1. Why Continuous Training Is a Must-Have for Sales Reps
Sales reps play a critical role in driving revenue growth for organizations, and continuous training is essential to ensure they remain effective. It helps sales professionals to:
- Stay up to date with industry changes. Ongoing training helps salespeople adapt their sales strategies and messaging to meet the current demands of the market. This ensures that they remain competitive in the eyes of their customers.
- Enhance their professional skills. Sales professionals who constantly improve their negotiation, selling, and time management skills generate leads, retain customers, and close deals more efficiently.
- Improve customer satisfaction. Finally, well-trained sales professionals can better understand their customers' needs and provide more personalized solutions. This can lead to better service and higher customer satisfaction.
2. The 4 Must-Have Components of Sales Training
Salespeople's expertise is made up of a variety of knowledge and skills. Therefore, their training should include several components. The most important of them are the following:
2.1. Product knowledge
Product knowledge is the foundation of effective selling that includes a deep understanding of:
This refers to the competitive landscape, market trends and drivers, and regulatory or compliance issues. As mentioned earlier, salespeople with industry expertise have a better chance of building trust with the customers and ultimately achieving sales.
When sales professionals are familiar with the brand's history, mission, vision, and values, they are able to communicate the brand's unique selling proposition (USP) effectively and differentiate it from competitors.
By having a clear idea of who their clients are, sales reps can better tailor their approach to meet the needs and preferences of prospects. This includes knowledge of customer pain points, buying behaviors, decision-making processes, and preferred communication channels.
In a narrow sense, product knowledge refers to the specifications of the product or service. To sell it effectively, employees need to understand the product's functionality, benefits, limitations, and how it addresses customers' pain points clearly. Salespeople also need to be aware of the procedures related to the product, such as exchange, warranty, and refund policies.
2.2. Communication skills
Salespeople who possess excellent communication skills can establish rapport with customers with ease. This set of skills includes:
This refers to the ability to maintain eye contact, give the speaker their undivided attention, ask clarifying questions, and provide feedback. Salespeople with developed active listening skills are able to engage with customers effectively, identify their actual needs, and tailor the sales pitch accordingly.
This means addressing and overcoming any concerns or doubts that the customer may have about the product or service you offer. The salesperson's ability to handle objections effectively can instill confidence in the customer and ultimately convince them to make a purchase.
Sales professionals often communicate via email. That's why they should maintain a professional and polished image for their company and be able to write clear proposals and other forms of written correspondence.
They should also be familiar with nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions, to perceive the customer's feelings and emotions properly.
2.3. Sales methodology
These are the strategies, techniques, and processes that salespeople use to communicate with potential customers. Different sales methodologies, such as SPIN selling, the Challenger Sales Model, and SNAP selling, involve different approaches to identifying customer needs, providing insight, building relationships, and demonstrating the value of the product or service being sold. Knowing the different approaches helps sales professionals adjust to a particular prospect or situation effectively.
2.4. Sales technologies
Sales technologies are digital tools that can help sales reps work more efficiently. They can automate repetitive tasks, provide insights into customer behavior, and help sales teams prioritize their workloads. Therefore, in a comprehensive sales training program, employees should be trained on how to use these technologies, including how to input data into a CRM system, navigate sales enablement software, or use automated email templates.
3. Challenges Related to Traditional Training Methods
Classroom-based workshops have long been the backbone of employee training, but their shortcomings are becoming increasingly apparent in the modern business landscape. Here are the main challenges you might face when using traditional sales training methods:
- Higher costs. Face-to-face sales training requires additional resources, such as physical space, printed materials, and payment for external instructors. All of this adds to the cost of training.
- Lack of flexibility. Fixed schedules make it difficult for employees to learn at their own pace or fit training into their busy routines. Employees are also tied to a specific location, which makes the learning process even more burdensome.
- Limited reach. Traditional instructor-led training is limited in terms of the number of learners it can accommodate, which can be a challenge for larger organizations or geographically dispersed teams.
4. Why opt for online learning?
As you can see, it's fairly difficult to put sales training on autopilot using old-school methods. That's why more and more companies worldwide are investing in online learning.
Online learning refers to the use of digital platforms, such as learning management systems (LMSs), to deliver content, facilitate interactions, and assess learning outcomes. The key benefits of using learning management systems are the following:
- Automation. LMSs automate many aspects of training, including enrolling employees in training, sending reminders to learners, tracking progress, and reporting on training results. This frees up instructors and managers to focus on other important tasks, such as creating new content or providing personalized coaching to their sales team.
- Permanent access to training materials. There's no need to frantically take notes during in-person training sessions, scroll through emails to find relevant scripts, etc. With an LMS, all information is conveniently stored in a single place and available 24/7. Employees can access it at any time to refresh their memory.
- Flexibility. Employees can learn at their own pace — with no location or time constraints — using only a laptop or mobile phone and a good internet connection.
