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If you’re in the sales industry, take a minute to pop open your LinkedIn feed or email. It’s likely that you’ll see a variety of ads for sales training right next to articles that claim sales training is dead and doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion and conflicting information about sales training and how it’s supposed to help sales professionals. And with so much confusion around the topic, it’s no wonder why a lot of salespeople simply throw their hands up at the thought of it."Sales training isn’t merely an investment in sales performance. It’s an investment in the future of a brand, the people that make it great, and the customers that trust it."
So together, let’s demystify the questions and misconceptions surrounding sales training by exploring what sales training is, how it’s administered, what you should expect from it, and learn exactly how sales training works.
What are the Objectives of Sales Training?
At its core, effective sales training teaches salespeople the key elements of ethical sales and the processes therein that can enable them to succeed in their specific industry.
Though every sales training program is different, let’s use our sales training program as a high-level example of a well-rounded training program, and from it, understand the objectives of sales training.
To teach you how to ethically operate as a sales professional.
Most sales environments are highly competitive and, in reaction to such high levels of competition, can cause salespeople to succumb to less-than-savory practices when trying to meet quota.
But here’s the problem: When you approach sales with a “by hook or by crook” mentality, you only hurt your success -- and your customers’ success -- in the long run. Eventually, dishonest tactics always make their way back to your customer, destroying any trust that they may once have placed in your word and permanently ending that relationship.
To help you avoid the pitfall of unethical sales practices, a well-rounded sales training program helps you understand how to operate ethically with clients, with the peers and superiors in your organization, and within your industry as a whole and demonstrates why doing so is far more profitable throughout your career.
To teach you how to confidently engage prospects and customers.
Nearly every salesperson struggles with confidence at some point in their career. Whether it’s working up the courage to pick up the phone or walk into the next networking event, we all fear the rejection that is so common in our industry.
In light of this, quality sales training teaches salespeople how to confidently engage with prospects and customers alike and how to shift your focus toward being of service to them, rather than focusing on yourself and your own needs.
To show you how to build long-term, trust-based relationships with customers.
The sales industry is based around the building and maintaining of trust-based relationships between salespeople and their customers. For many newcomers to the industry, however, the prospect of engaging with people and beginning to build that rapport can be overwhelming.
Through proper sales training, you’ll learn how to begin building prospects and how to nurture those relationships to a level of mutual trust and respect that can yield fruitful opportunities for both you and your customer.
To teach you to understand your customer’s buying cycles.
A critical part of meeting your customer’s needs and expectations is understanding where they are in their buying cycle -- the phases of thought, consideration, and action that describe where your customer is in their path to potentially buying from you.
By understanding your customer’s buying cycle, you’re able to know where their mind and heart are when it comes to making that next purchasing decision.
With this knowledge, you’ll be able to position yourself in a manner that allows you to equip them with the insight they need to make a decision that fits their best interests.
To teach you how to build and continually refine your selling cycle.
Just as your customers have a buying cycle, salespeople have a selling cycle.
Your selling cycle, in short, is the series of steps that guide you and your customers from the initial stages of relationship building to the final phases of them making a purchasing decision that best suits their needs.
Through sales training, you’ll be taught how to recognize inefficiencies within your sales cycle and how to continually improve it in accordance with your customer’s needs and buying cycle.
To teach you the personal and professional attributes necessary for success.
A good salesperson can secure contracts and sell units of a product like any other, but great salespeople are those who recognize and develop the character traits that allow them to connect with others and build long-term relationships.
And quality sales training imparts those traits -- such as self-discipline, dependability, and honesty -- and teaches how to develop those traits both personally and professionally.
To show you how to identify and meet your customers’ needs and expectations.
Each of your customers has unique needs and expectations that they expect you to meet. And failing to do so can mean the end of your relationship with them as a trusted partner and advisor.
Throughout your time in a quality sales training program, students learn these needs and expectations and how to work with customers to discover the problems they’re needing to overcome.
To show you how to be a student of your industry.
