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30 Sales Training Ideas for Top-Performing Teams

Written by Mary Flaherty

For sellers, routine can be a blessing and a curse. It’s true that doing the same things day in and day out provides structure. It requires discipline, too. But it can also turn into a comfort zone in which many sellers stagnate.

This is what makes recurring sales training programs so valuable. Yet even after the most engaging, resonant sales training programs, sellers tend to revert back to what they’re accustomed to doing. Which puts a heavy onus on sales managers.

The question is: what can you do to keep sales training fresh and impactful so sellers engage with it and actually retain and use what they learn?


Why New Sales Training Ideas Are Helpful

There’s no need to remind you of the cost that sales training can incur. But what’s the cost of a sales training initiative that fails to incorporate new sales ideas, programming, games, and so on?

Qualitatively speaking, the outcome is dwindling energy, engagement, and motivation across the team. Quantitatively speaking, spiritless training programs lead to a plateau in performance and an inability to consistently meet sales goals.

By some estimates, between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days.


Sales Training Ideas to Consider for Your Team

To buck this trend, our team has compiled a list of our top 30 sales training ideas and best practices. Incorporate the ideas from this list into your own training program, or use them as inspiration to generate your own ideas.


1. Assess Sales Skills in a Self-Assessment

Every seller’s skill set differs. A well-designed assessment is an opportunity for sellers to honestly assess their selling abilities. Which sales capabilities can be strengthened or enhanced? Which are most critical for the seller’s—and organization’s—current and future success?

Indeed, assessments are an invaluable part of ongoing coaching and development. Here are some of the top sales skills of the best sellers to assess:

  • Driving and winning sales opportunities
  • Core consultative selling skills
  • Filling the pipeline
  • Growing existing accounts
  • Developing executive relationships
  • Managing personal effectiveness
  • Advanced consultative selling

Following a discussion of the results, sellers should then collaborate with their sales manager to create a tailored development program. Use tools like online modules, simulations, coaching, and success measurements to follow up and reinforce the areas of improvement identified during the assessment.


2. Complete a Building Rapport Worksheet

There’s a good reason the ‘R’ in RAIN Group stands for rapport. Building rapport is the first step toward building trust, and people are far more likely to buy from people they trust. But building rapport isn’t as simple as following a script—it’s a discipline that requires ongoing cultivation.

To that end, you can conduct sessions with your sellers on how to build rapport with their buyers. To guide these sessions, create a “How to Build Rapport” worksheet (which can be added to your bank of sales training assets, by the way). The worksheet should include three core areas:

  • A place to list the specific buyers that sellers want to build rapport with
  • The specific techniques sellers will use to build rapport
  • The results sellers want to achieve with each account

While sellers can complete these worksheets on their own, it helps to walk through the exercise with a sales manager to explore some specific techniques and results (especially for sellers who are struggling to build rapport).


3. Create a List of Customized Sales Questions

In the world of sales, conversation is currency. Top performers know that to win more business, they have to make the most of each buyer interaction and come prepared with questions customized for their buyers.

Why? Because great sales questions reveal what’s going on in a buyer’s world. Questions help sellers connect with buyers, understand their needs, and help them create better futures for themselves.

For this training exercise, leverage the collective brainpower of your team. Break into small groups and have each group create a list of sales questions they can use in their conversations with buyers.

Read now: 50 Powerful Sales Questions you can tailor to your buyers


4. Complete a Value Proposition Positioning Statement

It’s one thing for sellers to know the value their product will bring to a prospective buyer. Articulating that value, on the other hand, doesn’t come as easily. And it’s arguably the most important part of communicating a value proposition.

