5 Ways to Train Your Sales Team to be More Agile

train for agile sales teamSales has never been an easy job, but salespeople say it’s gotten more difficult recently.

The last few years have been filled with uncertainty: the economy slowed down in the last months of 2022, bringing with it inflation, hiring freezes, and supply chain problems. None of this has been easy on sales professionals—82% of reps say they’ve had to adapt to new ways of selling and 69% of sales reps say their job has gotten harder.

Despite the increasing difficulty of the job, however, sales departments need to keep selling and hitting quotas. In fact, organizations look to sales professionals even more in tough economic times to boost revenue. To be successful, sales organizations and individual reps need to adapt to new challenges quickly.

The sales industry has been disrupted

In the past three years sales has changed drastically. Remote work is now the norm for both sellers and buyers, and face-to-face meetings are now more rare. It’s looking like a permanent change; LinkedIn data shows that more than half of professional buyers love working remotely and aren’t planning to go back to the office.

Salespeople who thrive in face-to-face interactions have had to learn how to engage in hybrid and online selling. It’s been a struggle for some reps. A recent survey found that 80% of salespeople who responded, struggle with virtual meetings; they have a difficult time reading body language, gauging buyer engagement, and they feel they’re not sufficiently trained in remote selling.

Additionally, the sales technology stack is constantly changing. Sellers are learning new technology tools on the job. On its own, technology changes can be intimidating. Combine this with a new selling paradigm that prioritizes online sales, and tech changes can seem like an insurmountable burden, especially for salespeople who are used to wining and dining prospects in person.

How can you train salespeople to be agile?

Adaptability in the face of uncertainty is a critical skill when it comes to remaining profitable, but according to the Harvard Business Review, salespeople are traditionally slow to respond to change. They base their success on proven, repeatable activities, like the steps of the sales process.

Being able to adapt, however, is becoming a sought-after skill; a survey from LinkedIn found that 86% of sales managers say the ability to cope with change is more important in a rep now than it was five years ago. Managers may think they have to hire an adaptable salesforce, but agility, like other soft skills, can be trained.

  1. Coach teams to take risks and experiment
    Give your team permission to take risks. University of Florida marketing professor Barton Weitz, interviewed by Selling Power, emphasizes the role of leadership when it comes to fostering adaptability in sales: Managers who stress structure and short-term bottom line results often produce sales teams that play it safe, sticking to what has “always worked.”Weitz says sales managers should tolerate experimentation while encouraging salespeople to examine the results of sales calls. This will help reps become more creative and flexible.
  2. Teach reps to solve problems on their own
    Playbooks and scripts are important, especially for new reps, but when managers insist reps stick to the script, reps don’t get the chance to learn to solve problems on their own. Coaching is a valuable way to help salespeople develop critical thinking skills and adapt to new situations.“As a manager,” Weitz says, “when you walk out of a call with a salesperson don’t say, ‘This is what you should have done,’ and then give your opinion of what he or she did wrong. Instead ask, ‘What do you think went well? What can we do better next time? Does this remind you of any sales situations you’ve encountered before?’ Good salespeople think about these things and good managers get their salespeople to think that way.”
  3. Teach active listening and empathy
    Adaptability in sales often requires the ability to understand and respond to customers’ unique needs. Train your sales team in active listening techniques, emphasizing the importance of empathy. By truly understanding customers’ pain points and motivations, salespeople can adapt their pitches accordingly. Soft skills like active listening help your sales reps build relationships with prospects.
  4. Foster a growth mindset
    Which would you rather have: a team that looks at learning and thinks “let’s get this over with”, or a team that seeks out learning as part of their job. Probably the latter, right? By creating a culture of continuous learning, you encourage your sales reps to be curious, learn on their own, and share their new knowledge with peers. This culture helps reps to be more agile, and solve problems more quickly.
  5. Provide continuous enablement
    Training shouldn’t end with onboarding. It’s critical that salespeople be provided with continuous opportunities for development. Using sales training software can help. A sales training platform empowers reps to access training wherever they are, on whatever device they’re using. Acquiring new skills goes a long way towards helping salespeople adapt to changing market conditions.

Agility is the answer to turbulent times

Uncertain times often bring about rapid changes in the business environment, market conditions, and customer preferences. Being adaptable allows salespeople to embrace these changes and adjust their strategies and approaches accordingly.

Even in more stable periods, adaptability is key: being agile builds resilience in salespeople, allowing them to bounce back from setbacks, learn from failures, and change their approach when necessary.  It’s a benefit for your organization as well; an adaptable workforce means your company can stay ahead of the curve, no matter what is thrown at you.