How to Create Your First Sales Training Program

Instructor Leading an SDR Training

Buyers are changing — and if you want to continue hitting your quota, you need to meet them where they are. You have to evolve with them, speak their language, and address their concerns.

“Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” That’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. It’s also the definition of every poor sales strategy out there. 

Buyers are changing — and if you want to continue hitting your quota, you need to meet them where they are. You have to evolve with them, speak their language, and address their concerns. And you need to keep doing that consistently. Building a kickass SDR team that ticks all these boxes may sound hard, but you know it boils down to one thing: proper training.

So how should you go about creating a sales training program for your team? It doesn’t have to be complicated. These tips will help get you started.

Tip #1: Set Clear Goals

You know your sales training program needs to be effective. But how will you know whether it’s actually doing its job if you don’t have clear goals set from the start? So the first thing you need to do is spend some time figuring out what your objectives are. Ask yourself: “What exactly do I want to achieve by training my team? What do growth and success look like?”

That doesn’t necessarily mean projected sales and revenue estimates for the next quarter or year — although if you have those numbers already, more power to you. You just need to be able to answer a few key questions like:

  • What makes your product better than your competitors’?
  • What’s your ideal sales process? How far away are you from implementing it?
  • How can you best take advantage of new/alternative sales channels?
  • Are you happy with your current acquisition cost? Could it be more/less?
  • How will you be measuring effectiveness?
  • What kind of extra incentives (bonuses, rewards, etc.) would you offer to help your team succeed?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you put together the right sales training program for your needs.

Of course, these answers will not (and should not) be set in stone. Your sales training should be a marathon, not a sprint — and you’ll likely revisit these questions every other quarter or so to see if you need to make any tweaks to your approach.

Tip #2: Find The Right Format

Now that you know what you should be training your team for, it’s time to focus on the how.

Let’s not mince words here: sales training can be a dud. There are just so many subjects, scenarios, rules, and regulations one can cover. Many companies fall into the trap of over-packing their sales training programs with content but this overwhelms learners. It lowers their engagement and ultimately sets them up for failure.

It’s better to start small. If you’re working with a learning management system (as you probably should, because it will make everything from content distribution to performance tracking much easier), pick a few modules that cover your core needs. Then, make sure to deliver this content in bite-sized chunks and alternate between training formats. For example, you should definitely have virtual training sessions where your learners can go through real-life scenarios using pre-recorded scripts. But you can mix things up with microlearning sessions in the form of short videos, or quick multiple answer questions that they can watch and interact with from their phones.

Creating a sales training program that’s flexible and versatile, both in terms of content and delivery, maximizes your learners’ chances of retaining all that useful knowledge.

Tip #3: Let Your Company Culture Shine Through

Knowing your products and processes by heart is not enough. Your sales team must also be familiar —and in line with— your company culture. This has become especially important during these last few years when more and more buyers make purchasing decisions based on whether a company’s values align with their own. You need a sales team that understands, embodies, and communicates these values. 

So although this feels like something you would include in general training and not in a sales training program, make sure to add a module about your company culture. In there, you can explore subjects like:

  • Your values
  • Code of conduct
  • What makes your company and your team unique
  • How team members should respond to social media criticism, and more.

After describing who you are as a company (or at least who you strive to be), it will be easier to narrow down some of your core client personas. These are the people your product should be a good fit for, so your team should be able to understand what makes them tick. 

More importantly: your team should be able to empathize with them.

Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Use Real-Life Client Cases for Training

You already know you’ll use some scenarios and scripts. But what if you could also use real-life client accounts or leads? Yes, it sounds frightening. You probably want your sales team to be “ready” before you send them out there to conquer the world, right? But here’s the thing: at the end of the day, they will only learn by doing — and by making mistakes.

If you raise the stakes from the get-go, you’ll also motivate your sales team to take training seriously. They will be able to see real results from their progress and better understand where they went wrong. Better now than later.

Tip #5: Promote Soft Skills

Depending on which side of the ‘80s has influenced you, you probably have a set idea of what a salesperson should look and sound like. That’s okay. Most people do. But you need to be cautious about your preconceived notions when you’re setting up your sales training program.

Instead of trying to fit an individual sales “persona,” your team’s training time will be better spent in amassing soft skills. These soft skills will include obvious suspects like communication, persuasion, resilience, and adaptability. But this part of training should also include soft skills like curiosity, active listening, decisiveness, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

When well-rounded human beings connect with other human beings, long and successful relationships with clients grow and flourish.

Tip #6: Give Feedback Often — But Choose Your Phrasing Wisely

As your sales training program will be an ongoing process, so should your feedback and evaluation process. Don’t wait for the last minute, or for a crisis to emerge, to let your team know how they’re doing. Celebrate small wins and also address small hiccups before they become bigger hurdles along the way. Balance the positive with the negative and be specific about what they did right or wrong — and how this affects the whole team and the company’s goals.

Sounds overwhelming? These 50 examples of employee evaluation comments will help you get started on the right foot and make sure there are no misunderstandings (or ill feelings) moving forward.

To Sum It All Up:

It’s probably clear by now: training your sales team is not about giving them a ton of client cases, figures and scenarios to study. It’s about honing their instincts. The right sales training program should engage and align them with the company culture; it should offer them access to real clients and an opportunity to work on their soft skills. And to make sure all this hard work (both theirs and yours) doesn’t go to waste, you should also set up an evaluation process that’s frequent, clear, and actionable.

In the end, your sales training program should arm your team with the right attitude, so that they can keep growing and evolving as the market does. This will set you up for continued success.

Aris Apostolopoulos

Aris Apostolopoulos

Aris Apostolopoulos is a writer by day and a superhero by night. Both of his identities share a common goal: to make workplaces better. His interests include online training, productivity at work, words that sell, and data that can prove it. His spirit animal is his Twitter account.

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