When communicating their value proposition, a seller’s goal is to leave prospective buyers with a compelling and specific idea of why they should buy from you. Rather than improvise this critical part of the sales conversation, have your sellers complete a value proposition positioning statement that covers six important areas:

  • Target customer profile: Be specific about what makes for an ideal customer or buyer set, including industry, location, size, budget, and other considerations.
  • Needs and business problems: Clearly describe how the products and services help buyers address specific needs and/or business problems.
  • Impact of the solution: Resonate with buyers by clearly outlining the benefits—emotional and rational—of solving their needs.
  • Offerings: Frame the features and benefits of the products and services within the context of how they solve the buyer’s needs.
  • Proof: Use case studies, financial impact statements, or third-party reports—any evidence that shows the approach has worked to solve similar problems for other buyers.
  • Distinction: Typically, buyers are considering multiple solutions side by side. What’s special about yours?

5. Use a Sales Conversation Planner

To achieve the best results, sellers need to prepare for their most important sales conversations. Where do things stand, what’s coming next, and where might potential issues arise?

Sellers can use a sales conversation planner to write out the information that will help them prepare for the call. This planner should include the following sections:

  • Account: Include the buyer’s company name and next meeting date.
  • Opportunity: Record the name of the opportunity, as well as total value and win confidence level.
  • Name(s): List all people from the opportunity’s team, including title, dominant persona, and level of decision influence.
  • Conversation Overview: List out buyer objectives for this meeting, seller objectives, meeting agenda, desired next actions, and notes.
  • Inquiry: Note the buyer’s afflictions and aspirations, perception of the sale, buying process, and a summary that confirms alignment on the issues between seller and buyer.
  • Value Case: In this section, detail how you’ll resonate (rational and emotional case points), differentiate (points that create both distinction and a perception of scarcity), and substantiate (case studies, demos, and other details that build trust). Also, include an impact summary with a calculation of the ROI.
  • Buyer Objections: List out the possible objections, including the type (budget, for example) and response strategy.
  • New Reality Snapshot: Detail the case for change, including current state, the roadmap (phases, milestones, and measures), and the new reality (the buyer’s future state). Make sure to record the bottom line (the ultimate reason for the buyer to buy from you).

Host a few team training sessions where you review completed plans and share best practices.

Download the Sales Conversation Planner, part of The Ultimate Virtual Selling Toolkit, for a planner your team can start using today.


6. Make the ROI Case

Did you know that sellers incorrectly presenting an ROI case can see a 27% drop in win rates?

Unfortunately, many sellers only think they deliver strong ROI cases; in reality, our research shows just 16% of buyers actually believe it. The truth is that making a strong ROI case requires more than pitching desirable financial outcomes.

As part of your sales training program, teach sellers to build strong ROI cases for potential buyers in their pipeline. Have sellers select a specific opportunity to work on and:

  • Identify the data that will be most meaningful to the specific buyer (how will the seller make the ROI using those metrics?)
  • Ask the right questions (how will the seller uncover the information they need?)

Then, ask sellers to share and get feedback from the rest of the group. This is a good exercise for most sales teams. It’s the sellers who customize their ROI pitch for buyers that tend to be more successful.

Read now: 4 Misconceptions of Making a Strong ROI Case


7. Apply a Qualifying Buyers Checklist

During the sales process, it’s critical that sellers qualify buyers and understand their buying process. Otherwise, sellers risk finding themselves on a dead-end road.

But qualifying buyers goes beyond industry, number of employees, and annual revenue.

In your training session, distribute descriptions of real or example opportunities.

Have sellers use the FAINT method to qualify the buyers based on five criteria:

  • Funds: Does the buyer’s organization have the funding to buy your product or service?
  • Authority: Narrow the focus to the people within the organization who have the authority to make purchase decisions.
  • Interest: Build the buyer’s interest by demonstrating what’s possible with the product or service.
  • Need: The buyer has specific needs that your product or service can demonstrably solve.
  • Timing: Does the buyer intend to make a purchase? If so, how soon?

Then, discuss the results. Can sellers see how using this method can help them spot the right buyers going forward?

Read now: The New Definition of a Qualified Prospect


8. Build a Goal and Action Plan

Sellers are famous for multitasking, often juggling many prospective buyers at once. To keep sellers on track and focused on the right activities, have them build personalized goals and action plans.

Think of these plans as roadmaps for staying on course. An effective goal and action plan will break goals down into digestible parts, each one accompanied by specific tasks or actions.

