Looking to improve your sales training program? Here are some tips!

Sales training programs often teach sales forces to “fence” when the new game is mixed with martial arts.

Nowadays, you’ve got to get into the ring and off the ropes. Otherwise, you’re going to land face down watching the referee’s fingers in a slow motion 8 count.

The fast-paced, online, data-driven sales environment requires new sales training programs to empower the team.

We are in the process of finishing up a sales training academy that we put all new hires through and can attest to the importance of evaluating your training program on a regular basis.

Challenges with Sales Training Programs

Larger organizations spend an average of $954,070 on sales training every year, according to ATD research and continues to rise.

sales training programs

But how are you measuring your ROI?

Do you have metrics in place to ascertain that your KPIs have been achieved?

You might be spending money on outdated techniques that might not translate to the ever-changing sales environment. So where should you be investing your sale training dollars?

This years trends include:

  • Peer to Peer learning supported by mentoring and coaching
  • Creating subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Online self-paced training modules
  • Shorter training modules using video
  • Retaining knowledge with quizzes and homework
  • Different techniques required for training millennials
  • Increasing emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Ever-evolving, collaborative training manuals
  • Sales training for everyone

Let’s take a further look at each of these trends that will define the coming years of sales training efforts.

Water Cooler Colleague Coaching as Sales Training

Our research confirms that traditional, curriculum-based sales training and enablement techniques are no longer effective for the modern-day mobile salesperson.” ~ Yuchun Lee, co-founder and CEO, Allego.

recent survey on training methods found that 91% of sales reps and managers found trading ideas with peers more beneficial to sales success than traditional training methods.

Reps prefer to gain knowledge from their buddies, who are out there in the field every day and are able to give them usable, actionable insights.

This “over the shoulder” learning is highly effective to get sales teams working together and learning from each other.

The professional development of one-way flow from manager to sales rep is seriously outdated. Companies are going to need to find effective strategies for encouraging peer-based learning.

The Rise of SME Sales Force

Today’s B2B buyers have access to exactly the same information that the sales reps have at their disposal.

You need to train your sales team to be subject matter experts so they are able to assist the buyer with understanding how all of the information they have gathered can be relevant to their company. This will require individuals to learn another set of professional and interpersonal skills.

Training content will need to come from third parties as in-house training might have its limits in this regard.

The SMEs will be trained in understanding sales from the customer context.

In Your Own Time

How are you training your new team members?

A combination of manuals and shadowing?

Then sending them out on free udemy courses or another online courses?

Each of these training initiatives are established by the manager and it’s usually mandatory. In many organizations training is never the employee’s “choice.”

This trend is set to change in 2017. We’re in the era of choice – the web has given us resources to learn any and everything, and we get to choose where to place our focus.

When things are mandatory you often get less buy-in. People view it as a condition of the employment and not necessarily a benefit especially if the course offered is not talking to the current sales landscape and its rapidly changing customers.

It’s often seen as yet another demand in a time-strapped sales person’s existence.

When there is freedom around choice and people request training, they feel the value to the individual and the company is significantly higher.

You will see the rise of individualized training. Online self-paced training programs are going to overtake the traditional workshops that have been offered to people in the past.

Adult learning is going mobile, online and interactive. Click To Tweet

Technology has supplied a huge opportunity for sales training to be offered online and completed in the individual’s ideal time frame.

Much like the increasing power of CRM, these new tools will provide greater levels of individualized training, when you need it, where you need, and how you like to learn.  A few sites like ChannelEQ.co and SalesGravy.com are just a few of the potential winners.” ~ Ken Thoreson, president of Acumen Management Group, Ltd.

Watch and Learn

The numbers are in — we are all getting used to receiving information in short format videos.

Our training efforts should be no different.

Trainees want to learn using short modules delivered in video format that’s current and innovative. It’s the way we process and retain information in 2017.

Trainees are also requesting closed captions for their learning videos as they are often training where the environment can be noisy or the PC has low quality volume.

This could also be linked to auto-play feature trend started on Facebook from 2014 where creators of content were looking for ways to make their content engaging without using sound.

Of course watching videos is a great way to convey information and something like interactive tutorials can really bring that knowledge home. 

See and Do

A study by the Brevet Group on how we retain information for the long term found that 80% comes from seeing and doing, 20% from reading and 10% from hearing.

This reinforces the necessity of using visual aids for training.

When trainees are involved in modules that employ gamification techniques their retention is also higher.

Quizzes after each module can assist with knowledge retention as well as assigning homework to the trainees.

Sales Training Programs for Millennials

sales training programs

Millennials are hungry for knowledge – starving. So their training options must speak to their need for technology-driven professional development.

They’re keen on coaching and mentorship – but the old hierarchical structures will send them right out of the door.

They must be able to access their sales training online and on the device of their choice. Give them knowledge at their fingertips in real time.

Up Your EQ

One part of your training is going to be the in-depth knowledge of your product but this year it has to be paired with emotional intelligence and strong self-awareness if you want to stand out.

There are stats that point to job success coming from having excellent well-developed soft skills like communication, empathy, negotiation, and a positive attitude.

Training cannot only focus on technical know-how, otherwise your team will only be 15% prepared to build business relationships.

If you can truly understand human emotions you’re going to come out on top. Those trained with emotional intelligence always outperform their colleagues with lower EQ.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence.” ~ Robert K. Cooper, PhD

This training ensures that you will start having smarter conversations.

The buyers are self-educating and don’t require you to be the font of knowledge but to be the human element in the purchase that can display the art of the sale.

The data keeps showing us that person-to-person selling is still a vital element of an effective sales conversion.

Training must continue to focus on helping people have better conversations. Click To Tweet

Play-by-Play Sales Training Manual

Throw out your old training manual in 2017. There is a wealth of information about our targets thanks to predictive/real time analytics and big data.

We have so much buyer persona info that brand new scenarios to sell to them are evolving every day. So the ol’ sales manual is only useful as a great door stop.

You need to create a dynamic play book.

This is never going to be a completed manual, as with all the new learning will come daily updates.

This “training” manual will keep the whole team learning from each other and the ever-changing digital landscape. It’s got to live and breathe to stay relevant.

It makes the sales team conscious about what is working, what has changed, what needs to change and then reporting and updating on the new learning.

Thanks to technology we are learning in totally different ways and all of our personal discoveries are going to organically become the training manual for all.

Automation Makes Everyone a Sales Person

Big data and real time analytics show us that sales are a function of the entire organization.

The massive amount of data has brought sales and marketing into alignment. Training has to show you how to work together and not in silos.

Working collaboratively is an essential skill everyone has to learn and put into practice. Click To Tweet

Automation makes everyone a sales person these days. Your organization needs to train everyone in the art of selling – not just the sales team.

Training Day

These changes are necessary to match the breakneck pace at which business is occurring these days. So training needs to be:

  • bite-sized
  • easily accessible
  • relevant
  • online and mobile (we’re all on our phones)
  • customized for busier lifestyles
  • holistic
  • hassle-free
  • drenched with personalized content
  • data-driven

Look at employing some of these methods and then use your big data to analyze whether there are any major shifts in sales conversions.

What sales training strategies are you using?

Editors Note:

Want to help contribute to future articles? Have data-backed and tactical advice to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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