This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management.
Getting quality talent in place is an excellent start, and utilizing ongoing sales training strategies gives your team the tools and resources to build a successful sales operation and helps ensure they fully understand their responsibilities. We identified the nine best practices for sales team training to help you foster a more collaborative environment, drive business growth, and make your sales team’s onboarding worthwhile.
1. Include Sales Team Training as Part of the Onboarding Process
A robust sales onboarding program makes new sales hires feel comfortable and confident, and acquaints them with your organizational mission and vision. It helps set the stage for success as your sales reps are given a good foundation to fulfill their duties. Your onboarding program should include sales training with an overview of the resources they need to do their job effectively, as well as where to go to find answers when they have questions.
Pro tip: To get your sales team up to speed in familiarizing themselves with your sales operations, consider developing a sales playbook. It can serve as a centralized sales guide to help reps expedite their training and streamline their day-to-day activity.
Next, use this checklist to make sure your sales onboarding plan includes the eight major components and their supporting activities. These components include:
2. Standardize Your Sales Team Training Process
Each team member should go through sales process training as a part of their orientation and periodically, as a refresher or when changes are made. The sales process involves the steps, strategies, and tactics your sales team uses to find, nurture, qualify, and convert leads into customers.
Having an easy-to-understand process is one thing—but sales training techniques also involve teaching every sales rep how to follow it to ensure everyone is doing it correctly. Standardizing sales process training also promotes transparency and ensures nothing falls through the cracks.
A few of the areas your sales process training should cover include:
- Customer profiles of ideal buyer types
- The stages of your sales funnel (where leads are in the sales process)
- The steps of your sales pipeline (activities used to move leads to the next stage)
- Lead generation tactics
- Methods used to schedule meetings with new prospects
- Methods for qualifying leads
- How you define the needs and pain points of prospects
- Sales strategies used to make offers, send business proposals, and close deals
- What happens after a deal is closed with a new customer (e.g., hand off to an account manager, client onboarding, delivery of goods or services, upselling/cross-selling recurring customers, and so on)
Pro tip: To learn more, check out our in-depth ultimate guide about business-to-business (B2B) sales to discover strategies for building relationships with prospects. It also lists software you can use to move them through the sales process.
3. Invest in Professional Development
It’s essential to provide continuing sales training and education that allows your team members to grow, learn new strategies, and develop into expert salespeople. The type of professional development needed depends on the products or services you sell, sales methodology, budget, skill gaps, and learning preferences of your team.
Even if you have a limited budget or only have a few sales reps, you can still provide high-quality free or low-cost online training courses. HubSpot Academy provides a wide range of free sales training for salespeople of all levels and roles. These online courses include videos, e-books, sales templates, and sales certifications you can put on your LinkedIn page or resume.
When budget is not as much of a factor and you have a growing team of sales reps who thrive on networking and in-person learning, sending them to high-quality sales conferences is an excellent investment. A few examples of professional development opportunities that could be part of your sales training techniques include:
- E-learning opportunities
- Sales or industry conferences
- In-person or on-premise professional training programs
- Mentorship programs
- Corporate training programs
Pro tip: Learn more about the best sales training programs in our guide about the 17 best sales training programs for small businesses.
4. Tailor Sales Training to Each Sales Role
When your team includes various sales roles, it’s critical to train your team with strategies that directly relate to their key responsibilities. For example, sales reps responsible for making cold calls need training on how to get past a gatekeeper, overcome objections, handle rejection, and develop soft sales skills. On the other hand, agents responsible for managing lead nurturing email and text marketing campaigns may not.
To tailor sales training successfully, clearly define the individual sales roles of your team and develop training based on the key responsibilities of each one. For instance, account executives need to know how to deliver an effective sales pitch and close deals. On the other hand, account managers should be skilled in handling onboarding issues and finding opportunities to upsell and cross-sell your other products and services.
Pro tip: Read our guide on the difference between an account executive and an account manager so that you can effectively build the appropriate sales training for each position.
Some of the different sales roles to consider tailoring sales training for include:
- Sales development representatives (SDR): These team members are responsible for cultivating leads with phone sales calls and emails, then sending interested leads to an account executive for a demo or in-person meeting.
- Account executives: Account executives take the qualified leads from SDRs and use product demos, sales pitches, and sales presentations to turn prospects into new customers.
- Account managers: After a deal is closed, account managers take over and help the new customer implement your products and services as part of client onboarding. They also handle upselling or cross-selling new solutions as they work with customers over time as part of an overall customer retention strategy.
- Sales managers: A sales management role is key for keeping the entire sales team on track. Sales managers coach team members to help improve performance, delegate tasks, and deliver reports to C-level executives.
- Marketing managers: While marketing is often a separate department, the two departments work together closely. Providing sales training to marketing team members helps them understand the sales process and how marketing and sales can work together for better results.
