Every business should have it’s own customised sales training program that is in sync with their sales process. There are two parts to think of here, while designing a training program that works. One is to structure it in a way that incorporates best practices and steps for sales training.
The second part is to help your new sales representatives understand your business – what it stands for, the brand, the technologies you use, your products / services and business solutions, and above all – your customers.
So I’m going to divide this guide on how to train your new sales team into two sections. First we’ll take a look at how to design an effective sales training program, and then how to help your new sales reps understand your business and customers.
How to Design an Effective Sales Training Program
Here’s a situation that is fairly common – As an SME or startup, you hire new sales reps and tell them to go through your sales playbook or website and other literature / brochures that you have. Then you sit down with them for a session to explain your sales process and pitch, and then send them out into the field to learn with a senior sales executive or manager who has maybe a few years of experience at this job. After a week of attending sales calls with a senior, the training is officially over and you expect the new sales reps to start doing their job.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work out so well. Your new team members have to go through a terrible time for a few months while they learn how to succeed at sales. A huge number of new hires are not able to cope with the pressure and quit before they learn. You can reduce this high turnover rate by providing proper training.
Step 1: Objectives – List the objectives of your training program. This may include preparing new sales reps to start their jobs, teach them to use sales enablement tools, and impart knowledge about the company, products and industry / competition.
Step 2: Selling Skills – This is the part where you impart training on core sales techniques. It may include everything from prospecting to preparing before a call, how to get meetings with decision makers, the sales pitch, getting past common objections, pricing negotiations, closing the deal, scheduling follow-ups, and account management.
Step 3: Technology Training – Sales automation can take the load off your new reps, if they know how to make use of the tools you are providing them. Teach them how to work with your marketing department, use the CRM or other lead management tools to get qualified leads and all the information that can help them impress customers and close the deal.
Sales Training About Your Company, Product and Customers
So your new sales representative now knows how to sell. But they still don’t know what they’re selling, and to whom. Also, they don’t understand the industry and the competition. This brings us to the next stage of the sales training, where you help your new people understand your company, products, market and your customers.
Step 4: Company Knowledge – Sales reps need to know what your company stands for – the vision, mission statement, and everything else that customers may want to know before they buy. Knowing all this also helps your sales team focus on the right leads who are suitable customers for the company.
Step 5: Product Knowledge -A sales rep’s expertise in explaining the product features and usage is one of the key deciding factors that helps close the sale. If a new sales rep is not sure about how to use a product and/or how it’s going to help a customer, then the chances of the customer buying it are very slim.
Whirlpool’s training program is a very good example. They make new sales staff stay in a house filled with Whirlpool appliances. The staff is forced to use these appliances, and engineers are on hand to explain the technology. After two weeks of literally living with the products they will be selling, the new sales staff become experts and are able to explain to customers all the features of Whirlpool appliances.
This kind of hands-on product training is more expensive than classroom training, but it’s highly effective.
Step 6: Industry and Competitor Knowledge – Knowing the industry and your competitors is one of the key factors that helps sales reps close a sale. Customers will typically talk to multiple sellers, and they will tell you what the other guy has offered. You won’t be able to close the sale unless you explain how your offer is better. So the sales training has to provide industry knowledge as well as tips and ideas to help your sales reps position your company and product as the best in the industry and superior to the competition.
Step 7: Customer Knowledge – Your new sales team knows your company, the market and the product they are selling, but they also need to understand your customers. That’s because customers don’t buy products. They pay for solutions for their needs and problems. So your sales staff needs to know what need your product fulfills, and who has this need or problem. Once your sales team understands this, they will no longer be salesmen. Instead, they become solution providers helping your customers.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that nobody is a born salesman. They are made – either in the field by learning from their mistakes, or through extensive training programs like the one described above. Create this 7-step sales training program, and you will find out very quickly which of your new sales reps are good, because they will be the ones who suddenly start outperforming the rest.