It may be argued (or mythologized) that the best salespeople in the world are stereotypically ambitious, self-starters who will sell, sell, sell no matter what. However, the research and real-world outcomes show that most salespeople, in fact, benefit substantially from ongoing training. It keeps them not only abreast of the latest product information, but also tuned into other important knowledge such as marketplace / industry trends, selling techniques, and company culture and messaging.
Sales leadership is certainly cognizant of these benefits, as they continue to invest heartily in training. In 2017, the global market for sales training was estimated to be approximately $2.54B (USD). Interestingly, other research shows that sales training often represents the largest portion of total corporate training expenditures.
Why Place Such Value in Sales Training?
The end goals and the logical outcomes of sales training, of course, are improved skill sets and broader knowledge that enable sellers to perform more effectively (i.e. sell more, close faster, build accurate pipeline, prospect efficiently, etc.). In other words, grooming better salespeople translates into generating higher revenues. That’s enough to inspire any company to figure out ways to systematically hone their sales team’s tools.
Like any training initiative, however, it’s not a one-and-done scenario that ends after onboarding. Given the pace of change, both in business practices and in technology, sales training needs to be an ongoing endeavor. This applies whether someone is brand new to the sales game or has been at it for twenty years. Indeed, in today’s corporate climate, it’s just as important to transform young talent into refined, quota-crushing weapons as it is to elevate seasoned pros to fresh-minded masters of modern selling.
How Do You Do It?
First of all, do it online. Statistics show that online training was used as the primary delivery mechanism for sales training 91 percent of the time in 2017 (a strong increase even from the 80 percent reported in 2016).
Online is already the gold standard for several reasons, the leading one being that going off task (e.g. out of office / out of field / off of phone) has a much bigger impact on revenues in sales than in other job functions.
This is also why mobile is a must and why micro-learning, hopefully cooked into the CRM or wherever else the sales person spends most of her day-to-day time, is an essential ingredient for sales training. Delivering training without disrupting the flow of business is especially critical for sales professionals, who need to be readily available to take that next call or react immediately to a prospect’s questions, lest lose to a competitor who gets there first.
How Does a Culture of Learning Affect Sales?
Sometimes salespeople are portrayed as lonewolves out hunting in the wild. But that’s a too narrow and oft-unfitting image because the majority of salespeople are “people people.” They love to interact and want to be part of a team.
So, when salespeople are supported by leadership that encourages the expansion of skills and knowledge, they’re more likely to enter training with a positive attitude and higher engagement from the get-go. In other words, companies with a culture of learning will see better results, particularly in sales, because they’re typically gungho folks who rally behind company causes and bring a ton of energy to the table.
To drive even greater outcomes, make sure that the curriculum can be immediately applied in the real world. To put it in L&D terms, make the content fresh, relevant, and tailored to the person’s particular role and goals.
As stated by Training Industry:
“Companies with an effective sales training program tend to have learners who enter a training session with confidence in their ability to learn and who are able to apply the new knowledge and skills to their on-the-job behavior.“
Further, in a culture of learning, sales managers should receive additional leadership training that empowers them to set the tone and serve as examples of why continuous learning contributes to success -- both in hitting numbers and in advancing one’s career. Stressing the importance and value of training, managers can contribute to the culture of learning from Day One. From the first onboarding courses to regular knowledge transfer in active deals, well-trained leaders are key to enhancing individual productivity as well as accelerating organizational goals.
“Firms now recognize that enhancing a sales manager's working knowledge through training can be a source of a firm's competitive advantage. Indeed, there is evidence that employee intellectual capital constitutes up to 75 percent of a firm's total balance sheet (Powers, DeCarlo, & Gupte).”
What about the LMS?
There are countless ways to create and support awesome sales training with Litmos, but some of our favorites at the moment are gamification, video assessments, and taking a more progressive approach to content.
Let’s take a look at each of these cool capabilities:
- Gamification: Salespeople are competitive! To be stereotypical, they enjoy status more than the average bear, so incorporate gamification into your LMS to pit these lovers of competition against each other. You can keep it good, clean fun without monetary reward or you can offer bonuses or other material incentives for those at the top of the leaderboard. Beyond the increased engagement, gamification also adds to personal job satisfaction and the security of being a valued member of the team.
- Video Assessments: Most salespeople don’t shy away from the limelight, which is why Video Assessments are a fantastic tool to improve sales performance. Whether you require them to record their elevator pitch or their full product demo, managers can assess their delivery and provide coaching and/or assign additional courses to improve outcomes. Watching one’s own delivery is also a highly useful tool for deepening self-awareness, streamlining communication, and reducing distracting, extraneous verbal or physical habits.
- Progressive Content: It goes without saying that your sales training will focus on functional skills like prospecting, proposal creation, negotiation, and deal closing, but today’s salespeople need access to an even bigger toolbox to get the job done. Leading companies place increasing value on EQ or so-called “soft skills” such as collaboration, communication, relationship building, empathy, active listening, and the like. Everyone could use improvement in these areas, but who more so than salespeople?!? Their jobs revolve around dealing (pun intended) with other people! As I recently cited in another post: "The link between EQ and organizational performance can be drawn from a number of performance variables. EQ scores can quickly be correlated with customer service, sales, productivity, retention, employee satisfaction..." So, by all means, provide the type of progressive content that will strengthen these essential skills and drive your sales numbers through the roof!