Staying up to date on your industry’s latest information isn’t a practice that merely serves yourself.
By learning how to analyze trends within your industry and how to separate the meaningful information from the noise, you make yourself all the more valuable to your customers as a trusted source of helpful information.
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How is Sales Training Administered?
In the initial sessions, sales training is administered in a group setting where multiple salespeople can learn from the instructor and from one another.
These training sessions can occur in-person or in an online environment; however, training in an in-person setting is preferred, as it allows for richer emotional communication, group participation, and feedback between students and instructors.
Though the setting and course structure varies from program to program, there are a few types of group setups that commonly occur, with each type yielding its own unique benefits.
In groups of customer-facing professionals from the same company
One of the most common training setups consists of a single organization’s salespeople -- and those in other customer-facing roles -- receiving sales training together.
A key benefit of this configuration is that the sales training can be highly customized, covering unique selling scenarios, industry-specific customer objections, and other facets of the sales process that may be specific to your industry or your organization’s products.
For onboarding purposes, this group configuration is an ideal setup, as leadership can quickly get new hires acclimated to their organization’s sales environment, ethical sales processes, and have them ready to perform in a much shorter time frame.
Additionally, with the students all belonging to the same organization, they can be a helpful support system for one another -- helping each other continually sharpen the skills they learned during training -- and continue the learning and development long after the training sessions end.
In groups of customer-facing professionals from the same industry
In this configuration, students from different organizations come together to receive sales training as a group, learning from both the instructor and one another.
By being able to bounce ideas off of industry peers, receive insightful training alongside one another, and then put those ideas into practice, you’re able to gain a unique perspective on how you and your organization can adapt solutions that others are deploying to fulfill the needs of your customer base.
In groups of different customer-facing roles from different industries
When a sales training group includes professionals from sales, marketing, and other customer-oriented roles, all of which hail from different industries, a set of rich opportunities present themselves.
Apart from the value of the sales training alone, this type of group allows you to see the sales profession from a much wider perspective.
You’re able to experience the interesting similarities and differences in each industries’ sales processes, learn how your peers in other markets overcame challenges, and ultimately apply the new techniques and practices you’ve learned.
And an often overlooked value of this eclectic sales training group is the array of networking opportunities. Whether you’re breaking ground into uncharted markets or if you’re looking to create new relationships within a specific industry, a richly diverse training group creates fertile ground for those connections to grow.
Investing in your sales performance is a direct investment in your customers’ satisfaction and long-term brand success.Let’s Get to Work
What Other Roles and Departments Can Benefit from Sales Training?
Sales training is typically thought of as being purely for those who are just starting their career in sales or for newly-onboarded salespeople who may not be familiar with their new employer’s industry or specific sales processes.
However, there is also a multitude of other customer-facing roles that can benefit from sales training and use that knowledge to better serve the customers they interact with on a daily basis.
Focused on crafting messaging that connects companies to their targeted audiences, marketers’ efforts are intimately intertwined with the sales process as a whole.
But it’s no secret that the marketing and sales departments aren’t usually the best of friends. This friction, however, is often the result of miscommunication and a lack of understanding about one another’s responsibilities and ultimate role in winning sales and cash flow for the organization.
By enrolling marketers alongside sales representatives in sales training, organizations can help eliminate that friction and give each department insight into the operations and overall goals of the other.
Additionally, marketers are given a new perspective on how the products and services they advertise are solving the problems of their customers and how the sales department is leveraging the marketing department’s messaging.
From this mutual understanding, better working relationships can form and new strategies can be created that employ the strengths of your marketers to generate leads and the skills of your salespeople to turn those leads into positive cash flow and satisfied customers.
Customer service representatives
Type in a company’s name to any of the hundreds of review websites on the internet and you’ll come to one stark conclusion: Customer service absolutely matters.
One poor interaction with a customer service representative can make or break a customer’s sense of trust in an organization and can absolutely decimate any opportunity a salesperson may have to complete a sale with that customer.
