Building a Sales Training Programme

Numerous studies have shown that companies that offer comprehensive training programs have a higher income per employee and a higher profit margin than companies without formalized training. At the root of this is increased employee productivity, a recent IBM study (https://www-03.ibm.com/services/learning/pdfs/IBMTraining-TheValueofTraining.pdf) showed a 10% increase in productivity with increased training.

In addition, continued training and development significantly influences people’s decisions to stay in a job. While this is true across all generations, over 80% of Millennials say that professional development and career growth are significant to them in their decisions to stay in a role. Given the cost of replacing an employee (estimated at 10x their salary), the cost benefit of a training programme is clear.

As sales is the growth engine of any company, having a well-trained, motivated sales team is critical to the success of a company. However, it is often the area that receives the least training, particularly on an ongoing basis. However, no one is too old to learn or just to be reminded of some rusty skills. As with all training, it is important to deliver a training programme based on business objectives and required competencies rather than providing a standard training course for everyone. It is also critical in sales that training is specific to your products and processes.

Most sales teams tend to follow a fairly haphazard sales process, with little consistency between members of the team. Indeed, research suggests that up to 60% of sales teams have no documented sales process. This means that it is difficult to improve the process and team members cannot learn from each other. Sales training, therefore, needs to promote a standard process for all team members. This has the additional benefit that sales managers can more effectively manage their team by tracking activities and opportunities against the sales process.

To develop a sales training programme that suits your business, we follow a fairly simple 7 step process:

  1. Assess the current position

  2. Define the Sales Process

  3. Define the required competencies in the sales team

  4. Assess the current competencies

  5. Analyse the skills gap and define appropriate training

  6. Deliver training, both formal classroom training and on-the-job mentoring

  7. Evaluate training, both immediately and after 6 and 12 months.

Assess the current position

It is important that any training is aligned with both the objectives of the business and its current position. The Assessment will review the following:

  1. What is the organisation trying to accomplish?

  2. How is the sales team organised?

  3. What are the roles and responsibilities within the team?

  4. Have there been any recent changes in the organisation and responsibilities?

  5. What are the criteria for success this year and next year?

  6. What training has been delivered in the last 12 months?

  7. What impact did this have on the organisation?

  8. How would you rate the strengths of the team?

  9. What are the weaknesses in the team?

  10. What is the preferred method for delivering training?

  11. Are there any mentors within the team?

  12. What knowledge, skills and attributes do you think are critical for the team to have, individually and collectively.

  13. What is the time frame and budget for delivering the training?

Define the sales process

Having a consistent sales process is essential if the training is to deliver the most value. The sales process needs to be built on a generic process but adapted to suit the product and company that is selling it. It will vary from company to company and cannot be imposed without due regard for the experience of the sales team as to the most effective ways of working.

To build a process, you need to start with a generic one but then review the activities that the sales team currently do. The input and experience of the sales team need to be included in the process, so that they feel part of it and also so that the best of their activities can be included.

Define the required competencies of the sales team

The competency definition includes a range of skills such that junior and senior staff are not judged by the same criteria. The competencies will be based on the defined sales process but could include such things as:

  • Research / Information Gathering

  • Prioritising Customers

  • Relationship Building 

  • Cold Calling

  • Questioning

  • Active Listening

  • Lead Qualification

  • Competitor research

  • Product Knowledge

  • Presentations

  • Persuasion

  • Managing the relationship

  • Value propositions

  • Objection handling

  • Negotiating

  • Closing and completing deals

Each competency will have an explanation and three skill levels associated with it to allow each member of the team to be assessed for each one.

The required competency will vary depending on the experience of the members of the team. However, the objective will be for all members of the team to achieve a high level of competence in all areas across the duration of the training programme.

Assess the Current Competencies

Each member of the team will be assessed both by themselves and others. This could be by the sales manager or their peers, to provide a rounded view of their current competence. This will all be agreed in advance.

Analyse the skills gap and define appropriate training

Each person will then be assessed against the required competence for their position and experience. This should reveal gaps between the current skills and the required skills for that person with that level of experience. This will then be used to define the training programme that will be implemented.

The training programme will be based on the defined sales process, the skills that have been identified as being required and any other processes that are considered important to provide. The training is based on the Equation of Sales and could include some or all of the following:

Trust:

Needs

Value

Deliver the training

The training will be a mixture of formal classroom training and on-the-job training as required. The precise mix will be determined in the previous stage.

Evaluate the training

There are four levels of evaluation.

1. Reaction – each participant will take a short survey at the end of each training module to assess their reaction to it and to guide future delivery.

2. Learning – each participant will take a short test at the end of each training module to assess their learning.

3. Behaviour – specific behaviours and competencies will be defined and observed over the following months to see if the participants are truly changing behaviour. This could be part of the on-the-job training where participants will be coached during their engagements with the customer and their behaviour assessed against the defined competencies.

4. Results – there will be a series of parameters used to measure the success of the training such as number of opportunities, number of meetings etc to determine if these are moving in the right direction. These will take time to change so should be measured after 6 and 12 months after the training has been delivered. It is important to measure leading indicators or inputs to the sales process as these are within the control of the sales person rather than outputs such as revenue as this is not so controllable.