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Do You Train Salespeople the Right Way? Check These 10 Tips

Bartosz Majewski in

Blog/Do You Train Salespeople the Right Way? Check These 10 Tips

Well-qualified and motivated salespeople are a treasure. That said, no one’s born with all the knowledge, so training sessions are a crucial element of making new sales reps familiar with their duties.

What are the best methods for training rookie and inexperienced salespeople?

If you wish to create a team, or improve the efficiency of an existing one, keep the ten rules discussed here at the back of your head.

Reading on, you’ll learn where to start, how to plan, and what mistakes to avoid when coaching future and current sales reps. The training should commence before the actual course – make sure you take this tip to your heart.

You have to know what you won’t teach, and that’s not because you’re not capable of it (as sales directors, we tend to believe we’re capable of anything), but because of the fact that there are things people are unable to absorb even when undergoing rigorous training. That’s why you have to:

1. RUN A PRE-TRAINING SELECTION

You won’t be able to train a John Doe randomly grabbed off the street to become a sniper. The same goes for minting good salespeople – determined and resilient to stress. That’s why selection, whose omission is a fundamental mistake made by many is so crucial. Who’s going to participate in the course determines an entire array of possible problems, which means that selection is essential for any successful training program.

When conducting a job interview (which is a key instrument for selecting sales reps), you have to find out if your future employees are fast learners, draw conclusions from the feedback they receive, and…

make sure they don’t commit the same mistake twice.

Let me give you an example, which may be a bit extreme, but it does a great job at showing the reason for why sifting through the candidates is so important.

Excellent scores it’s not enough.

The American military academy at West Point has such high admittance standards, that it’s not enough to have excellent scores in physical and theoretical exams in order to get into the academy.

The candidate’s chances are boosted greatly if he can present a written recommendation from the US president, vice president, or a congressman. On top of that, the necessary conditions for being accepted are being a bachelor and having no children to provide for. Since there are only 1,200 spots available, it’s not enough to be a good prospect. That’s just the starting point for sifting through cadets, who are later to become the US Army elites.

sales training methods

Take a moment to think what do you want your sales reps to be.

You only want to have top-tier employees, right?

Another great example pertaining to selection is the story of the Airbnb founders who were recruiting their first engineer for three months (that’s eons for a startup). They did realize that the disposition and character of their first employee will affect the entire staff they were going to hire. Thus, they were looking for traits they wanted to see across the whole team.

2. DEFINE THE LENGTH OF THE TRAINING CYCLE

Once you have your course participants selected, you can move on to what exactly you’re going to teach them. First, define the training time frame.

The length of the training process is in direct proportion to:

  • how complicated the subject matter is; in other words, how difficult the product or service is,

  • the experience people you’re going to work with have,

  • your experience in providing training.

If your sales rep to be needs to read a ton of documentation first, in order to familiarize with the product (and it’s not mere reading, it’s about UNDERSTANDING the essence), then you should assume certain reading pace to better assess the duration of the entire process.

If you’re teaching complete rookies try to get some vets involved as well. You need to adjust your methods to the level of experience of the candidates. If you’re dealing with complete sales laymen, explaining every notion will take up more time than to people with at least some experience. On the other hand, people who already have sales background may bring bad habits to the table you’ll have to undo.

At RightHello, our original sales reps were trained for 3 weeks. The most recent one completed the course in just two. How was that possible? We’ve been constantly working to refine our training process and eliminate the information that proved to be useless. Keep this in mind and make sure to improve the whole process with every new batch.

sales training process

3. DEVELOP A SOLID PLAN

You need to have a concrete plan, and not improvise for two weeks and just talk to your listeners. What makes people learn faster are things like the use of multimedia, different layers of the gained knowledge, and immersion. It’s best to soak up the issue at multiple levels. For instance, if you want to learn a foreign language fast, you set it on your phone, travel abroad, watch and read the news in it, etc.

