Sales Training Defined: Sales training is the process of improving seller skills, knowledge, and attributes to drive seller behavioral change and maximize sales success. To be most effective, sales training should be viewed, designed, and executed as a change management initiative.
The global market for sales training is approximately $4.6 billion.
Yet most sales training fails to deliver lasting results.
This is because most companies do not define and approach sales training properly.
To deliver effective sales training, you need to redefine what sales training is. You need to focus on changing your sellers' behaviors to drive sales results and support this change as a change management initiative.
A New Approach to Sales Training
Sales training used to be about developing specific skills in a 1- or 2-day training program. Sellers would attend training, learn new sales skills and then were expected to immediately apply those skills to their jobs. For the most part, they were left to their own devices. It was up to the seller to retain the information from the training and recognize when and where to apply it.
When you consider that 77% of learning is forgotten in just 6 days if not reinforced, it's no wonder that most training was not producing the desired results over the long term.
With this knowledge, and the scars from a few sales training failures, companies moved to improve sales training with reinforcement. Blended learning became an industry buzz word. It was no longer about a 1- or 2-day training program. Training now included assessment, eLearning, virtual instructor-led training (vILT), email, and gamification.
While blended learning has been a step in the right direction, especially in helping sellers remember the training itself, oftentimes it does not go far enough to drive behavioral change.
The most effective sales training focuses on true behavior change. Skills need to be learned, absorbed, and applied on the job.
The Most Effective Sales Training
The most effective sales training takes into account all of the positive learning advances of the last decade and adds:
- Transformational Experience: For true behavior change to take hold, sellers need to go through a transformational experience. There are psychological principals that need to be applied to effect long-term behavior change. This includes understanding how adults learn and how people work (and work together).
- Coaching: Coaching and support from first-line sales managers is critical for driving behavioral change. When applying new skills, sellers need to know exactly what to do, have support for when they're not in their comfort zone, need feedback to calibrate their behaviors, and need to be held accountable for taking action and being productive.
- Leadership Support: It's not enough to just develop the desired sales skills. You also need a work culture that drives and supports top sales performance, and leadership that prioritizes sales success.
- Motivation: Without motivation, you won't change sellers' behaviors. Sales motivation goes beyond compensation. In one of our research studies, we found that Value-Driving Sales Organizations had sellers who were much more motivated than The Rest. When sellers believe they make a true difference for their customers, they're much more motivated to sell.
- Value: When sellers create value and are valuable to buyers, they win. All sales training must connect to the value you can bring forth to your buyers. For the most successful sales and sales training, and to achieve—and maintain—top performance, you need value to be the core focus.
Sales Training Programs
Sales training can be broken down into a number of topics and skills. Sales training programs should cover the spectrum of the sales process, from finding new clients and winning sales opportunities to growing accounts and managing sellers.
Sales training topics that are core to driving the greatest success and improvements in sales competencies include:
- Consultative Selling—fundamental (uncovering needs, building relationships, crafting solutions) and advanced (insight selling to inspire buyers with ideas and change their thinking and agendas in critical areas)
- Sales Prospecting
- Sales Negotiation
- Sales Presentations
- Sales Opportunity Management
- Strategic and Key Account Management
- Seller Productivity and Accountability
- Sales Management
- Sales Coaching
Sales Training Delivery and Making It Stick
Live training is a key part of any training initiative, but it's important to note that what happens after the training is equally as—if not more—important than what happens in the training.
There are generally 3 ways live training can be developed and delivered:
- Develop your own sales training programs
- License third party sales training programs and have your trainers certified to deliver the methodology
- Partner with a third-party sales training company
Each has its advantages and disadvantages and should be leveraged for different companies depending on their size and goals.
Regardless of the initial training, all sales training should have a robust reinforcement plan in place. Sales coaching around goal setting, action planning, execution, and ongoing accountability is key to driving long-term behavior change in sellers.
To be a truly successful sales organization, stop thinking about sales training as a way to build certain skills and start thinking of it as a change initiative. When you do this, you're likely to get much stronger results.