Corporate sales training programs improve sales skills of business-to-business (B2B) sales professionals whether you create your own program or hire training providers. The route you take depends on your budget, resources, and time. However, an effective program covers selling in complex sales cycles, focusing on skills like prospecting and can cost thousands of dollars.
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Here are the six steps to follow when selecting or creating a sales training program.
1. Identify Your Problem or Aspiration
When choosing or creating a corporate sales training program, the first thing you or your sales management team want to do is to identify the problem you want to solve or the aspirations you want your team to achieve. For instance, a problem you may want to solve with training could be the number of new leads your team generates. Alternatively, an aspiration could be increasing your team’s closing percentage from 85% to 97%. Doing this allows you to focus your training program on the specific results you want.
Below are problems and aspirations that sales training programs address.
Common B2B Sales Problems
- Not enough new leads in the pipeline
- Not enough sales or closed deals
- Dollar value of sales too low (leaving money on the table)
- Losing too many deals at certain stages within the pipeline
- Closing unprofitable deals
Common B2B Sales Aspirations
- Increasing close percentage
- Decreasing sales cycle length of time
- Growing the number of referrals
- Increasing number and value of deals in the pipeline
- Increasing productivity
- Maximizing deal profitability
- Expanding the number of products and product category purchases
The reports in your customer relationship management (CRM) platform are ideal for identifying problems or aspirations you want to be the focal point of your B2B sales training. For example, a CRM like Salesforce Essentials has a variety of reports that can show you what problem areas you have or what areas you’re doing well in that can be improved. It also allows you to see metrics like conversion rates, revenue in the pipeline, and lead source allowing you to identify areas of focus.
2. Consider Your Desired Outcome
Once you’ve identified your problems or aspirations, consider your desired outcome. Ask yourself what you want to come from your corporate sales training program. With your list of problems and aspirations in hand, ask yourself what you want to see after your sales team goes through your training program. The more specific you are, the better equipped you’ll be to design or choose a B2B sales training program that will yield your desired outcomes.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help identify your true desired outcomes:
- What is the result that I see with my sales team?
- What specific transformations do I see my team making?
- Is there new knowledge I want my sales team to have? If so, what is it?
- Are there new behaviors I see the team engaging in? If yes, which ones?
- Which old behaviors do I see them getting rid of?
- Am I looking for a specific return on investment (ROI)? If so, by how much?
- How do I plan to measure and track training effectiveness?
Answering these questions helps to consider the desired outcome you want. They help you identify things like the specific changes in behavior you want to see in your team, the specific number of sales and the types and quality of sales. Additionally, they help you define what your corporate sales training program will focus on.
3. Research Providers Specializing in Your Problem or Aspiration
After you’ve identified your aspiration or problem, and you’ve determined the specific outcome, begin researching providers, including internal options. Look for providers that offer training specific to the problem you face and the outcome you desire. For instance, if you’d like to address having too few leads from prospecting efforts, find providers that specialize in and have proven results in B2B prospecting training or look to your own internal prospecting pros.
Here are a few ways to research corporate sales training providers.
Start With Search Engine Research
A terrific place to begin researching B2B sales training providers is by typing keywords into a search engine. Start with a broad search like corporate sales training if you aren’t familiar with any providers. Look at what comes up and see if they cover training specific to your needs. You then want to narrow your search to those specializing in your specific problem or aspiration by adding your problem or aspiration to your keywords.
Do a Search on Retail Sites
Look for books or DVDs available for purchase that cover your problem or aspiration. These can be used to supplement the materials you create for your sales team in-house. However, this can also help you find an expert to hire as the authors of these materials often also host training services, either independently or as part of a larger organization.
Look for Providers on LinkedIn
If you search on LinkedIn, you’ll find business pages and professional profiles of sales training organizations and their leaders. Look on these profiles and pages to see if they highlight training programs that they provide in your areas of interest by typing sales training keywords into the search bar. Also, find LinkedIn Groups for sales professionals. Join them and see if any providers come up frequently in corporate sales training areas you’re interested in.
