Selling is hard. Training shouldn’t make it harder.

selling is hard - use effective training to make it easier

Selling is hard. There, I’ve said it. Sales reps and sales managers have difficult jobs and it takes a special kind of person to be willing to go into a sales career whether it be B2B or B2C selling. It’s even more special to be good at it! Sales reps need to be knowledgeable of the selling process, the customer’s buying preferences, their products, and their company’s systems and tools. This is all on top of basic selling skills, business acumen, and effective communication.

Considering all that’s required of salespeople, they need extensive and continuous training. I’ve spent about 20 years in high-tech sales, sales management, and marketing. From my experience, the number-one thing salespeople have always needed (now more than ever) is training.

Unfortunately, the number-one thing reps never have time for is – you guessed it – training. It’s not that salespeople don’t want to learn. In fact, good sales reps are constantly learning. It’s all about the how – how we’re enabling sales teams to learn. After all, knowledgeable sales reps will sell more, so we need to make training easier, more accessible, faster and more efficient, if not downright enjoyable!

We’re not helping salespeople win.

Some say selling has changed from “the old days” but I would argue it isn’t selling that’s changed. Rather, the processes and tools that sales reps use hasn’t kept pace with customers’ access to information.

As a result, many organizations today still send new sales reps to a central location for a “boot camp” (i.e., onboarding) and expect the reps to be fully equipped from there. Maybe they’ll receive some follow-up with periodic sales training on a product(s) and a little bit of skills training. But, this type of sporadic training doesn’t bode well for retention, compared with continuous learning.

Reps will retain more when they have varied methods of training and a good balance of self-paced courses and “in person” training. But most importantly, sales training is not one-size-fits-all. Your newbie reps have different needs than successful, tenured reps, who likely need different learning paths than middle-of-the-road reps who may be struggling.

Why is personalized training so important?

Even with limitless access to information online, customers still expect sales reps to be more knowledgeable than they are. Customers demand prompt and quality response times and service. It’s well documented that the quality of customer experiences directly affects the bottom line regardless of your type of business. In fact, CX leaders show an annual growth rate of 17 percent, compared with a mere three percent for the CX laggards.

In today’s social media-obsessed culture, this gets really scary for the laggards. What was once word of mouth – one to a few – is now one to many. And, unhappy customers are more likely to spread the word of a bad experience than a good one!

I was recently looking up reviews on a local franchise store, where I wanted to shop, and saw a pretty scathing comment:

Worst customer experience I’ve had in a while. Love their merchandise but their staff needs improvement when it comes to sales. I stood in line waiting to purchase some items today, credit card in hand waiting patiently. Only one sales lady asked if I needed help while 3 others floated by. So I just left and decided to buy those items somewhere else. Service is what makes the sale or not! Their DM really needs to retrain their staff or hire a new team. Spend your dollars elsewhere if you can help it.”

Sadly, this wasn’t the only review that called out the quality of the store’s sales staff and specifically, the need for training. And guess what? This location with an average of 2.5 stars has since closed. Not surprising.

Is it time to refresh your sales training approach?

sales training challenges white paperOur latest whitepaper, The Six Biggest Sales Challenges and How Training Can Solve Them, goes into a lot more detail on this, so please download it, if you’re in sales leadership or sales enablement. It may spark some ideas on how you could improve your sales training program.

Here are some of the biggest challenges we see and hear from companies across industries:

Sales rep onboarding takes forever.
Depending on what your company sells, it can take three to six months before your rep is productive. When was the last time your company revised your onboarding process? If it wasn’t in recent memory, it may be time to revisit.

Most reps are not hitting quota (and not making the money they want)!
Ramped quotas are great for the sales rep’s attainment numbers during that time, but not so much for the manager or company trying to hit targets.

They’re expensive to replace when they leave (and they’re likely leaving because they’re not hitting quota).
Do you know what the cost is to your organization when you lose a sales rep? Do you know what it is if you hire a bad rep? It’s scary.

Reps won’t take training (like, they really kind of hate it).
How often is your content updated? What are the different delivery methods? Do sales reps have access to self-paced training on your products and general selling skills courses?

Sales reps have different needs in order to be empowered to sell.
A sales manager’s team is typically mixed with new hires, reps that have been around a while, and reps that are struggling. Make sure their coaching and learning programs are personalized to their individual needs.

Reps are expected to deliver 5-star experiences but don’t receive CX training.
This is a head-scratcher, now that we’ve entered the Experience Economy. Reps should not have to guess what the company’s CX promise is. They need to be trained to deliver it. And, the really good news is that everyone wins. Your customers have a great experience; reps make more money; and the company earns loyal advocates in both the customers and the employees. 

These are ALL solvable problems with the right training program and platform in place. For further insights, I’d again encourage you to go grab our latest paper, The Six Biggest Sales Challenges and How Training Can Solve Them.