Pretty much the same goes for sales training:

After two months of hard work, those hungry for knowledge end up being better for it. They’ve learned fast and at an intense pace due to full immersion in the topic. I guarantee you that by adopting this method, you’ll see a huge improvement in terms of the effects your training yields.

You may also consider offering a bonus for quitting the job known from Zappos. After the training is over, the company offers $1,000 if you quit before starting the actual job. The goal is to drain people who shouldn’t be a part of the company even before they start work.

4. CREATE OPEN ENVIRONMENT

You have to make it clear right away that you want everybody to respect each other, be cordial and helpful. Young sales reps have to open up in order to fully understand their motivation for what they do, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Create a feeling of openness,

Create a feeling of openness, a space where everyone will feel safe. It’s important that everyone feels comfortable admitting they don’t know stuff and asking for help.

5. HELP PARTICIPANTS FIND THEIR MOTIVATION

In order to take up the strenuous task of an intensive training – 8 hours of work, night time book reading, etc., one has to have the proper motivation. If people don’t know (because they’re young, inexperienced, haven’t thought about it) what drives them, help them find out. What counts is a sort of motivation that will drive people and help them grow in the long run.

If someone wants to become a salesperson because he’s dreaming about an expensive watch, then he’ll lose the motivation right after he buys it. How do you figure what makes people tick? Well, develop a feeling of openness and allow for questions in one to one meetings.

6. SET THE TRAINING BAR HIGHER THAN IN REALITY

The more you sweat in training the less you bleed in the ring. Nothing prepares you for a challenge as good as a hard training does. That’s why you should take your students through the toughest sales calls and teach them how to reason well.

One good way to go about this is getting experienced salespeople involved in teaching new ones.

I guarantee you that your young reps will never have clients tougher than their colleagues at the training. This will make the transfer to real-life calls smoother. When reality will appear to be easier than the course, the rookies will feel a relief and build up self-confidence.

7. MAKE THEM ACHIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE

You have to design the course in a way that will make the students impress themselves. This means you need to sequence the tasks into a process so that in the end the future sales reps can say ‘wow, I didn’t think I’ll make it’. Small successes provide the necessary motivation.

8. ASK FOR FEEDBACK AFTER THE COURSE IS OVER

How can you tell if the training was good? If you see people making notes. Let them work together on the course script in a cloud-based document. This will make the content more accessible for everyone who wants to suggest improvements. The feedback you’ll collect will help you optimize the training process and deliver it more efficiently in the future.

9. LOOK UP THE METRICS FOR THE TRAINING PROCESSES

How long did the whole course take? How much faster are new reps able to close their first deal since finishing the course? How fast are reps able to reach their peak productivity? These are simple metrics that clearly show how effective the training was. Make sure to look them up.

look up the metrics

10. HAVE SOME LEADS READY FOR THE NEW REPS

You need to make sure your freshly trained salespeople can try their newly acquired knowledge and skills out in the field. Successfully finishing a tough training usually makes new employees eager for work, however, if they have no one to speak to, their excitement turns into disappointment and a slump.

In order to avoid this, you can either channel a lead stream from experienced reps to rookies or plan an increase in lead acquisition for the moment when the new reps come in. The first approach may cause personal conflicts, though. Vets may not like rookies stealing their leads, you cannot let a situation like this to occur by working closely with the marketing department.

RESUME

In his book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, Ben Horowitz says: “Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform.” He then continues by providing an example of investing twelve hours of a manager’s work into designing 4-hour courses for a 10-deep team.

After a year, the team will have been working approximately 20,000 hours. If investing 12 hours of work will increase their efficiency by 1%, you’ll get an equivalent of around 200 work hours. What do you do if your training was good and the team’s efficiency grew 4%? This is an actual, measurable, and tangible ROI.

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Bartosz Majewski

Co-founder at RightHello. 10 years experience in sales. Executed business expansion into 38 markets in 6 continents. A regular speaker at business conferences. An active snowboarder outside of work. Avid book reader and blogger.