Get Referrals & Recommendations
An effective way to find potential training providers is to get referrals or recommendations. Ask veteran sales representatives who they’ve trained with or if they know of companies you can call with strong training programs. You can also ask colleagues with similar roles who they’ve had success with. LinkedIn groups are another excellent source of referrals or recommendations.
Evaluate Internal Training Options
After making a list of possible training providers, evaluate internal subject matter experts and consider the pros and cons of handling the training yourself with colleagues in your organization vs partnering with an external training provider. The positives of doing it yourself include the familiarity of the problem or aspiration, lower costs, first-hand knowledge of sales culture. Some of the negatives include lack of expertise and limited resources to implement quickly.
Even if you’re not sure at this point if you want to partner with a training provider or create your own program, look for credible external training programs that have experience in leading sales teams to the results you’re looking for. Looking at the specifics of what these providers offer can give you ideas on how to create your own program. They can provide valuable insights as to the elements you need to include in your training and the results you should focus on and expect.
4. Prioritize & Refine Your List of Options
Once you’ve gathered a list of possible providers from your research, prioritize and narrow your list to the top three to five you think will help you achieve your desired outcome. When deciding how to rank all the providers, create a list of criteria that are most important to you. Some elements that could be important to you include how specific or customized the training is, costs, time and logistics, and success stories. The three to five that are most compelling should be on your list.
You should also create a list of internal sources that could assist you in creating your own training program. For instance, if one of your problems is that your sales team isn’t well versed in your warranty product, and you want to increase your warranty sales, identify subject matter experts in your organization who could train your team on warranties. Always remember to leverage the expertise of internal subject matter experts.
5. Request or Gather Additional Information
After creating a short list of possible corporate sales training providers, which includes doing it yourself with internal subject matter experts, decide on the best type of training for your sales team by gathering additional information and insights. The best way to make this decision is to weigh the pros and cons of using internal resources to create your own B2B sales training program and to consider the value of working with a corporate sales training provider.
Here are some ways to gather additional details to help you decide on the best type of training.
Issue an RFP to External Training Providers
After considering the pros and cons of internal training you’ve decided it’s worth it to explore working with an external partner, you’ll need to gather more detailed information from your short list of potential providers. This should be done in the form of a request for proposal (RFP) so that you evaluate each provider fairly against predetermined measures of success. If you need assistance with writing an RFP, check out our article on how to create an RFP.
Gather Information From Internal Subject Matter Experts
If you’ve decided to conduct your own training, gather information from internal subject matter experts. Do this by conducting informational interviews or by sending questionnaires. Regardless of the approach, be sure to outline criteria that will help you assess whether or not your internal resources are capable of carrying out or assisting you with carrying out your training program according to your predetermined measure of success.
Create Rating Scales for RFPs & Internal Information Gathered
In addition to using tools and methods like RFPs and questionnaires to gather the information that will help you decide on the best training option, you’ll need to create rating scales to help you evaluate responses. Ratings help you select the best options according to your predetermined criteria which should reflect the problem you aim to solve or the aspiration you wish to achieve. Using a rating system helps keep your selection unbiased.
6. Evaluate Responses & Select the Best Option for You
After you’ve gathered information from your RFPs and/or from your internal subject matter experts, you’ll need to evaluate those responses and select the best training options for your sales team. To do this, you need to use your rating scale to help you evaluate and give points to each provider you’re considering for training. This rating scale should result in more points or higher ratings for the provider that most closely matches your training need.
While cost matters, consider each provider’s value. For instance, you might be trying to get your sales team to generate more leads through effective prospecting. Hiring external providers cost more than leveraging in house experts. However, a provider who has experience in training B2B sales reps on how to get more prospects might still get a higher rating than other options that can only teach a broader course on B2B sales.
Once you’ve rated all of the providers, you are in a position to pick the right one for you. The beneficial thing about having a rating system to help you select the best provider is it shows your colleagues or business owners your selection was based on specific qualifications, which can help secure buy-in and help you achieve your training goal.
Types of Corporate Sales Training Programs
There are two main types or categories of corporate sales training programs. These include internal sales training where you can conduct the training yourself with the assistance of internal subject matter experts and external sales training where you partner with an external B2B sales training provider to conduct the training for you.