In light of this, customer service representatives can richly benefit from sales training. Not only do they gain an understanding of how they are a part of the sales process, but together, your sales and customer service departments can receive training on how to more cohesively work together and better provide the answers and direct assistance that customers need.
Direct service personnel
If your organization is involved in any level of direct customer service, such as plumbing, locksmithing, or HVAC, the technicians and other members of your direct service teams are the very face of the company.
By enrolling in sales training, an organization's technicians and other direct service members are empowered with the knowledge of how to identify a customer’s needs, how to grow those relationships through mutual trust and respect, and how to work with the sales team in identifying the products and services that help solve their customers’ problems.
Members of executive leadership
Executive leadership is in charge of setting the guiding vision for the organization that ultimately directs its success. When this vision or the cultural focus of the organization is out of alignment with customer-first service, every department -- including sales -- suffers.
And therein lies the benefit of having executive leadership enrolled in sales training: It allows executive leadership to gain an intimate, first-hand understanding of what their customers' needs and expectations are and how their company and guiding vision must be in ethical alignment with meeting those needs.
Sales training also provides the sales department and executive leadership with a better understanding of one another’s perspectives, creating a fertile environment for communicative pathways to open up and where new ideas can be shared freely.
What Types of Exercises Are Performed in Sales Training?
Quality sales training programs consist of multiple forms of instruction and specialized exercises that allow students to embrace the training through the use of multiple senses an array of learning experiences.
Though exercises will vary from program to program, most sales training will incorporate many of the following types of coursework and exercises into the curriculum.
Roleplay exercises, conducted in either a trainer-to-student or peer-to-peer format, serve as a tool to introduce students to the various situations they will encounter.
Whether simulating in-person encounters, over-the-phone conversations, or interactions on social media, students are tasked with initially working through the problems presented using their own intuition.
Either during the exercise or after it’s completed, the trainer steps in, showing both the participating student and the rest of the class what should have been done in that specific situation.
These exercises can also be recorded, allowing the participating students to see how they performed from a third-party perspective, encouraging a more objective analysis of what may have gone wrong and how they can improve.
Rejection and customer resistance exercises
Rejection is a fact of life in the sales industry. And so too is the fear of that rejection that can manifest into salespeople being hesitant to reach out and connect with prospects and existing customers alike.
With the fear of rejection being a pervasive issue that stunts the growth of many salespeople, most training programs expose their students to rejection and the different forms of resistance that they can expect to face in their day-to-day work.
Whether it’s a customer expressing dissatisfaction with a product, stating concern over a price point, or frequently canceling meetings, sales training provides students with the tools to understand what’s fueling those rejections and how to work with the customer to bring those issues to a resolution.
Product and services training
In some sales training programs, the trainers will also impart to the students a thorough understanding of the products and services they will be responsible for selling.
Having this knowledge is absolutely vital to success in sales. With it, you empower yourself to be a source of trusted knowledge to your customers and you instill within yourself a belief in the products and services you offer and the help the ultimately bring to your customers.
It’s difficult to judge ourselves objectively and be honest about where our skills or personality might be lacking. However, the ability to analyze one’s self is what paves the way to growth on both a personal and professional level.
Throughout the course of training, students will be tasked with critically reviewing themselves in an effort to see where they could be of better service to their customers, where they may be coming up short, and then develop a plan of improvement that can be put into action.
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When is Sales Training Needed?
While sales training is an effective tool to include in an organization’s onboarding process, the benefits that sales training yields -- such as improving an organization’s communicative flow, reigniting morale, and improving sales -- go far beyond any singular application.
When sales performance is inconsistent or on a consistent decline
Declines in sales can happen for any number of reasons; however, should an organization’s monthly sales projections be considered a shot in the dark at best, it’s time to focus on getting back on track.
Taking the time to invest in your sales team yields tremendous dividends for not only your sales performance, but also your brand name and the overall rate of customer satisfaction as you align your brand’s mission with ethical sales practices that seek to first serve the customer.
