5 Tips for Creating an Effective Sales Training Program

Managers conducting an effective sales training session.

The key to an effective sales training program is making sure your team understands your company’s values and stays committed to them. A well-formed company like yours deserves a team that truly respects and knows the mission—and can carry that knowledge and skill through to a successful sale.

The following tips will help you devise a sales training program that delivers results:

  1. Understand your hiring needs
  2. Examine your culture and values
  3. Train for the entire sales life cycle
  4. Track and measure performance
  5. Facilitate feedback

1. Understand Your Hiring Needs

Once you’ve determined your sales values and the beginning size of your salesforce, you’ll commence hiring. If you’re just starting out, you can begin with one account executive who can sell based on qualified leads and their own prospecting. For more than a tiny team you’ll probably want to start with the sales manager, who can help with hiring and training sales reps.

Be honest about your size and sales goals before you begin. You also want to look at current employees who might transition well to the sales team, as they’re already familiar with the product and your company culture.

What are the main roles you’ll be hiring for?

  • The sales manager oversees and guides the team. They hire and train new team members, drive sales and establish goals, manage the budget, evaluate performance, and address performance issues. This role may have an assistant or be divided into multiple roles.
  • Account executives, also known as sales reps, are the core of your sales team. They speak directly with the clients to make sales—whether that’s door-to-door, virtually, over the phone, at conventions and shows, or a combination.
  • Back in the office, customer success representatives focus on retention, developing and strengthening ongoing relationships with already-existing customers.

2. Examine Your Culture and Values

Every company approaches sales in their own unique way. New hires must understand your company’s values, culture, and the overall expectations for their role. Does your management structure support your sales goals in all ways? Do your managers have a clear understanding of what account executives and customer representatives require to fulfill their own job functions?

Determine whether you’re looking for immediate sales or long-lasting relationships with customers in a longer sales cycle. Are there particular products or services that take priority, or should your salespeople just sell whatever they can? Do you want to focus on a specific audience, method, or region to start?

Building a culture of trust and mutual encouragement means forging connections within the sales team itself. Your training program should include plenty of interactivity, requiring salespeople to connect with each other and the instructor. Brainstorming, sharing experiences, and discussing solutions to a challenge (situation exercises and roleplays are especially effective). You might have each participant pitch to the group, and then invite the rest of the team to give feedback.

It’s key that you have, or can build toward, a culture that holistically supports your sales goals. A healthy team culture is one that doesn’t rest too much responsibility on one part of the team, to the detriment of others (and their own) and can see a clearly marked path to success. Authenticity, accountability, and flexibility are the major factors in cultures that go the distance.

3. Train for the Entire Sales Life Cycle

Work with your sales manager to create a comprehensive training program for onboarding the entire team, both at the start and as an ongoing concern. Remember, even if you’ve hired the perfect sales reps, they will still need effective sales training and ongoing support. The key is to keep focus on the customer and their needs and pain points.

This training presents an opportunity to refresh basic sales skills, even for your best reps, such as:

  • Finding leads
  • Cold calls/cold emails
  • Giving a sales demonstration
  • Drawing up a proposal
  • Closing the deal
  • Onboarding new clients

The key to managing a sales team is ongoing clarity, regarding what’s required from all parties and how success is defined. Make sure that your sales execs understand the functions of other parts of the sales team: the life cycle of the customer and their experience of your company doesn’t end at the initial sale. Account management is a lot more than the bottom line, and preservation of those relationships is a key part of effective sales training.

A lot of training can be built around picking up one or two skills or learning a new product or process; these are important pieces, but they’re not the whole. Build your curriculum around the skills your sales professionals will need to succeed and create concrete milestones for that success, remembering that salespeople need a lot more than just selling to be successful.

Managing accounts, keeping long-time customers happy, and taking control of their own developing career and skills are other ways your sales manager can create the ideal circumstance for your sales team to succeed.

Effective Sales Training Means Tracking Performance

Once your sales team starts selling, it’s time to track performance. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Your sales manager can help you come up with the relevant KPIs (key performance indicators) and how to track them using your CRM (customer relationship management tool).

Common KPIs include:

  • Average sales revenue per salesperson
  • Individual sales stats
  • Customer engagement
  • Progress through the sales funnel
  • Return business

By measuring consciously throughout the customer’s life cycle, all parts of the sales team receive the feedback they need to engage and transform.

5. Facilitate Constructive Feedback

A key role of your sales manager is to partner with your top account executives to produce actionable insights, communicating these to the team. Lagging or outperformed sales leaders benefit most from learning what their peers are doing to succeed.

An effective sales training program relies on feedback at every level, with the assumption that your salespeople are as driven to succeed as anyone else on the team, doing everything you can to support them. Is a sales territory unevenly distributed? Is there a need for retraining on your ideal sales process? Soliciting and responding to feedback may be the only way to discover it.

Regardless of the strategies you use to train and retrain, best-in-class organizations and leaders ensure that sales pros are engaged in training, absorbing the information and executing the skills, with the help of:

  • Knowledge checks. Try quizzes or tests, formally in your CRM or informally over email, periodically after training.
  • Simulations. Roleplay one-on-ones or practice negotiation tactics and elevator pitches on the way to coaching calls to make sure sales pros are practiced and ready.
  • Observation. Accompany your team on calls and meetings to confirm they’re on target with training.

Ready to Start a Successful and Effective Sales Training Program?

For these and more advanced training techniques, look no further than Monster. We have the data, experience, and motivation to help you succeed at every step.