by Dave Mattson, President & CEO, Sandler Training
Ask any great sales manager, and they will tell you: Training and development are the cornerstones of building an
exceptional sales team. They help salespeople continue to grow and become more effective. A manager wouldn’t simply hire a new member and leaving the fresh hire to their own devices. New employees need guidance to become proficient in a new position.
In fact, the same principle is still true for veteran employees. Without proper guidance along the career path, even an expert sales employee becomes rusty. Why does this happen? The sales industry constantly changes and evolves as prospects learn and alter tactics to deal with overzealous salespeople. Every salesperson needs to learn how to adapt these changes and continue to grow in their field of knowledge. Here are a few reasons why continuous training and development are the only way to survive the changing landscape of the sales industry.
1. Training Reinforces Your Selling System
If your company already has a solid selling system in place, training reinforces your methods. Test this by asking your sales team to write their sales process down and see if it matches. Over time, employees tend to adapt a selling system to fit their personal process. Some employees may even use shortcuts and skip essential steps they deem unnecessary. This harms your company if the bigger picture is not being completed. Employees may not notice the problems caused by people picking and choosing the parts of the sales system that work for them.
Put a stop to any misguided attempts to alter the system. Reinforcement training positions every employee on the same page when it comes to the company’s overall goals.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
To be truly good at something, you need to practice constantly. Whether your company uses scenario training with a partner system or asks managers to team up with an employee during training sales calls, repetitive practice ingrains the selling system and makes it second nature to your employees.
It is important not to get too caught up in your daily schedule and forget your training. Practicing talk tracks (answers to the top 10 objections, your company description, and a "30-second commercial" to introduce yourself) keeps the selling system fresh in your mind and allows you to run through scenarios without the stress of potential failure.
Sales team members that work on commission sometimes dread practicing, as it takes away from time they could spend on real sales. However, practice increases leads and sales opportunities, earning salespeople more commission in the long run. Instead of avoiding sales exercises, salespeople should desire the additional practice to increase their potential income.
3. Provides Pain Solutions
Successful salespeople rely on product knowledge, but without narrowing down your prospects, your knowledge can get you only so far. Understanding the prospect’s pain—the need for a solution to overcome a difficult issue in their business—is the key to finding proper leads and eventually closing sales.
Training and development reveal the proper techniques for identifying customer pain and discovering if your product can relieve that pain (which is where the need for product knowledge comes into play). Taking the right steps to reveal pain points prevents wasteful pursuit of cold leads, loss of valuable time, and missed sales opportunities.
4. Improves Active Listening Skills
Good training techniques improve active listening skills. What is the difference between active listening and what most people in sales do? Active listening probes into the pain areas to see how your product can solve client concerns.
When conversing with a potential customer, do not simply wait for your turn to speak. Pay attention and take notes on aspects of the conversation that need clarification. Conversation is a two-way street; trying to steer the conversation without taking into account a client’s pain is guaranteed to move you off course.
5. Stop Wasting Time: Pre-Qualify Prospects Earlier in the Sales Funnel
Training and development teach salespeople how to pre-qualify prospects early in the sales process. The best salespeople do not need to go through the entire sales funnel to find out if they have a legitimate shot at a sale.
Instead, well-trained salespeople recognize “red flags” early in the process that disqualify a potential client. Whether this flag notes budget restraints, lack of decision-making authority, or a lack of trust between business partners, a salesperson should stop the sales process as soon as the flag appears and move on. The sale is gone, and following through wastes time for everyone involved.
Good salespeople recognize that not every sale will close, and that is okay. The more important goal is to use your time and energy wisely by identifying the right prospects, and then build your strategy around their unique needs.
6. Develops Effective Communication Skills
Improve the communication skills of your sales team with training and development. Managers often think their team communicates well, but most people know how to communicate only with their “type” of person. These sales professionals develop relationships only when they can communicate with clients easily.
This tactic will not drive your team to victory. Your sales team needs to learn to mirror the body language, tone, and phrasing of each prospect to build a rapport and avoid communication issues that may impact efforts to reach sales goals. Training teaches you to communicate with all personality types, molding your team into a well-rounded, unstoppable sales force.
7. Creates a Measurable Process
Providing a repeatable, measurable process allows other members of the sales team to reproduce previous sales victories. Developing a process for your sales funnel prevents salespeople from just “winging it”. Going into a sales meeting without a plan rarely has a positive outcome. Your team is more likely to succeed if you create a plan backed with measurable results that the rest of your team can replicate.
Your sales process should be fully documented and structured so that onboarding new sales employees does not halt the sales funnel in your office. A seamless sales process is integral for driving sales and crafting a plan that every team member can reproduce.
8. Develops Administrative Skills
Although many sales professionals do not consider administrative skills a high priority, those skills separate the real sales experts from the rest of the crowd. Many people imagine sales as a non-stop process of meeting clients and closing deals, but tracking the sales process and analyzing sales data drives the success of those interactions.
Administrative skills necessary for building a great sales team include charting statistics and information, keeping clear and concise notes, and returning messages in a timely fashion. These skills seem pretty basic, but some salespeople still scribble Post-it notes and take a week to return calls. Failing to learn these simple administrative skills loses clients and creates confusion among sales team members.
While training and development involve significant company resources to implement, continual learning helps your team beat out the competition and gain more prospective leads. Get your team on track with supplemental training and see how reinforcement training turns salespeople into skilled sales experts.