Let’s be honest: prospecting can be tough.
From time management troubles to poor targeting, the most common prospecting challenges can plague even the most seasoned sales reps.
These challenges are especially rough for reps who are new to your team, though.
Perhaps they’re not 100% familiar with your product or company culture yet.
Or maybe they’re having trouble adapting to your team’s prospecting techniques.
That said, prospecting via cold calls and emails are among the most important sales activities for any sales team.
Cold outreach shouldn’t feel like a shot in the dark, though. Proper training can make all the difference to ensure that those prospecting activities actually result in leads.
If you want to effectively encourage each and every rep to close more deals, you need to take a consistent, strategic approach to sales prospecting training. This rings true for new hires and current reps alike.
In this guide, we’ll break down the key steps to empowering your entire sales team while avoiding some of the most frequent prospecting training pitfalls.
8 steps for effective sales prospecting training
Your sales reps should feel confident prior to reaching out to potential customers.
That’s why it’s critical to provide them with sales prospecting training before sending them into the wild.
The good news? Training your reps doesn’t have to be terribly complicated or time-consuming.
Below we’ve outlined eight specific steps to prepare your prospects for outreach All of these strategies can provide managers with some much-needed peace of mind while also encouraging better performance from your sales team.
1. Make sure your reps understand your product.
This might seem like a no-brainer—which is exactly why it’s so easy to overlook.
Sales reps need to know your product inside-out. Being able to rattle off features and benefits is a good start, but ideally, anyone trying to sell your product should have some serious firsthand experience with it.
For example, SaaS companies often provide their employees with full access to their software solutions. This makes it possible for sales reps to put themselves in their prospects’ shoes and ultimately sell those features and benefits authentically.
Familiarizing folks with your product is the foundation of sales prospecting training. Once reps feel comfortable with what you’re selling, challenges such as overcoming objections or coming up with pitches become much less daunting.
Pro-tip: Learn about 5 ways that sales teams can prospect more effectively in this webinar.
2. Define what your ideal customer looks like.
Successful prospecting happens when reps are able to identify exactly what their customers look like.
This image comes from details such as customer demographics (gender, age, income) and where your customers typically hang out online (Facebook Groups, LinkedIn and so on).
Conveying these details via sales prospecting training can be done in two ways.
The first involves creating customer personas for your reps to study. Tools like Xtensio provide some awesome persona templates, allowing businesses to fill in demographic information in addition to details such as customer goals, frustrations, and motivations.
The second way involves your CRM data. Through analytics and insights, you can identify your most common lead sources and sales activities (think: calls versus emails) to figure out where your customers come from.
These training tactics combined provide reps with a comprehensive view of who they should be targeting.
3. Grant your reps access to a knowledge base.
Not all sales prospecting training involves direct instruction.
While reps should be able to ask questions and raise concerns, they should also be able to train themselves independently, too.
Your company knowledge serves as an invaluable tool for training that doesn’t require constant hand-holding on your part. For example, you can use a company drive or knowledge base software to house essential resources such as…
- Product training materials (videos, demos, tutorials)
- Customer FAQs
- Recordings of successful sales calls
- Employee handbooks and best practices
Having these materials readily available can cut down on time spent going back-and-forth with reps while also providing them with a means to train themselves on their own time. Just make sure to keep these documents for your employees’ eyes only.
4. Provide your reps with proven sales scripts.
Scripts aren’t the be-all-and-end-all of prospecting.
However, they are massively useful in helping reps understand your company’s tone and typical approach to relationships.
Even if it’s just a rough template or outline, such materials can warm up otherwise ice-cold outreach. Over time, reps can adapt their own scripts based on their strengths and sales styles. Scripts can either be part of your business’ knowledge base or, better yet, be stored in your CRM for instant access.
5. Review common sales objections beforehand.
One of the most important aspects of sales prospecting training is teaching reps how to deal with “what if” situations.
While we never truly know how a prospect is going to react to a pitch, we can predict what their objections might be. Many objections (such as price point) are universal, while some might be specific to your particular employer (e.g. your company is young or has released a product with little to no market awareness).
Regardless, reps should have responses ready for common sales objections such as when a prospect:
- Raises concerns about pricing
- Is skeptical about a specific feature
- Brings up a competitor in your industry
- Questions your company’s reputation
- Says that it’s a “bad time” to get in touch
- Claims they aren’t qualified to buy
- Doesn’t see the need to act now
Acknowledging that these scenarios are inevitable will keep your reps from being blindsided during outreach—and allow them to devise ways to steer the conversation away from objections before they even come up.
6. Allow new hires to shadow a seasoned sales rep.
When it comes to sales, seeing is believing.
For example, your top-performing reps can talk about tips and strategy all day. But for the sake of sales prospecting training, it’s better to follow the principle of “show, don’t tell.”
Allowing new or struggling team members to shadow a seasoned rep is a brilliant move. Doing so sets real-life expectations for your freshman reps and likewise gives them an opportunity to get advice from someone who’s been in their shoes.
From the appropriate tone to how long it takes to conduct calls and track prospecting progress, there’s plenty for new reps to absorb simply by watching an expert in action.
Despite popular belief, you don’t need to throw new reps into a trial by fire. Shadowing allows your sales team to become better-acquainted and reinforces the behaviors of best salespeople.
7. Conduct mock calls and roleplay scenarios.
Before speaking with actual prospects, reps should have a chance to put their sales prospecting training into action.
Mock calls and roleplaying allow for a realistic yet pressure-free way to do exactly that. Here you can assess your sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses before they ever pick up the phone. Whether one-on-one, virtually, or as part of your next sales meeting, considering acting out scenarios such as:
- Dealing with an irrationally angry prospect
- Letting go of a prospect that clearly isn’t qualified
- Negotiating sales objections such as price point
- Answering unexpected or extremely specific product questions
Roleplaying can a fun exercise but it should obviously be taken seriously. Strive to act out realistic scenarios, preferably based on previous calls or situations your actual reps have been in. Also, allow reps to act out the role of salesperson and prospect to inspire some creativity and come up with objections of their own.
8. Provide consistent, constructive feedback.
Sales prospecting training shouldn’t necessarily end when your reps actually start communicating with potential customers.
After all, training and growth is an ongoing process. This includes provides constructive feedback and positive reinforcement to your reps as they get their feet wet with prospecting.
Rather than be in the dark about their performance, today’s reps should “own” their data. This creates accountability as well as a healthy sense of competition.
Through your CRM, you can consistently clue your reps in on how they’re doing, what your company benchmarks are, and where they can improve.
Remember: your reps can only improve their prospecting skills with the right set of expectations. A combination of CRM data, one-on-one communication, and transparency during your sales meetings can help make those expectations crystal clear.
Ready to step up your sales training?
Investing the time upfront to train your reps is worthwhile for any sales team. The steps above could be make or break for your new reps’ long-term success with your company.
Through sales prospecting training, you can create a sense of accountability and consistency among your reps. Having a specific process means that your reps are all on the same page when reaching out to prospects.
The end result is a confident team that’s empowered—and excited—to make more sales. For managers looking to build the best sales team possible, it’s a major victory.