5. Foster a Robust Understanding of Your Ideal Customer
Training a sales team includes a thorough review of your business’ target audiences and ideal prospects (ideal buyer types or ideal customers). This helps sales reps understand the typical pain points and common objections they will encounter to create a compelling case for customers to buy your products and services.
An excellent way to help your sales team learn about your ideal customers is to create a customer profile. This outlines your target customers’ needs by understanding their demographics, interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes, behavior, and background. Train sales reps on how to create customer profiles by talking through each section and creating a sample profile. Then explain how they should use customer profiles based on the responsibilities of their individual sales role.
6. Leverage High-performing Reps in Sales Training
Leverage the experience and knowledge of high-performing sales team members to train new reps. Use strategies like role-playing and shadowing as part of your training program. While many people find role-playing exercises intimidating, it is a particularly helpful learning strategy. It allows your team to practice real-world situations they are likely to encounter, and enables managers to evaluate a rep’s strengths and opportunities for improvement.
Using high-performers as sales training coaches is a training exercise in itself. It hones their coaching skills and prepares them for sales leadership roles.
For example, if one of your senior account executives thrives in mentoring and training new hires, promoting them to a sales manager might be the best way to utilize their skills. It can be easy to miss the potential of leaders in your company if they aren’t given the opportunity to shine—and mentorship is an excellent way to let your employees practice leadership skills.
7. Provide Training on Sales Tools & Software
Even the most talented and experienced salespeople aren’t likely to succeed if they don’t know how to use the sales software and other tools your team relies on. Part of new hire sales training should include detailed demonstrations on how to use the software that will help them do their job well.
Examples of software many sales organizations use include:
- A customer relationship management (CRM) platform to manage prospects, opportunities, and deals, such as Freshsales
- Scheduling software to streamline managing meetings with calendar integrations, like Calendly
- Video conferencing tools for internal meetings and remote meetings with prospects and customers, such as Zoom
- Task management tools that help keep everyone on track, such as Trello
- Team collaboration software for project management and communication, like Slack
Furthermore, many sales software tools offer training to get new team members up to speed and help experienced users learn new features and tools. Take advantage of webinars, knowledge bases, and video tutorials for the software you use. For example, Pipedrive offers a program called Pipedrive Academy with webinars designed specifically for new and advanced users.
8. Enrich Sales Training With Incentives
Fostering friendly competition in your sales training program sets the stage for high performance and is an effective sales training tip. For example, you could give rewards for completing training modules or reaching milestones in the training program. Plus, you don’t have to have an extravagant budget to provide productive incentives.
Incentivized sales training can be developed for the whole department, teams, and individual reps, and include incremental or period-ending rewards like:
- Awards and recognition
- Gift cards to favorite restaurants or stores
- Extra paid time off
- Flexible work hours
- Promotions or title changes
- Bonuses for reaching “stretch” goals or exceeding targets
Learn more about the most effective types of sales contests that motivate sales teams (and how to track them effectively) in our article about 11 sales contest ideas.
9. Conduct Regular Performance Assessments
Sales training doesn’t end after sales rep onboarding and orientation are complete. It should be a dynamic, continual process, with benchmarks measured over time to find opportunities for sales performance improvement and to see where team members thrive. Regular performance assessments are an excellent sales training tactic because they help you evaluate the effectiveness of completed sales training to learn where additional investments need to be made.
Constantly assess each rep’s performance on a schedule based on your business’ sales process and cycle length, employee turnover, and skill gap assessments. This gives you the opportunity to tailor a training plan for each individual.
For example, you might find one of your business development reps has a hard time getting past gatekeepers to talk with decision-makers. In that case, you can find specific training to help them improve their calling technique and gain confidence. When you re-evaluate their performance, you should see a noticeable improvement.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When should sales team training take place?
Sales orientation training for new hires usually takes place over the first 90 days of employment to get them up to speed and equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to do their jobs. Make ongoing sales training part of your sales culture, so your team becomes more skilled and confident over time. You may also need to conduct sales training when making major changes, such as adopting a new CRM or revising your sales funnel and pipeline stages.
Is it better to use in-house or external (third-party) sales team training programs?
Both types of training offer advantages, and ideally, your sales training program will use them in combination. In-house training is often less expensive, yet can still be highly effective, especially since it can be finely tailored to your business, brand, team, and tools. Going outside for sales training also has advantages, such as access to in-depth expertise, training materials, networking, and getting team members off-site so they can focus on skill development.
What are the risks of not having a well-thought-out sales team training program?
Without a meaningful sales team training program, you risk having team members who don’t have the skills and knowledge to do their best work. It also makes it far more difficult to attract top performers and efficiently onboard new sales reps. Furthermore, struggling team members will lack confidence and motivation, which leads to employee turnover and inhibits your business’ ability to meet its revenue and sales goals.
Sales team training should be an integral part of every sales-oriented business. Developing intentional strategies for training new hires and providing ongoing training for every sales role empowers your entire sales team to perform their best, close more deals, and stay motivated.