Corporate sales are a high-burnout job, filled with rejection and the stress of looming quotas, yet it’s crucial that sales reps are on top of their customer service game for each and every contact with customers. They have to be knowledgeable, pleasant and provide an excellent Customer Experience every time—that can be difficult for a new sales rep, or for someone who is just feeling overwhelmed with a big workload, or a wealth of new product information.
Training can help give a salesperson the tools they need to do their job well, but training can pose its own set of challenges. For one thing, reps are busy and may not think they have time to complete training when they’re focused on meeting revenue targets. For another, not all reps may need the same training—almost every sales team is a mixed group of newbies, sales stars and middle-of-the-road sellers.
It may seem overwhelming, but fortunately, there are some best practices that will allow you to design a corporate sales training strategy that will serve all your salespeople’s needs.
Start Training As Soon As You Hire
Once you hire a rep, you need them to start hitting their sales targets as soon as possible. It’s pretty rare, however, for salespeople to hit the ground running immediately. According to The Bridge Group, it took the average salesperson three months before they were ramped up to full productivity in 2018.
Having a thorough, well-designed onboarding program in place to train new salespeople as soon as they join your team is an important step toward helping new reps do their best as soon as they’re hired; research from The Recruiting Roundtable shows that a good onboarding program can increase performance by 11.5%. Some industries can take as long as 6 months before reps are up to speed.
It’s important that your best training content is online and accessible so your newest hires can get up to speed as soon as possible. This is especially crucial because many new reps are completely new to sales. Rising demand for salespeople means that the required experience for a new hire is on the downslide . New salespeople are greener than ever and need strong onboarding programs for them—and your organization — to be successful.
Know That Sales Training Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
Your sales team is filled with reps with different skill levels and they don’t all need the same training. Your top salespeople might be looking for leadership training as they are considering moving into sales manager positions. Your struggling reps may need help brushing up on the basics. Your newest reps may need to review their onboarding materials for the first few months.
By creating a variety of modules, you can offer to learn for reps of every skill level, and if you’ve invested in an LMS that allows you to create learning pathways for individual reps, you’ll be able to prescribe learning for each salesperson.
Take A Coaching Approach
Coaching is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to sales teams—CSO Insights discovered that in top-performing companies, sales managers spent a significant amount of time coaching their teams. There is a strong link between sales coaching and great sales performance— CSO Insights found that some coaching can deliver up to a 27.6% improvement in win rates.
Don’t Forget Soft Skills
A recent LinkedIn study shows that buyers and decision-makers are much more likely to consider a brand’s products or services when the sales representative they talk to understands their role and their specific pain points.
Part of offering up good Customer Experience is being pleasant as well as knowledgeable about the products you sell. The best salespeople are the ones who really want to help their customers; they listen, are pleasant, and are honest about whether a product or service will actually help their prospects. They build relationships with their customers and get to know them.
While some sales reps are naturally good with people, it’s important to train soft skills like listening, communication and good phone etiquette.
Gamify Your Training
Gamification is the introduction of game mechanics into non-game situations, like work or training. By adding points, badges, and a leaderboard to your training, you can encourage friendly competition among your sales reps to see who can take the most training. You can even offer a prize to the rep (or team) that’s learned the most.
Gamified training also helps with motivation. Sometimes a rep might be reluctant to train—they may feel they don’t need training, or they might worry that they don’t have time. Gamification uses techniques like offering points, rewards, or recognition to encourage learners to log back in and take their modules.
If you train your reps once, they’re unlikely to retain that information. You want them to constantly be learning for their sakes, and for yours: according to Aberdeen Group, 20% more reps achieve quota when post-training reinforcement is implemented.
It’s important to remember—to impress upon your sales team—that training is a continuous cycle. They should be learning all the time, by using microlearning to boost their skills when they need help, by checking in with old modules if they need a refresher, or by taking new courses.
The right training program can boost reps’ productivity, improve onboarding time, help with burnout, and keep reps engaged. It’s also cost-effective—by training a struggling rep rather than replacing them, you can save your company an average of 2 million dollars. That’s how much it costs to hire and onboard a brand-new salesperson.