- Easy tracking. LMSs offer built-in analytics and reporting features, making it easy for managers to track and monitor their sales team's progress.
- Scalability. Online learning can be easily scaled up or down, making it a cost-effective solution for training large numbers of employees. Training materials can be designed once and used multiple times, and new content can be added quickly and easily, ensuring that the training program remains relevant and up to date.
5. How to Launch Online Sales Training and Automate It
Now that you know the benefits automated sales training can offer, let's take a look at the 6 simple steps you can follow to make it happen.
Step 1. Identify sales training needs and set training goals
Before you start automating the training process, define the specific skills and knowledge your sales team needs to acquire to excel in their roles. Look at your sales pipeline analytics: at what stage does your company most often lose a prospect? This can help identify potential gaps in your sales team's competencies.
If you've recently completed employee performance evaluations or a 360-degree feedback assessment, you can review the results to reveal employees' weaknesses. You can also conduct a professional assessment to identify any topics or processes that your salespeople misunderstand in their jobs.
Once knowledge and skill gaps are identified, set training goals. The most popular goal-setting framework is a SMART methodology, which helps keep the focus on learning outcomes. According to this methodology, you should ensure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. For example, if you want to streamline the sales onboarding process, your goal might be to:
Reduce the time it takes for new sales hires to make their first cold calls by 3 weeks within 6 months.
If you found that some team members lacked communication skills, you might set this goal:
Increase the discovery to proposal conversion rate by 15% within the next quarter by implementing a new training program that focuses on effective questioning and needs assessment techniques.
Step 2. Create training materials
Skip this step if you've already prepared the training content. But if not, it's time to create it. Since eLearning takes place online, 40% of companies use content authoring tools. This is software that allows you to create different types of training content and publish it to the LMS or share it on the Web with ease.
Choose software based on the type of content you want to create: whether it will be video lectures, online courses, or interactive role-plays. Fortunately, there are some tools that allow you to create all of them.
With the iSpring Suite authoring toolkit, for example, you can easily record advanced screencasts to show new sales reps how to navigate your CRM, or create engaging slide-based courses to explain an important sales methodology. You can also create interactive role-play simulations that help hone sales communication skills:
They follow a predetermined scenario and are very similar to an actual customer conversation. Such an activity is a great way to practice dialogues without running the risk of losing the deal.
Don't forget to enhance your training program with knowledge assessments. Many authoring tools come with question templates that allow you to create quizzes with minimal effort.
Step 3. Choose an LMS
There are countless LMSs available on the market, ranging from basic to advanced, with a wealth of features beyond training per se. When choosing a platform, do your research. Look for user reviews and ratings, schedule demos, or explore LMS features during a free trial before committing to a purchase. Consider the size of your organization and how a particular LMS will help you automate your training process. For example, does it allow you to customize training reports or does it integrate with your CRM systems, allowing quick data transfer?
Step 4. Upload training materials to the LMS
To start training, upload learning materials to the LMS. Most platforms allow you to upload any type of content from PDF files and Excel spreadsheets to audio and video files and SCORM courses.
Then, combine uploaded content into thematic courses, such as product training, and assign them to learners. With advanced solutions, you can even combine multiple courses into a single learning track. Learning tracks are ideal when you need to create a comprehensive training program that covers many different topics and therefore needs to be well structured and easy to follow. For example, you can combine both sales and product training into a single learning track and provide comprehensive training for new salespeople:
Step 5. Set up automated workflows
In general, all LMSs automate and simplify the training process to some extent. Let's look at how automation works in the iSpring Learn LMS as an example.
Once you've added all the users to the system, you can mirror the actual structure of your company by sorting employees into departments and groups based on any criteria, such as location or job role. This allows you to assign training to a specific audience with just a few clicks. It also eliminates the need to assign an onboarding program to each new employee manually. Instead, you can set up the rule so that each time a user is added to a "Newcomers" group, all the welcome courses are assigned automatically.
If some training programs should be taken regularly, you can select time intervals, and the system will automatically reassign courses to a specific employee, department, or whichever group you choose.
Many LMSs also send out notifications about assigned training and future events, remind employees of upcoming deadlines, and issue certificates of completion. This can save time and effort for both trainers and learners, and ensure that every sales team member is on track to meet their training goals.
Step 6. Measure training results
Easy training tracking is another critical feature to consider when choosing a training automation platform. Make sure your LMS provides detailed reports on group, department, or individual progress, and that it allows you to schedule report delivery and receive reliable data on a regular basis via email.
Automated training tracking is a great time saver because managers and L&D specialists don't have to manually count how many people have completed the training and how many are still in progress, who failed the final test, and how long it took each employee to complete the course. Instead, they can make data-driven decisions to optimize training effectiveness.
Sales training is a never-ending process that requires time and effort. By automating it, you can free up valuable time for more meaningful work. We hope this article has provided you with valuable information on how to optimize sales training workflows in your company.