The following list of ideas about training salespeople is for those in B2B sales training or who aspire to train others. Many ideas come from my experience as a person being trained to sell, with a few coming from watching others, and more from my own experiences.
Respect the Sales Force’s Experience: I once watched a sales trainer explain to the people in his training that the way they were selling was wrong, that it needed to change, or they would continue to struggle. There was no evidence that the sales force was struggling, but evidence suggested they were successful. His disrespect of the people he was training caused them to resist everything he proposed, even when some of it would have helped them. Respect the people in your sessions.
Do Your Homework: You need to read everything you can about the company you are training and their industry vertical if you haven’t already trained in that space. There is no way you can tailor your workshop for a group of salespeople without some understanding of who they are, the challenges they have, the problems they solve, and their general competitive strategy. You will have a tougher time if you don’t know how they frame their challenges.
Have Already Succeeded in Sales: Many people would like to become a sales trainer. A good number of them have had little or no real experience selling, a liability in something as complex as B2B sales, and especially consultative sales. You must gain the hard-won knowledge that can only be acquired sitting across from a real, live prospective client and competing for their business as if the most significant portion of your success and your income depends on you winning. If you are going to teach others to play the game, you must first learn to play it well yourself. Your path to training runs straight through your success in sales.
The One Right Way Approach: Selling is a highly dynamic conversation about change, which can be guided by principles even though it doesn’t easily succumb to a set of rules. There are too many variables in something as nonlinear as a sales conversation to believe there is only one approach that works for every given scenario and under every circumstance. You want to expand the choices available and help recognize the context in which to use a specific approach.
Simplify the Content: While it is easy to over-complicate things, it is much more difficult to simplify the concepts, strategies, tactics, and approaches. You are better off believing that people cannot be taught, but they can learn. By making things simple, you make it easier for the people you are training to master. The measure of the teacher is their ability to enable the participants to learn.
Don’t Argue About Their Truth: One sales trainer I watched conduct a public training asked a person to categorize their client using specific criteria. One person responded by sharing the category she believed was the correct way to look at her client. The sales trainer told her directly that she was “wrong.” He had never met her client and had no more knowledge than you do having read this paragraph. The trainer was unnecessarily trying too hard to create value and seeking some way to improve that which needed no improvement. His arguing something he couldn’t possibly know harmed his credibility.
Demonstrate: If you have ever seen a non-salesperson train salespeople, the first thing you notice is that salespeople can very quickly identify whether the person standing in front of them has something to offer them that is worth their time. A conceptual understanding is not the same as the knowledge one gains from experience. By demonstrating what you are teaching, you are proving that you have the right and the credibility to train others. When you can show what you suggest and do so as if you work for their company, you will have the credibility you need.
Make Your Participants Role Play: The most important tools we have in sales are not technological. Selling is a series of conversations, which means that words and ideas are primary tools. If there is an idea that you can teach salespeople, they can learn it best by role-playing the conversation. Some trainers believe that salespeople won’t like them if they make them role-play, even though being liked isn’t the desired outcome of training; better sales results is the appropriate measurement of success.
Serve Those You Are Training: You might want to stay on schedule, ensuring you have the time you need to deliver all the content you planned to present and teach. A better approach recognizes that the people you are training have a strong command of what you are teaching and moving on when they will benefit more from something new. A flexible approach will also give you the ability to recognize that what you are teaching is valuable and that those you are training will value more time in some areas.
Provide Reinforcement: Training salespeople without providing the content and tools needed to sustain what they learned will massively reduce the likelihood that they retain what they learned. No reinforcement will make it even more unlikely that they will be able to effectively execute their new skills. Your training doesn’t end when you finish training. It’s just starting.
Should you want to train others, following the ideas here will help gain credibility and provide an experience that allows others to improve the results they produce for their companies and themselves.