As a manager, you might be reviewing your team’s performance every month or every quarter. Are they on track? Have they achieved their targets? If they have, congratulations. But if they didn’t, you might have to consider ways to get help them catch up. If there are knowledge or skill gaps, you might have to consider training. Here are some time-tested sales training techniques. Do you use them? If not, you may want to consider employing them to infuse a new lease of enthusiasm among your sales team.
Make training a journey and not a single event
In the current scenario, deals are complex, sales cycles are longer, product lifecycles are shorter, and customers are more knowledgeable. So, a one-off training event where you give your sales reps an overview of your products, selling tips, and a docket of sales literature will not work. They need constant, on-going support every now and then, as per the business needs and changing market dynamics.
Therefore, you need to supplement one-off classroom training with online training or digital learning options. This will enable your sales team have access to knowledge anytime at their convenience. You can convert classroom training content into a digital format so that reps can visit them when they need to brush up on something. The best part is that, it is easy to update content periodically with changes in the product features, functionalities, or services offered.
You can encourage your reps to go online and access one of the learning resources every day, first thing in the morning. You can call this study time or learning time. It need not be long, just say 15 minutes before they hit the ground and get absorbed with the day’s activities.
Coach, not train
According to a report by Aberdeen, best-in-class companies move beyond generic training on products and focus on personalised training that addresses a particular deal or key account. According to the report quoted, about 50% of best-in-class organisations provide some form of real-time coaching for specific deals, opportunities, or accounts. Managers can pitch in and guide on a one-to-one basis.
(c) Aberdeen Group
Sales meetings need not always be about numbers. It is usually the reason why sales reps hate and dread sales meetings. The interaction can be used to understand on-the-field challenges and brainstorm for solutions. Instead of merely posing questions, you need to create a ‘sharing atmosphere’, where teams can exchange experiences and learn from each other. Where required, managers can accompany sales reps (especially in big ticket deals) to provide support and instant feedback. A manager who works along with the team is widely respected and surely earns the commitment of the team members.
A lot of sharing and learning takes place during annual sales meets. With online platforms it can become a regular practice instead of an annual opportunity. If you have a Learning Management System (LMS), you can have a collaborative platform - a space where managers, sales reps, and subject matter experts can meet virtually and share knowledge and ideas.
Provide job - aids that are easily accessible
You may have generic product training videos on the LMS or Internet portal; alongside those, you can have short modules that talk of the best practices for each activity in the sales cycle. This can be a short video, or an interactive microlearning module of less than 5-minute duration.
For example, if the first stage of the sales cycle is prospecting, sales reps will need to identify the right prospects, understand their needs and the value their products offer them. Your coaching at this stage can be in the form of examples, case studies, or how - to guides that distinguish a qualified lead from a cold one. Depending on where the sales reps are in the sales cycle, they can go to the appropriate resource and brush up their knowledge. They can also liaise with the manager online through the collaborative platform on the LMS.
Each customer is different and if sales reps share their experiences on the collaborative platform, they can be converted into scenarios or case studies that reps can refer to from time to time to get ideas on how to handle a difficult customer. In fact, it is a good idea to have a list of customer objections and a video that shows how these objections can be handled. Such videos can be powerful job-aids that serve a rep right at the time of need.
So, if your sales cycle consists of prospecting, seeking an appointment, qualifying, making a presentation, handling objections, closing and getting referrals, you can have short tips or reminders for each stage that sales reps can go through just before meeting a client. These are powerful job-aids that go a long way in enabling sales people.
Nurture sales support staff
Operations and administration staff support sales in various capacities. The way they support may differ from one company to the other but essentially, they work in the background – away from the limelight. The sales staff is pampered with off-sites and other incentive programs, but the support staff rarely gets any attention or glory. However, having dedicated people for support functions frees up the time of sales reps to focus on their core job. It also turns out to be cost-efficient for companies. They are an important piece in the sales jigsaw puzzle and cannot be overlooked or undermined.
A Harvard Business Review article suggests that it would be ideal to have 50%-60% of sales employees to support functions.The article also adds that one of the ways companies can maximise sales support is by automating some of the functions such as orders handling, invoicing, credit and receivables management. Once you have the infrastructure in place, you also need to ensure that the support staff is trained on using the new processes, systems, or software. They also require basic training on the products and updates on services being provided. So, never forget to include support staff in your sales training planning.
Share success stories
Sales success stories can be very helpful to the sales team for two reasons. One, it can motivate them to clinch the next deal. Two, it can also give ideas on how to clinch the next deal. But, what do you incorporate in these stories? Ideally, it should address the typical challenges that sales people face when selling , and provide insights on how those challenges are overcome. The more specific the techniques, the better. It could be insights about competitors’ products and a detailed analysis comparison that was used against features, benefits , and customer value. It could give an idea on what aspect finally appealed to the customer or which approach worked in that particular case.
Success stories offer ideas, tips, and tactics that can be adopted when the sales person is out in the field next. Hence, they should be shared freely at every opportune moment. You can share sales success stories during sales meetings, or sales huddles. They not only ease the otherwise tense atmosphere, but also bring in positivity. In fact, it could be a great way to end meetings. You can also create case studies out of them and publish them for internal use.
Most of these suggestions are not new but are often forgotten. So, if you see that your sales team is struggling to achieve their quotas, try adopting these sales training tactics. In all probability, you will see an improvement in sales.
By RK Prasad, Co-Founder and CEO, CommLab India, a 15-year global e-learning company. He is responsible for formulating business strategy and ensures that his organisation does 'not lose sight of the forest for the trees' by continually reminding the team of the 'big picture' and the true purpose and values of the organisation. Before his foray into the world of training and e-learning, RK was a sales professional selling wide range of products from electronic typewriters, fertilizers, computer peripherals as wella s much more.