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 most effective sales training focuses on true behavior change. Skills need to be learned, absorbed, and applied on the job. When done right, training can help organizations achieve their growth goals, such as increasing win rates, growing strategic accounts, improving sales cycle time, building pipeline, increasing average deal size, and more.
This is because most companies don't define and approach sales training properly. Often, training is treated as a 1- or 2-day program with no follow-up. Sellers are left to their own devices, expected to retain the information from training and recognize 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 sales training doesn't produce the desired results over the long term.
To deliver effective sales training, you need to redefine what sales training is. Focus on changing your sellers' behavior to drive sales results and support the effort as a change management initiative.
3 Pillars of Effective Sales Training
At RAIN Group, we believe that the best sales training is built on three pillars: Craft, Deliver, and Enable. We call this the Execution Assurance Framework.
To learn more about our approach to training, watch the video below.
Think first about the business results and metrics you’re seeking to drive and then develop a change strategy to achieve them. The training curriculum and programs should be specifically designed to drive the desired change.
Sales training delivery should be purpose built for the adult learner. It must be practical, interactive, and impactful. In other words, sellers need training they can put to use immediately to achieve results. This means the training needs to ensure the development, adoption, and implementation of new skills.
For example, pre-work in advance of training sessions may include some combination of micro learning, short videos, and interactive exercises. This would be followed by classroom sessions delivered virtually or in person and which focus on practice, application, and feedback. Don’t think lectures; think hands-on learning.
A regular, ongoing rhythm of action-oriented coaching allows sales managers to provide direct feedback to sellers, reinforces the skills and knowledge learned during training, and holds sellers accountable to execute at high levels. Sales teams build confidence week by week.
What Makes Effective Sales Training?
The most effective sales training builds on the three pillars with:
1. 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 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.
It’s worth noting that sales coaching and sales management differ. Coaching is a proactive process meant to reinforce training, and not every sales leader has that experience. In these cases, specialized sales coaching training can enable leaders to take ownership of the skill development of their teams.
3. Leadership Support
Conversely, sellers also need support on the day-to-day side of executing ideas learned in training. Leadership should be committed to the sales training program and help execute it, as well as monitor its application.
You need a work culture that drives and supports top sales performance, and leadership that prioritizes sales success.
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.
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 training, and to achieve—and maintain—top performance, value must be the core focus.
Sales Training Benefits
When done right, sales training can change seller behavior and improve business results. Organizations should approach training with business goals in mind, and work with their training provider to determine how best to achieve them.
Want to learn how RAIN Group has helped organizations achieve sales results?
Read our client success stories. >>
Similarly, KPIs for sales training will vary based on need, but may include any of the following:
- Win rate
- Revenue growth
- Engagement size
- Sales margin
- Conversion rate
- Number of referrals
- Customer outreach
- Length of sales cycle
- Pipeline activity
- Seller quotas
Discover additional sales metrics that may be relevant for your business in our Essential List of Sales Metrics.
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 is a sales approach centered around understanding buyer needs and positioning offers as solutions to problems. Though the utility of consultative selling has changed over time, it's fundamental to uncover needs, build relationships, and craft solutions. Modern consultative selling takes this idea a step further by inspiring buyers with new ideas and changing their thinking and agendas in critical areas. This method of advanced consultative selling is known as insight selling. Learn more. >>
Sales prospecting training gives sellers a roadmap to improving their outreach and connecting with buyers early and often. Training includes topics such as how to create prospecting campaigns, craft offers, and set goals. Learn more. >>
Negotiation is critical for sellers to keep margins, customer profitability, and satisfaction high. Training aims to coach sellers to focus on value over price and create value on both sides. It also addresses common negotiation tactics used by buyers and how to overcome them. Learn more. >>
Sales Opportunity Management
Strong selling isn’t done in a vacuum—it’s the result of a comprehensive sales strategy. Opportunity management training helps teams establish a systematic and repeatable process for creating winning strategies. It also encourages sales teams to approach each sale from a customer-centric point of view. Learn more. >>
Strategic and Key Account Management
Selling to existing accounts is one of the biggest untapped opportunities for revenue growth. Strategic and key account management training helps sellers systematically review and grow their most important accounts. Learn more. >>
Seller Productivity and Accountability
Mismanaged time doesn’t just derail focus and productivity—it affects your sales results. Keeping your sellers motivated is essential to seeing consistent success. Most sales training misses this key element: a sales-focused productivity program that empowers sellers to get more done in the time they have. Learn more. >>
The skills that make a successful seller are very different than those that make a successful sales manager. In fact, managing a sales team is one of the most difficult jobs in any organization. Sales management training helps managers unlock their team’s potential and drive results. Learn more. >>
There is perhaps no greater leverage point—and perhaps no greater typically untapped leverage point—to increase sales performance than sales coaching. Sales coaching training gives sales managers the tools they need to motivate their sellers to become more proactive and successful. Learn more. >>
With the unprecedented level of virtual interaction happening in the world today, sellers face more challenges now than ever before. Modern sales teams need to be prepared for both in-person and virtual selling to succeed. Virtual selling training helps sellers adapt and thrive in this new sales environment. Learn more. >>
Sales Training Delivery
In-person or virtual training sessions are a core part of any training initiative, but it's important to note that what happens after the training is equally as important as what happens during the training. Sales training must be designed with the intention of making it stick. If delivery doesn’t accomplish this, it won’t result in long-term change for sellers.
There are generally three ways 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 achieve much stronger results.