To help sales teams create their own plans, we put together a five-step Goal Setting Worksheet:

  1. Set Goals: Begin with longer-term goals (big picture, three-year, and annual).
  2. Plan the Actions: What actions are needed for the seller to achieve these goals? Apply specific timeframes (quarter, month, etc.) to priorities, objectives, and metrics. Which activity will have the greatest impact?
  3. Change Habits: Some sellers talk too much on their sales calls. Others repeatedly fail to engage stakeholders. At any rate, sellers need to specify the habits that need to change and their specific plan for changing them.
  4. Focus on Time Management: There’s only so much time in a day and work week. In this step, sellers should get specific on where they spend their time. The goal here is to minimize time spent on mandatory and empty tasks, while maximizing time spent on what we call treasured and investment activities.
  5. Set Boundaries and Avoid Distraction: Sellers might implicitly know what’s keeping them from completing a task, but now it’s time to write those behaviors down. In this step, list out the distractions the seller must avoid to get the job done.

Remember, it’s not enough to have a plan, you need to use it. After the training session, the plan can serve as a point of follow up and coaching during one-on-one meetings between sellers and sales managers.

Download now: Goal Setting Worksheet: A Powerful Tool for Setting and Reaching Goals


9. Practice Virtual Sales Conversations

Today, two things remain true about virtual selling: it’s more prevalent than ever; and sellers need to get a lot better at it. In our research about virtual selling, we found that sellers are still quite ineffective at the virtual selling skills that buyers find important.

Top 4 Influences on Buyer Purchasing Decisions

top_4_influences_on_buyer_purchasing_decisions

To close this skills gap, introduce sellers to structural engagement tools such as virtual whiteboarding, screen sharing, and polls. Break off into small teams and have each team prepare for and lead a brief virtual sales meeting that incorporates these tools.

One particularly effective method is to have groups view recorded meetings. This is an opportunity for the group to point out what a seller did well and how they can improve so their virtual meetings are as engaging and valuable as possible.


10. Demo Virtual Whiteboarding

Taking idea #9 a bit deeper, let’s explore the value of virtual whiteboarding. This enables sellers to work on the same document visually with a buyer—simultaneously and collaboratively. Like all collaboration, this keeps buyers much more engaged.

A lot of sellers are intimidated by virtual whiteboarding. However, anyone can learn virtual whiteboarding with the help of some training and practice. As for which tool to use for virtual whiteboarding, sellers can use native software (Miro, Stormboard, MURAL, Limnu, or Whiteboard Fox), or the whiteboard that comes embedded in most virtual meeting software (Zoom, Webex, Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams).

Here's an example of what virtual whiteboarding can look like when working through needs discovery with a buyer.

Virtual Selling Whiteboarding


11. Invite Buyers In

When it comes to where sellers can improve the experience, buyers tend to have an idea or two. Try inviting one or more buyers to a panel discussion about their buying experience. Have the seller for the account or a senior sales leader moderate the conversation.

What you’re looking for is honest, unfiltered responses to the following questions:

  • What were you looking for in a supplier?
  • Did you consider other suppliers?
  • What stood out to you about buying from us?
  • What were the positive parts of the buying experience? The negative parts?
  • What could we do better?

12. Practice a Proposal Presentation

What’s the first thing people recommend for an upcoming speech or presentation? Record yourself practicing. The same goes for sellers. Have sellers record themselves doing a practice delivery of a proposal for a current opportunity they’re working on. Afterward, the seller can share that recording with a sales manager and colleagues for feedback.

This is one of our most underrated sales tips: always be prepared. By recording these practice sessions, sellers will gain perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of their performance. Also, they can test out a powerful opening, closing, or any presentation component before trying it in front of actual buyers.

Above all else, practicing presentations helps sellers feel a lot more confident and prepared for the real thing.


13. Complete a Planning to Win Worksheet

Most sellers thrive on a good challenge. What better challenge than showing sellers what winning actually looks like, and what it will take from them?

