At many firms, sales is arguably the most critical team. Companies generate revenue thanks in large part to the sales team. Sales teams also manage clients and get a feel for the market.
Despite the importance of the sales team, very few companies invest in training. This is tragic, especially since there are very affordable training approaches available that can significantly boost any sales team’s skills and morale.
A survey on the state of sales training was done among 266 people in sales teams across five major industries. More than half of those interviewed reported that sales training in their respective firms was somewhat useful. Meanwhile, about 12% were unsure and 14% said it was either ineffective or very ineffective.
Here are three approaches that can significantly improve the quality of the training and boost your sales team’s overall performance.
1. Ensure content sharing
No matter how strong your internal curriculum is, it will never be able to capture all the trends and dynamics available for training. That’s why you need a content-sharing platform where the sales team members can benchmark against each other. Such platforms could be a group on social media or a unique platform designed by your IT team. The platform should be free of judgment and should be structured to nurture constant interactions.
The system should include basic guidelines on how content is disseminated and shared. Codified means of sharing new tactics and skills learned in the field to deal with clients is crucial. Such a platform enables you to pick two to three ideas that can be implemented and tested every week so their results can be reported back to the group.
2. Analytics and reporting
What can’t be measured can’t be improved. This mantra cuts squarely into how the sales training works. Make sure you have the best metrics possible for measuring whether the team has understood the concepts you’re teaching. This should happen before a particular idea is tested in the field, and the best way to do this is through internal beta testing.
Google does this very effectively, testing services and items among their own staffers. The analytics should test the receptivity and applicability of ideas and consider how well the team is equipped to carry them out. It should be able to stimulate real-world market conditions and sales situations. If you can’t measure the impact of your training based on set metrics and analytics, you won’t be able to figure out how well the training is improving your sales team’s skills.
3. Reward the big players, cut the tail
When it comes to training, it’s best to invest in your top 5%, or even up to your top 20%, sales agents. Create a system in which those who move ahead are rewarded with even greater learning opportunities and compensation. This will ensure that your most gifted employees receive rewards commensurate with their effort and ingenuity. This approach will also ensure that your top performers receive even better training and specialized skills that will further boost their performance.
The Pareto principle stipulates that you should focus 80% of your efforts into the 20 most critical aspects of your goals. One thing you must do is ensure that the system provides a way for everyone to optimize their strengths. Not all sales agents have the same strengths, and a biased system might favor certain talents over others and discourage otherwise great performers.
New sales training strategies and programs come up every day, many of which can be accessed through eLearning company portals. Regularly peruse the sites of major firms and schools that offer the most effective sales training programs in the market. Identify the lessons that are most relevant to your industry and line of business and test them. Finally, preserve and constantly improve upon the most successful ones.
For more insight on training and employee engagement, see How Successful Managers Keep Their Employees Happy.