When employee turnover rate is high or consistently increasing
If it’s growing increasingly difficult to keep your sales department staffed, or if your turnover rate has a history of being consistently high, it’s a sign of a systemic problem that will unavoidably erode your sales, and ultimately, your organization’s overall success.
Through sales training, both salespeople and management are empowered with the tools to create and maintain a work environment that fosters success, teamwork, communication, and high morale.
When communications have become strained
Your sales department is only as effective as its ability to clearly communicate with management, across departments, customers, and one another.
If your sales department operates in a communicative silo or if customer complaints are received and no one is comfortable talking about it, then there’s a severe problem that will eventually impact your entire organization.
By enrolling in quality sales training, you can learn how to construct an environment of open communication, allowing new ideas and constructive feedback to flow freely.
When new salespeople join the organization
When new salespeople join the team, sales training provides them with a clearly-defined pathway for getting familiar with their new environment, learn what’s expected of them, and understand how to work in alignment with the organization’s guiding vision.
Without this, organizations run the risk of having an ineffective sales force which in turn leads to high turnover. Worse yet, bad habits and unethical sales practices might be present in your new sales personnel, potentially risking the degradation of customer satisfaction and the brand’s standing as a whole.
Does Sales Training Actually Work?
Through all of the information we’ve covered so far, there’s likely a question lingering in your mind: “This all sounds great, but does sales training actually work? And if so, what are the end results?”
To best answer this question, let’s examine the specific ways in which sales training bolsters sales performance and, through an examination of the data, proves itself a vital investment for any organization.
Sales training promotes confidence and greater job satisfaction within salespeople.
When salespeople are given training that is specifically designed to help them to perform at a higher level, and they commit to putting it into action, they see a noticeable improvement in sales.
As a result of this, salespeople often report feeling a remarkable increase in self-confidence and job satisfaction, leading to lower turnover rates and a higher sense of overall team morale.
Sales training helps salespeople form stronger, more authentic relationships with customers.
Quality sales training, at its core, is about helping your salespeople unify under an ethical standard of sales practices that puts customers first, creates a rewarding and healthy atmosphere for your sales team, and promotes growth.
By investing in creating a sales team that operates ethically -- from a heart of service -- you create an environment that makes customers feel valued, heard, and respected.
In turn, this creates a deep sense of trust within your customers toward your sales staff whom they see as a trusted source of advice will always be in their best interest.
Sales training creates clarity of communication and improved cohesion within sales teams and between departments.
When people are empowered with training that gives them the tools to better communicate with one another and across departments, the entire organization grows stronger as a result.
And the data doesn’t lie: After enrollment in a comprehensive sales training program, both salespeople and executive leadership consistently report a remarkable level of improvement in communication skills and in the meeting of sales objectives.
Sales training improves levels of overall customer satisfaction.
By virtue of having a sales department that is structured around a code of ethical, customer-focused sales practices, your customers enjoy a higher level of service from representatives whom they know they can trust.
Over time, this consistent level of care and attention faithfully builds ever stronger trust-based relationships between sales reps and their customers, generating a consistently high level of customer satisfaction.
Sales training provides measurable improvement in sales performance.
When an organization invests in sales training, it’s investing directly into the performance, satisfaction, and wellbeing of the sales team. Ultimately, this translates into a customer base that holds that brand in high regard, recommends it to friends and family, and is more than willing to make repeat and future purchases.
Investing in yourself or your sales team is an investment in your future success and customers’ trust in your name.Let’s Work Together
Sales training, by definition, is the practice of teaching salespeople how to build trust-based relationships with customers in an effort to understand their needs and ultimately provide them the information, products, or services that help them solve their problems.
But, as we’ve learned together, the real value of sales training is so much more than that. Sales training fosters constructive communication, helps salespeople gain confidence in themselves, and creates a more motivated and cohesive team that is able to ethically serve customers better than ever before.
Sales training isn’t merely an investment in sales performance. It’s an investment in the future of a brand, the people that make it great, and the customers that trust it.