Below are more details on both internal and external sales training programs.
Internal Sales Training Programs
An internal sales training program is developed and administered by in-house subject matter experts. This means you or your existing staff create training content, design the program and even deliver the training. Some of these subject matter experts and other resources include product managers, sales trainers, and creative agencies or team members.
External Sales Training Programs
The external sales training program category is where you outsource a portion of your training program or rely on a third party to do it all for you. You work with them to discuss your problem or aspiration and establish the desired outcome for your training. You’ll need to provide them with direction and approve the program they create, or you’ll need to select an existing program that closely matches your needs. Either way, they create and deliver your course.
Sales Training Formats
Within both categories of sales training are different delivery mechanisms. Corporate sales training programs can come in a variety of formats including online on-demand, live online, and in-person. Other types of delivery include books, podcasts, YouTube and other videos, and classes and workshops. Many training programs include using a mixture of many of these formats to help with the retention of information.
Below is an expanded definition of each B2B sales training format:
- Online ― on-demand: This is where there is a premade video or audio that you can access to watch, and this will serve as your training.
- Online ― live: In this format, you are meeting with your trainer and possibly other people in the course via video, phone, and more.
- In-person: This format is where you either go to a location for training or a trainer comes to you for training. It could be a public program open to anyone who signs up or only to people in your company.
- Books and other formats: This of training comes in the form of a book, CD, podcast, and similar formats. You can either buy them on your own or get them for free online and give these to your sales team.
These are the two categories and four main types of training. The type and category that’s right for you depend on your goals and your team. For instance, if you want a higher level of trainer-trainee interaction and customization because you’re trying to get your team to make better cold calls, a live in-person training could be your best option. If you want your team to remember key cold calling concepts, weekly live online coaching may be a great supplement.
B2B Sales Training Costs
Costs involved in B2B sales training vary based on provider if you’re looking at external solutions and time and opportunity costs if you’re looking at internal do-it-yourself (DIY) training. Cost considerations include the level of customization, topic, length of time and a variety of other costs. Also, it is important to note that costs are not just monetary, but also cost you time and use of resources.
Below are some examples of B2B sales training costs:
- Monetary: Costs for external B2B sales training average about $1,500 per person but can be as low as a couple of hundred dollars to as high as several thousand. Costs for internal training are usually much lower but usually have higher time and resource costs.
- Time: For the most comprehensive training, expect to spend at least a half-day to a full day in training. For DIY trainings, expect to spend this plus additional time preparing, launching, and delivering training than if you were using a third party.
- Effort: The amount of effort is another cost of training. Good training programs require a lot of long-term and short-term effort and this effort could be time spent doing something else. The cost is the effort that could have been used to generate sales as opposed to doing training.
- Opportunity costs: These costs include what you could have been doing or what you could have invested your money in instead of going to B2B sales training.
Costs involved in sales training are more than just monetary. Other real costs include monetary, time, effort, and opportunity. These costs should be considered before paying for an expensive training program.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much time should I allocate for training?
This depends on the amount of time you have and if you decide you want them to take time for post-training activities where they put the tools they’ve learned to good use.
How do I choose between training formats?
Training can be offered in one-on-one sessions, as a group, off-site, or through a series of webinars. The format you choose depends on what you’re trying to get out of the training and if you need any customization or at least the ability to ask questions.
How much money should I plan to pay for training?
The amount you pay for training depends on your budget and the dollar value of the new skills you plan to have your sales team adopt as a result of the training. If you expect to get a positive ROI, you should expect to invest at least a moderate dollar amount for training.
B2B sales training programs help sales professionals build a variety of skills to improve customer relationships and make sales. They focus on B2B topics like cold calling, prospecting, and communications throughout the sales cycle. The main benefit includes solving a sales problem or reaching the desired aspiration. Other benefits include strengthening key skills that are crucial during long sales processes.
A CRM can help you implement the skills you’ve learned in B2B sales training. For instance, you can make sure you’re engaging in effective conversations by logging calls and notes in Salesforce Essentials to refer to in the future. You can also track the number of completed sales activities in your pipeline. To give it a try, sign-up for a free trial.