To do so, have sellers complete an opportunity-specific worksheet that includes the following questions:

  • What are you selling, for how much, and when do you expect to win?
  • What’s the current status of the opportunity? What obstacles are you facing, if any?
  • What do you still need to do to move the sale forward and give yourself a strong chance to win?
  • If you wanted to go all-out to absolutely win this sale, giving no chance the buyer would say no or choose the competitor over you, what would you do? (Hint: see #25 below for big plays.)

14. Complete a Sales Opportunity Plan

Look close enough at any pipeline and sellers will find a heavy dose of reality. There are the deals that should be included in the forecast and those that shouldn’t. There are no-activity deals without any meetings set, and then the actual sales opportunities that require close attention.

That said, identifying legitimate sales opportunities is only half the battle. To work those opportunities and turn them into closed-won businesses requires a detailed sales opportunity plan.

In a training session, sellers can complete—and get their sales manager’s feedback on—this six-part plan for a specific opportunity to map out the way forward:

  1. Opportunity Snapshot: What’s the status of this opportunity and how important is it to broader sales goals?
  2. People: Who are key stakeholders involved on both sides of the deal? Is there anyone else that needs to join future meetings?
  3. Needs: What’s the buyer’s current reality? What needs must be fulfilled to reach their desired new reality?
  4. Opportunity Goal and Value Case: What are the relevant products and services that comprise the overall offering? What’s the link between each part of the offering and the value the buyer is looking for?
  5. Competitors: What are the strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities of the alternatives the buyer is considering?
  6. Advancing the Sale: What are the specific next steps needed to move the deal forward—the response strategy, big play, and all else that goes into closing the deal?

15. Complete a Strategic Account Management Planner

A strategic account management plan is one of the best ways for sellers to make progress growing their accounts.

The problem is that most (53%) average to below-average performers find having an effective strategic account planning tool challenging (only 19% of high performers find this challenging).

Effective Strategic Account Planning Tool GraphThat so many sellers and account reps find it challenging to have an effective account planning tool is surprising. That’s because the six fundamental parts we recommend for the planner are rather straightforward:

  1. Stakeholders
  2. Account goals
  3. Research
  4. Opportunities
  5. Strategies and actions
  6. Competitive positioning

The difficult part is getting in the habit of not only learning the core elements of the planner, but also having a clear understanding of each part for every account.

In your training session, break into small teams and have each team select one account to work on. It’s not necessary to fully complete the planner in the training, but have each team complete as much as possible in the time available.

Download the Grow Your Key Accounts Checklist for a menu of questions that will help your teams with strategy and planning.


16. Do the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) Exercise

Top-Performing Sales Negotiators are twice as likely to be willing to walk away from a deal. As much as they might want to close the business, they never come across needy or desperate. That’s because they have a very sound Plan B in their back pocket: their Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

In this exercise, have your sellers figure out their BATNA, and that of their buyer, for an opportunity in their pipeline. In completing the following three steps, sellers will at the very least gain a more complete picture of the opportunity; at the very best, they’ll drastically improve their negotiation skills:

  1. Identify the Alternatives: These might include working a different opportunity, refocusing on prospecting, or cultivating new business within existing accounts.
  2. Select the Best Alternative: Which alternative helps the seller best meet their goals, in both the short- and long-term?
  3. Optimize the BATNA: Sometimes, sellers can take their BATNA a step further. For example, if their best option is to walk away and instead close two other opportunities, is there a way to increase the average size of those sales?

17. Prepare for Future Sales Negotiations

Top sales performers don’t get bullied during sales negotiations. They make a habit of always trading up in value rather than caving to a buyer’s every demand. Throughout the negotiation process, they avoid common pitfalls like single-issue bargaining, selling first, and knee-jerk concessions.

These are negotiation best practices that can be learned by almost any seller. Working in small groups, have sellers create a list of common trades and their relative value. Have the team report out the ideas they came up with and create a master list of possible trades that sellers can consider for future negotiations.

