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One reason sales leaders complain about sales training is because they believe that the training will cure their sales force of whatever challenges they have. Most sales organizations don’t have a competency model that would permit them to see each salesperson’s strengths and areas of improvement.

Lacking a way to identify what most of the sales force needs, a leader takes a guess at what might help them reach their goals. After this training, the good reps are still good, and the ones who were struggling continue to struggle.

Why would one believe that seeing the content once, they would be able to flawlessly execute, and retain everything they saw and heard in the training for the rest of their career in B2B sales? Ask yourself if you would be able to master something complex using this approach.

The Critical Role of Sales Training in Enhancing Performance

A Short Interlude on the Loss of the Sales Floor

There are still sales floors, where dozens of salespeople sit next to their peers. Each salesperson can listen to other sales reps talk to their clients. Wherever you see a sales floor, you will find salespeople role-playing, practicing, and rehearsing the conversations they will have with real clients.

These are the lucky salespeople who can continue to develop themselves, while also picking up the most effective language from their peers. Those who live in their sales territory are deprived of the opportunity to learn something helpful every day, and their only chance to practice is on live clients.

Practicing in the Field

Many, if not most, sales professionals are forced to practice any training they receive on a prospective client. Even though this isn’t optimal, it can still provide the experience that will help the salesperson to become competent over time. The feedback is delivered in real-time, as the salesperson experiences a negative outcome, even though the client doesn’t know they were part of an experiment, a failed experiment, no less.

If this is how your team works on an important character trait or skill set, you can improve this approach by using your weekly team meeting to have each person share what they did, the language they used, and whether they succeeded or failed. You may have to do this meeting over Zoom, requiring everyone to take a turn telling their story.

Until most of your sales force masters the sales skill, you can continue to pursue that skill and work with your team to help them figure out how they can produce the outcome that will help them win more deals, which is the reason we train in the first place. Only then should you start the process with a new competency.

The Order of Importance

The fundamentals are fundamental for a reason. There are plenty of opportunities to train on things that are not as important as mastering the basics. If your team isn’t producing enough opportunities, starting training here is easy, as you train your reps, and let them practice on the phone. There are a dozen or so sales skills that make up the Revenue Blueprint.

After you solve the prospecting challenge, you will need to ensure your team knows how to create value in the first meeting. This requires a set of value-creation strategies that will improve your performance and lead your contacts to agree to a second meeting. Even if you are not in the same location, your team can practice using a virtual meeting, which isn’t optimal but it’s better than leaving people to work on their skills alone.

After gaining a first meeting, the second most important fundamental for most sales organizations is discovery. Discovery is a critical skill for winning deals, but it doesn’t get the attention it should. Many contacts reject sales reps who are unable to perform well enough to get a second meeting, and poor discovery can lead to this outcome. Too few sales reps have recognized that they don’t ask enough open-ended questions or that their clients are engaged in their own discovery, testing them to determine if they might be able to help them improve their business.

When you and your contacts need consensus to be able to change, your team will need to be able to identify the stakeholders and their leadership. It is increasingly important to identify the stakeholders early in the sales conversation because people who enter later find it easy to oppose the change, leading their company to refuse to buy from your team.

If You Aren’t Getting Better, You’re Likely Getting Worse

There are times when things are easy, and there are times that are challenging. We happen to be in the latter, when things are not as easy as they might have been in the past. You and your team will need to work to train and practice the skills you need to succeed in sales in the 21st century.

If there was ever a time to level up your sales force, the time is now. But it is important that your teams have the time and the opportunity to practice with their peers, as well as practicing in the field. You can help your team by riding along with your reps so you can better help your sales team by understanding what skills they need to improve their win rates and hit their targets.

Leaving this article, assess your team, and if you have a competency model, make certain it is up to date with the traits, skills, and other important competencies necessary to succeed in sales today. This will help you know that your training will produce the results you need.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 6, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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