Contributors from members of the Copper team
It’s easy to focus on the “I” as a sales rep. When each rep has their own leads, targets, and sales goals, the overall success of the team can quickly get thrown to the side.
But as a sales manager, your team’s accomplishments aren’t measured by your most successful rep. If you have team members struggling to close deals, make connections, or even do prospecting, you shouldn’t be pouring the celebratory champagne quite yet as a sales professional.
It’s your job to equip each and every member of your sales team with the skills, techniques, and tools they need to be successful at their job. This all starts with proper sales training.
Sales training should begin on a rep’s first day and continue until their last day with your company. Because sales techniques need to adapt to customers’ changing needs and shifting technology, sales training should never really stop.
Unfortunately, many sales professionals are never properly trained in the first place by sales managers and sales leaders. They’re told to listen in on a few cold-calls, then pushed to their cubicle to start dialing on their own. Then, it’s an uphill battle trying to meet goals while simultaneously attempting to achieve sales success become a strong salesperson.
Giving new hires––as well as seasoned vets––adequate training can set them up to become selling machines. Here are a few tips on how to effectively train your sales reps for success beyond your training program.
Hire the best.
Learn how to hire a rockstar sales team with this sales recruiting handbook.
1. Let your sales process guide you.
Making your sales process an integral part of your training helps reps understand what’s expected on your team. This is especially critical for new team members who have previous sales experience and may be used to doing things another way.
Begin your sales coaching and training with an overview of your sales process. While you’ll want to touch on important details such as how to generate and nurture leads, keep in mind that fully learning the sales process will take some time.
Here's an example of a sales process for a company that sells SEO services:
You can use your sales process to pick out other areas where your reps may need to be trained too. Look at each step and determine which skills or tools your reps need to be successful at that stage.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say one of your lead generation strategies is to search social media platforms for companies within your target industry and identify potential decision-makers.
Rather than leaving reps to discover how to do this for themselves, make social media research a training priority. Show them what tools to use, what information to look for, and where to store their findings to get a strong sales performance.
Refer back to your sales process throughout the entire training process. Let reps know exactly when and where to apply the new skills they’re using. Reiterating the importance of the sales process from the very beginning will help reps better understand the steps and stages, as well as integrate it into everything they do on the job.
Learn more about hiring and training a stellar sales team through sales coaching:
2. Develop a mentorship program.
One-on-one training is by far one of the best ways to bring a new sales rep up to speed. But if you’re bringing on dozens of new hires at once, you probably can’t give personalized bits of wisdom and sales success advice to everyone.
A mentorship program gives individualized attention to each new rep and salesperson, while also giving senior team members an opportunity to lead. It can also help new hires adapt to the company culture and set them up for more successful careers.
Mentorship programs can be implemented strategically in order for them to be successful during the sales training process. Here’s how to introduce one to your team.
Step 1: Define goals and expectations for the program.
Talk to your sales team about why you’d like to implement a mentorship program. Get feedback from new and senior employees on what they think could be helpful, harmful, or unnecessary. Define expectations of duties, , including sales performance, or commitments for both mentors and mentees.
Step 2: Discover mentee goals.
Get to know what your mentees hope to get out of their mentorship. What specific areas, and sales skills, would they like to learn more about and what goals would they like to accomplish for effective sales training? What qualities would they want in a mentor? You can collect this information through a simple survey.
Step 3: Match your mentors and mentees, but encourage requests.
The best mentor/mentee relationships happen naturally. They can also take time to develop. To get your mentorship program running, you’ll need to make pairings based on the information given to you in your mentee surveys. If a mentee or mentor has a specific request for the sales training program, allow them to vocalize that.
Hold meetings with each new pair to allow both individuals to ask questions and get to know one another. Discuss expectations, goals, and roles and responsibilities for each party.
Step 4: Create a check-in/feedback process.
Develop a system, such as monthly meetings, to allow both the mentee and mentor to give feedback and check in on goals and expectations. Evaluate how both individuals are fulfilling their responsibilities and give advice on where they might be able to improve.
Talk with mentees and mentors together and independently. This will give each an opportunity to voice concerns or challenges they may be experiencing within the partnership. If a pairing isn’t working for either party, assign the mentee someone new.
Step 5: Use hard and soft data to track results.
You’ll want to know that your mentorship program is delivering real results. Use metrics, surveys, and polls to get a clearer idea of how mentees are improving throughout the program. Look at hard data during sales training programs, such as closed deals or account value, as well as soft data such as rating their confidence in performing specific tasks.