Download now: Mastering Sales Negotiations Toolkit


18. Learn the Common Buyer Negotiation Tactics

On the topic of effective sales negotiation, it’s important for sellers to familiarize themselves with the 16 Common Buyer Negotiation Tactics. Whether it's the red herring, anchoring, or the cherry pickers, sellers must know what each negotiation tactic looks and sounds like, as well as the most effective response to each.

Have pairs of sellers role play responses to randomly assigned tactics, with one person playing the role of the buyer and using the assigned tactic, while the other person responds as the seller. Then switch roles so everyone gets a chance to practice their responses.

To give this training idea more real-world spin, send a peer into a seller’s practice demo to play out one of the negotiation tactics so the seller can practice responding in real time.


19. Practice a Simulated Sales Negotiation

To further practice sales negotiation tactics, you can simulate an online negotiation. This allows sellers to practice their skills based on real negotiation scenarios. A well-designed simulation will take sellers down a variety of realistic paths depending on the actions they take during the simulation.


9.3x

Top Performers are 9.3x more likely to receive extremely effective negotiation training than The Rest.

78%

of Top Performers are very likely to generate repeat business from their buyers post-negotiation.

73%

of Top Performers find presenting multiple offers simultaneously they value equally very effective.

Source: Top Performance in Sales Negotiation, RAIN Group Center for Sales Research


If you don’t have the resources to build a simulation internally, ask your sales training provider. For example, we include the option of an online simulation as part of the RAIN Sales Negotiation training program.


20. Brainstorm Prospecting Value Offers

Every good song, article, and book has one thing in common: they capture attention. The same goes for successful prospecting: to get to the finish line, sellers need to break through the noise and capture their prospect’s attention.

This is one of the primary challenges of prospecting. To help sellers break through, teach them to build attraction campaigns that generate meetings with prospective buyers. In small groups, have sellers brainstorm value offers they could use in a prospecting campaign. Make sure the offers answer the questions:

  • Why Act?
  • Why Now?
  • Why Us?
  • Why Trust?

Download now: Sales Prospecting Made Simple Free Toolkit


21. Draft a Prospecting Email to a Potential Buyer

There’s good news for sellers who send prospecting emails. Eighty percent of buyers prefer to be contacted by sellers via email, and 77% have responded favorably to such an email in the last year. The bad news is that the same buyers receive a high volume of emails.

Unsurprisingly, writing an effective prospecting email is a must-learn skill. As part of your training program, have sellers write practice prospecting emails that:

  • Customize the message with a referral, trigger event, or using other research conducted on the prospect or their company
  • Include a strong value offer for the meeting
  • Include a call to action
  • Attend to the 13 Golden Rules for Email Prospecting

Once they’ve drafted their prospecting email, sellers should send it to a peer or coach for feedback. We’ve even seen sellers share their actual prospecting emails with peers as a sanity check before clicking send.


22. Complete a Prospecting Meeting Calculator

Helping sellers improve their prospecting and pipeline conversion rates can have a big impact on results.

For example, let’s say you improve your connection rate from 15% to 20% and your meeting to opportunity conversion from 30% to 35%. Where you previously might have seen $800k in revenue from reaching out to 750 targets, you’d now see $1.3 million from the same group.

In your training session, walk sellers through similar examples specific to your business.

Then, have sellers complete a prospecting meeting calculator to determine how many new meetings they need to set on average and each week to meet their revenue goals.

Download the RAIN Sales Prospecting Meeting Calculator to reverse engineer the revenue goal to determine the prospecting actions needed to reach it.


23. Build a Plan to Generate Referrals

Referrals are absolute gold in any business. They’re an extra warm introduction that lets the seller cut to the front of the line. They also reflect a seller’s hard work and trust-building sustained over time.

To get sellers in the right mindset, start by having them write out how they’ll generate referrals. This plan might include the right time to ask for a referral, or offering alternate ways to provide recommendations. Some sellers can offer a referral commission, or create a target list of buyers they want referrals from.

Naturally, the right tactics for generating referrals will vary by industry and from sales team to sales team.


