When you're developing your employee training for the year, it's easy to lump the sales team into your wider net of corporate training. But, doing so can be a recipe for disaster (and unfinished courses), as sales has specific challenges and motivators when it comes to training. Doing it right, though, can lead to more productivity over the course of the year and make your sales team feel more appreciated. Here's how to develop corporate sales training programs that work, and work well.
Carrying the bag: My journey into corporate sales training
Early in my career, I was on a roll as a corporate trainer. I liked being in front of people, hearing myself talk, learning about products and processes, and I liked sharing that with other people. Not only did I genuinely enjoy the work, I was good at it.
During this time, I was on the short list for a new job at a technology company that I was very interested in. The vacant position was for the role of a sales trainer.
After several rounds of interviews, I finally earned the opportunity to meet with one of the sales managers. He was a grizzled veteran: a no BS guy.
In the interview, he asked me a question that would ultimately rule me out of the running for the role:
“Have you ever carried a bag?”
“You mean—have I ever been a sales rep,” I asked.
“Yeah, have you ever held a quota?”
Unfortunately, that last question was asked with a sneer. I gave some run-around answer about how I worked in sales support, had great relationships with the sales reps in the company, been on plenty of sales calls with them. But, we both knew the short answer to his question was “No.”
I didn’t get the job.
Towards a better corporate sales training program
Now that I have carried a bag and held a quota for several years, I'm glad I didn’t get the job. Training sales reps isn’t easy, especially without direct sales experience.
Now that I'm in that role, I've learned techniques to motivate sales teams and make the best use of their time when it comes to training. There are specific actions your training team can take now to make your corporate sales training program more effective. Here's how.
1. Don’t deploy any non-essential training around quarter or year-end… whatever you do
For those of us in sales, this seems common sense. However, spend some time outside of sales and it becomes easy to forget that these are the times that reps are working their hardest to close deals and meet goals. It's also when they're likely generating the most revenue.
Make sure you are communicating with sales leadership during this time to ensure you aren’t creating competitive priorities, such as incentives that would consume the rep’s time and attention.
If you do have mandatory compliance or regulatory training to deploy during that time (which sometimes you can’t avoid), be sure to collaborate with the sales team on the best time to roll it out.
2. Bring individuals with sales experience into your training team
It's incredibly important that you don’t operate in a vacuum with corporate sales training.
I’ve seen too many product and training teams develop curriculum without a sales angle or have a trainer who can’t put things into a sales perspective. This not only ends up wasting the organization’s time and money, but also the rep’s time and money. It also fosters the us versus them mentality that can bubble up in some organizations.
If you are unable to have somebody in your training team with sales experience, find a friendly sales rep and run your training ideas by them beforehand to get buy in. Solutions Engineers (SEs) also spend a lot of time with sales reps joining and assisting on sales calls and can give you some insight into the sales perspective. As a bonus, the SEs can not only give you some good ideas for training, but will make effective facilitators for the material as well!
A few minutes spent getting the perspective from sales can uncover things that you may have not considered while developing your corporate sales training strategy.
3. Segment your compliance and corporate sales training
Separate the training you have to do (compliance, regulatory, leadership, etc.) and the training that sales will use to help them drive sales (product training, solutions, sales processes, etc.)
For those topics that are mandatory and not going be perceived as helping with their performance, develop them into eLearning programs that the reps can do on their down time between appointments, traveling, or when they catch up on administrative items.
For the items that are going to help their day-to-day, do them live if you can. For this type of training, you'll also want plenty of job-aids, leave behinds, and microlearning resources that the reps can access regularly.
The more tools you can leave your reps to use out in the field, the better equipped they'll feel when having conversations with prospects and clients. The key is to give them the right tools up-front so that they don’t have to keep telling a potential buyer, “Let me go check for you."
4. Acknowledge that reps see training as time they aren’t making money
Tie your training back to the bottom line, more specifically their bottom line.
People stay in sales because the money is good. Embrace that concept and tie the training back into how they can make more money because of their time spent in training.
5. Make it competitive
In my opinion, sales should be all about leaderboards. Reps want to be at the top of the list. Seeing somebody else’s name ahead of their own will drive them to work harder, sell more, or…. finish their training.
It’s fairly cheap and easy to implement.
This tip is so easy that I’m surprised not every organization does it.
6. Finally, make it easy
For your corporate sales training program, make sure it's easy, accessible, and engaging.
Do things to make your most important training topics easier to access. Can you create a video? Or could you record a sales rep giving a pitch on a product for the team to view? Maybe have a podcast that the reps can listen to while driving? Or, could you create a mobile social learning opportunity where reps can share ideas and training tips? What about region-specific push alerts that provide them with key information for their next sales meeting?
If you don’t have the internal resources available to develop a full eLearning suite, leverage what is free and already out there. For example, I frequently binge listen to a great podcast called The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling, which I would highly recommend implementing into your blended learning solution.
Whatever you can do to make your corporate sales training more easy to access, review, and use as a job aid, the more likely it is that your sales team will actually use it.
Need help creating a program that works? Contact EdgePoint Learning today to see demos of our sales training courses.
This article was originally published on eLearning Industry on March 18, 2018.