Your CRM can help you keep track of hard data during the mentorship process.
Step 6: Create an endgame plan.
Your mentorship program needs to end eventually. While the mentor/mentee relationship will likely continue through their time at the company, having a clear end process in place can create a smooth transition when mentees are ready to start selling on their own. Hold a final meeting with each pair to cover accomplished goals, give advice, and get feedback, but also to set expectations going forward.
It’s common for each mentor and mentee to have a different reaction to the program. Some may love the process while others may only find it mildly helpful. Be sure to pay attention to which mentors are providing the best experience and ask them to be a mentor again in the future.
3. Use improv training to craft sales scripts.
Prospects can react to a sales pitch in a number of ways––and your reps need to be prepared for all of them with sales training programs. While reps may think they’ll know what to do or say when the conversation starts getting off track, you never really know until you’re deep in the moment.
Improv training sessions encourage reps to think on their feet. Just like improv comedy, reps are challenged to remain composed and react to situations as they’re thrown at them after effective sales training.
Start improv training sessions with common objections reps are likely to hear. Once they start to get more comfortable, introduce red flags or complicated prospects that might throw reps off their game.
Refrain from telling the rep how they should respond. Instead, push each individual to assess the situation and react the way they would naturally. This will encourage reps to get creative with their responses and build sales skills and confidence to trust their gut in real life situations.
As a group, give insights, tips, or critiques on reps’ responses. Evaluate the best responses, rebuttals, or approaches to each scenario. Formulate appropriate responses for each scenario and write them into scripts reps can keep handy when they start making sales calls of their own.
The scripts shouldn’t be followed verbatim, but they can give reps an option for how they could react or respond. Scripts can also just be bullet points or questions that the rep should bring up in that scenario.
Here are some ideas of situations to improv and create sales scripts for:
- The prospect says your solution is too expensive.
- The prospect isn’t looking to change service providers or products.
- The prospect is unable to stay focused and constantly diverts the conversation.
- The prospect can’t commit.
These are just starting points. Get feedback from senior sales reps on their most common—and most challenging—objections.
Make improv a part of your recurring training process. Mix up the groups you’re training with to share different perspectives, experience levels, and ideas. Holding improv training sessions can help your entire team of reps stay focused as they learn new skills.
4. Keep it going with continuous microlearning.
Sales strategy and technique taught by sales professionals and sales leaders, including sales mangers, should constantly evolve. Your reps should be learning new models skills, and processes regularly to stay relevant and top-of-mind with leads and customers.
Unfortunately, finding time for formal training together can be complicated with a group of salespeople. It’s hard to find a time that works for everyone when schedules are packed with calls, meetings, and events. This is where microlearning comes in:
Microlearning uses small bits of content such as articles, videos, or quizzes, to introduce new ideas and materials or reinforce old practices. Here’s why it’s recommended for sales training:
- It’s flexible. Reps can fit training into their own schedules, saving you from a logistical nightmare.
- It’s to the point. You don’t need to bore your team with day-long sales seminars to get the message across.
- It’s more cost-effective. A day off for a formal sales training session is a day your sales reps aren’t closing deals.
- It’s relevant. Consistent training updates mean you don’t need to wait months to introduce a new process or idea.
Create a microlearning schedule for your entire sales team that sends them new content every week or so. Vary the content you include in length, subject matter, and content type. This can include everything from curated content and videos to true training sessions or exercises on past topics.
Include a feedback system for your training. Ask for feedback on which content types are preferred and which topics reps want to learn more about. Allow reps to ask questions and try to include answers or tips in your microlearning plan.
It’s also important to recognize that all topics are not conducive for microlearning. If you’re introducing an entirely new system or process, you might need to have an in-person meeting––and that’s okay. Use microlearning to supplement your larger sales training sessions.
Sales training should benefit your entire sales team.
Whether a rep has been on your team for a day or 30 years, they should be a part of your sales training process. As a sales manager, you’re responsible for ensuring each rep is getting the information and attention they need to work as efficiently as possible
Let’s recap how you can do this:
- To create a sales training program that fits your team’s needs, look at your sales process. Identify practices, processes, or skills your team will need to know to be successful.
- Pair new reps with senior sales professionals who can mentor them and help them improve their performance.
- Use improv training sessions to brainstorm unique sales scripts for various scenarios or problem prospects.
- Develop a microlearning plan to keep training consistent and relevant for sales reps of all levels.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. The more fun and unique a sales training process is, the easier it will be to remember—and put into practice.