of sales leaders and managers
  • Your reinforcement needs

The best sales training providers have libraries of resources and tools to craft a relevant solution and the ability to tailor training and build custom tools for your organization. 

16. Focus on Sales Training

Provider has a primary focus on training specific to sales (versus general negotiation, productivity, account management, or primary focus in leadership or HR training).

Plenty of training providers offer programs applicable to any business, possibly with a few sales-focused solutions in the mix. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these sorts of providers, sales presents unique challenges and demands that differ from other fields.

When you work with a provider that focuses on sales training, you get sales-first programs that account for these differences. Even when it comes to sales leadership, factors such as the balance between management and coaching necessitate a more specific approach.

17. Results-Focused with Measurement

Provider asks appropriate questions about the results you’re looking to achieve and business metrics you’re looking to drive. Solutions are tailored to drive those metrics with measurement built into the process.

Sales training is a deliberate process that should be designed to achieve specific and actionable goals. The impact of strong sales training is specific and measurable.

When choosing a sales training provider, find one that is willing to work with you and help define the metrics of your success. Get specific timeframes, KPIs, and tracking methods to pinpoint and analyze your results.

18. Sales Enablement Technology

Provider offers a robust sales enablement platform that’s easy to use, optimized for sellers, and provides easy-to-access resources for sellers (e.g., tools, templates, planners, checklists), practice and reinforcement, and reporting).

A sales enablement platform should smooth out the process of training, not complicate it. Organizations looking to implement sales training often focus on desired skills and methodologies, but the foundation underpinning all of this should be rock-solid as well.

Take time to ask potential sales training providers about the capabilities and adoption process of their sales enablement platform (or how it integrates with your own if you are hosting the content). Get a demonstration if possible.

19. Global Capabilities

Provider is experienced and equipped to meet the challenges of crafting, delivering, and enabling sales training across the globe with attention to language, culture, and more.

Just as your industry changes the way you sell, so too do the global markets in which you operate. Consider how potential sales training providers align with you and your markets.

Providers need to be geographically flexible with training implementation and create a solution that takes cultural differences into account. If a sales training provider only works in a single country, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but they may be less adaptable to your global needs.

20. Engagement Support

Provider offers a dedicated engagement team to ensure the successful deployment of the training (hint: this goes beyond facilitation and focuses on helping you with proper implementation, behavior change, and achievement of results).

A strong sales training provider offers specialized professionals dedicated to work with you from the initial planning stages to the post-training follow-up. As previously mentioned, setting goals and targeting results is important for sales training. These engagement teams should keep in touch and monitor ongoing metrics and seller behavior to help stick the landing and bring about desired results.

Ideally, an engagement team can return for future trainings, building rapport with your team and understanding how they learn and work.

21. Thought Leadership and Reputation

Provider actively publishes articles, white papers, research, and webinars that demonstrate their expertise and understanding of the market. Ask trusted resources about providers and check top provider lists from reputable publications and industry associations.

As with research, ongoing publication from a sales training provider signals their commitment to staying on top of market trends. You may have even read some of their work for your own purposes before considering them for sales training.

Beyond publishing a blog, expert sales training providers often appear in reputable outlets. Look for publications, articles, and associations specific to your industry and learn where you and a potential provider overlap.

22. Demonstrate Their Own Sales Approach

Hiring a sales training provider offers the unique ability for you to experience how they sell. Do you want your sellers selling in this way? Do they follow your buying process? Do they lead great sales conversations, ask good questions, uncover your needs, present a strong ROI, etc.? Evaluate if the way the seller sells is a match to your organization’s needs.

When a sales training provider sells to you, it’s self-demonstrating. They should practice what they preach and maintain a consistent sales philosophy among their sellers and sales training programs.

While there’s no shortage of sales techniques to look for during these conversations, pay attention to their selling process—is it one you want your team embracing?

Use these 22 factors when evaluating sales training providers to ensure you bring the right one into your organization so your sales training initiative is a success. Don't forget to download the free checklist as a quick reference and use the Hiring a Sales Training Provider Comparison page to directly compare the providers you’re considering.

Last Updated October 18, 2023

Topics: Sales Training Sales Performance Improvement