If ever there was a time to train salespeople, that time is now. The sales model we describe as the legacy approach repels potential customers. Many salespeople have a first meeting without securing a second one. This is evidence that the decision-maker found the salesperson lacking. They failed the audition.
A large part of this problem is that many salespeople do not understand their customers and what they need from the sales conversation. The sales experience is a make-or-break factor for winning B2B deals. Sales managers and leaders should hone their reps’ skills by creating sales training programs that result in more closed deals.
How to Develop a Modern Sales Training Program
The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need is a competency model masquerading as a sales success manual. When you recognize that B2B buying and selling have evolved, you can identify the new competencies and sales skills needed to win deals. The sales industry needs to update the traditional training topics and sales techniques to include these new competencies and skills. To support your team’s development, a sales training program will need to address the unevenness of individual strengths and weaknesses.
A modern sales training program must start with an understanding of what buyers need from the sales professionals responsible for helping them improve their results. To develop an effective program, you must update your sales skills and competencies. While the fundamentals are still critical, we must view them through a new perceptual lens, one that allows us to see through the eyes of the buyer. A modern sales training program will address what buyers need by helping salespeople make the following shifts.
- From closing to commitment gaining: In the past, salespeople were taught to close deals. Today, your training needs to focus on gaining the commitments to engage in the conversations your client needs to successfully complete the buyer's journey. This series of conversations replaces the stages of the linear sales process.
- From prospecting to creating opportunities: While cold outreach is still important, a first meeting that doesn't result in a second meeting doesn't lead to success. Your prospecting needs to create value for your client and project the value the salesperson intends to create in the first meeting.
- From overcoming objections to resolving concerns: In the past, salespeople were trained to overcome objections. In the face of today's accelerating, constant, disruptive change, your buyers have real concerns that must be resolved for them to move forward in the sales conversation.
- From products and services to business acumen: One mistake in sales training and onboarding is prioritizing the value proposition around products and services. It sounds and feels like a pitch delivered way too early. Your training should be built on business acumen. The salesperson should feel more like a business advisor than a salesperson.
- From asking to providing insights: The discovery conversation is critical to your success. You need to ask open-ended questions to learn what you need to know to help your client. This is necessary but no longer sufficient. Sales discovery now runs in both directions. You need to learn, and so does your prospective client. Your training needs to enable a conversation that creates value for your clients.
- From differentiating on your company to differentiating on value: Most sales organizations use a marketing approach to differentiation. This approach requires the salesperson to talk about their company and their offerings, mentioning a smattering of clients and their results. This is an outdated approach, one that prevents salespeople from winning deals. Your training must provide for a conversation about business models and how each one delivers value. This is a consultative and professional form of differentiation.
- From information transfer to information disparity: The heart of your sales training should be built around information disparity. Salespeople score no points by talking to clients about things they could already find on the company's website. The strategies to create value are based on helping clients learn what they need to know to improve their results.
- From “Why us?” presentations to improving client's strategic outcomes: Most sales presentations start with “Why us?” Instead of putting the client at the center of this conversation, sales teams are trained to put their company first. In modern sales training, your “Why us?” conversation is moved to the end of the presentation. That conversation should explain the resources your company will use to ensure the strategic outcomes the client needs.
- From concessions to negotiating deals: Your training and enablement need to discourage salespeople from telling the client they will ask their sales manager what concession they may provide. This lowers the salesperson's status. Your training needs to provide the salesperson with negotiating strategies that allow them to enter a negotiation armed to win the deal and get something when they give something.
- From decision-makers to building consensus: In the past, it was enough for a salesperson to find "the decision maker." In reality, very few leaders will make a significant decision without building consensus, something that an effective salesperson can facilitate. There has been little enablement around these modern sales skills. An inability to build consensus will cost the sales organization the deals they need.
Delivering Your Sales Training Program
You are not likely to deliver your entire sales training in person. That is a good thing. While live training is especially effective, it works best when it’s supplemented by development resources that the sales force can access at any time. The idea that someone only needs a single day of in-person training to master these skills and competencies is why sales training is broken.
The development of a salesperson and a sales force requires a long-term plan for growth. You need to provide an approach that allows each member of the team to identify the strategies and tactics that will have the greatest impact on their results, and find the relevant resources when they need them. You also need to provide training in a way that doesn't make the sales rep wait. Our modern technology allows us to train in ways that better support salespeople. Getting the content right means your prospective clients will recognize the difference and prefer to buy from you.