24. Learn How to Use LinkedIn for Sales

It’s not easy to use LinkedIn for sales. But there’s plenty that sellers can do to put themselves in position to make the most of this channel.

By adhering to a few best practices, sellers can turn LinkedIn into a powerful sales tool for connecting and building relationships with buyers.

Have sellers take the 15-day LinkedIn Challenge—15 ideas for 15 days of selling on LinkedIn—and incorporate it into your sales training session.

Read now: How to Sell through LinkedIn


25. Evaluate the Big Plays

For sellers, a big play is like an ace up the sleeve. It’s the big, bold, atypical action that turns the tide and stops buyers in their tracks. Typically, a big play is:

  • Bold, enterprise-worthy
  • Outside the norm
  • Involves a certain amount of risk
  • A big investment in a long-term partnership

Have sellers come to the training session with a short list of their big sales opportunities that might be won with a big play. Break into small groups and have each select one opportunity to work on. The groups then brainstorm some big play strategies. Finally, have each group rate each play against the following criteria:

  • Effort
  • Cost
  • Acceptance probability
  • Timing
  • Payoff amount
  • Payoff likelihood
  • Opportunity cost

For more on big plays, including some real-world examples, read How to Win Big Sales Opportunities with Big Plays.


26. Get the Team Working on Their Most Important Activities

There are certain activities that, if sellers could sustain them over time, would generate significant return. We call these greatest impact activities (GIAs). Once sellers determine their GIAs, they tend to start tracking toward their goals with better efficiency.

This training exercise will help sellers and sales managers identify their GIAs on a daily basis.

The first step is to gather ideas from participants and list all potential GIAs on a flip chart: one list for ideas for sellers and another for sales managers. Here are a few examples:

  • Write the best proposal for a coming presentation
  • Prospect for at least two hours with complete concentration
  • Do research to prepare to wow X buyer in tomorrow’s conversation
  • Prepare to succeed in next week’s negotiation with X buyer
  • Build rock-solid plan for the team to beat goals next quarter
  • Lead three highly productive Win Labs with the team
  • Check in with each seller on the team to make sure they're on track

Ask participants what the impact would be if they're able to execute on their GIAs each day. This will help them recognize the importance of staying committed to their GIAs.


27. Develop a Mentoring Program

To be the best, sellers need to learn from the best. Unfortunately, sales managers can’t be everywhere at once, especially on large, remote teams in growth mode. One strategy is to develop a mentoring program in which junior reps are paired with their more senior counterparts. Together, these mentorship pairings can brainstorm together, provide feedback, and meet weekly to check progress or discuss roadblocks.


28. Review Recorded Sales Calls

A seller’s interactions with buyers are often their most valuable learning opportunities. They’re the most ample too, considering the many interactions that sellers have each day. Many sales teams are now turning to sales recording solutions to record, store, and analyze sales calls. By doing so, sales managers can search call transcripts, review calls, and leave comments at specific timestamps with feedback and suggestions.


29. Hire a Professional Sales Trainer

One look at this list of sales training ideas is evidence of the tall task facing organizations as they seek to equip their sellers with tools, coaching, and resources needed to achieve the best sales results.

We can help. RAIN Group partners with organizations to deliver world-class sales training in a number of areas. From prospecting and consultative selling to sales negotiation, account management, and everything in between, our training aligns with your business metrics and equips your sellers with the training they need to be more successful.

Learn more: Sales Training Programs to Unleash Sales Potential


30. Train the Trainer

If you have a team of in-house facilitators, you know that the best trainers engage their audience. They create an exciting environment that inspires curiosity, confidence, and action. RAIN Group can certify your team to deliver our award-winning sales training so your trainers get everything they need to lead successful programs that get results.


Final Word: Stay Fresh to Keep Sales Training Engaging

As lengthy as this list of sales training ideas is, the possibilities are truly endless. This is especially true given the speed with which technology, sales demands, and team structures (e.g., remote teams) are evolving.

Use some, or all, of these 30 ideas to engage your team in sales training that proves to be truly effective—creating long-term behavior change and sales success.


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Topics: Sales Training

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