B2B selling has never been easy, but in our current environment it is more challenging than ever. The contacts you sell to today are doing more research themselves, avoiding salespeople, and struggling to acquire the consensus they need to move their improvement initiatives forward. It's not uncommon to find a prospective client aborting their initiative soon after meeting with salespeople.
Better salespeople produce better sales results. To have better salespeople, you need to train your sales team. Training requires an investment of time, money, and attention from sales leaders and sales managers. If your team's sales effectiveness isn't growing, it's likely you'll repeat your last sales year. Here is how you train your team and provide professional development for sales.
Train on Your Sales Approach
Your sales approach is the first and most important focus when training your sales team. There are still sales organizations clinging to the linear sales process and the many sales opportunity stages, believing this rigid structure leads to success. B2B sales aren't that easily tamed. Your contacts may want or need a different sales experience.
Your sales approach needs to use a value creation model that ensures the salesperson uses their client's time well. The older approaches don't provide your clients with what they need from the sales conversation. Your sales approach is the foundation of your training and its methodology.
Train on Sales Skills
There are a handful of sales skills salespeople must master to succeed. Sales organizations often choose one skill to train each year, believing that improving that single skill will improve their sales team's results. It’s not true that improvement in one skill can have a significant impact on your team’s effectiveness. There are too many equally important skills and competencies. However, you must start somewhere to improve corporate sales training.
Modern skills and competencies give salespeople the ability to gain commitments using strategies that enable the sales conversation. These include the ability to create new opportunities through cold outreach; tell a modern story about the client's future; elicit the root cause of poor results and diagnose the client's situation; create a buyer preference through differentiation; create win-win deals by negotiating; share insights and create value for clients; manage change by building consensus; and leading their clients.
B2B sales organizations who believe their salespeople need to sell the company and their products lose deals to sales organizations that provide their clients with a business advisor. You can improve all of these skills faster if you train your sales team to develop their business acumen, as this is the heart of value creation, making everything else easier.
How to Continually Train Your Sales Team
Some of the skills listed above rely on one another. For example, by starting with business acumen, you make it easier for your sales team to schedule first meetings, diagnose their prospective clients’ situations, and offer valuable advice, making them more business advisor and less salesperson. This is easier to execute than you might expect.
After 30 minutes of training in one week, you can require your sales team to use what they were trained on over the following two weeks. One reason sales training doesn't work is that the sales force doesn't make the behavioral changes needed to improve their results. At the end of each week, you can use your team meetings as a forum to talk through what worked, what didn't work, and what language each salesperson used with their clients.
At the end of the first two-week block, you can introduce another skill or competency, repeating the process. Leaders and managers talk about being a learning organization, but this isn't true if your sales team is not continually learning. A sales team that isn't improving is likely regressing.
Role-Playing as Sales Team Training
There are two kinds of sales organizations. The first type does no role-playing. Instead of working on their talk tracks, they wing it, searching for the right words in a moment when failing is fatal.
The second sales organization understands their team needs to master the sales conversation, the single vehicle we have for creating value and winning a deal. Any sales training you provide your team will have a talk track to go with the strategy or approach. Role-playing is the best way to get your salespeople to practice so they are confident and clear when they meet with clients.
There are platforms available, mine included, that come with a full complement of sales skills and competencies that, when trained, improve individual salespeople. The first competency on my list is self-discipline. On your team, you have individuals that need to develop that character trait to improve their results, while others are regimented enough to do their work without ever being asked.
Because different salespeople have different needs at different times, it is necessary to have the assets you need to tailor your training for each member of your team. For example, one salesperson may need to work on their attitude, while another needs to work on their diplomacy. The skills are universal, but the set of character traits are individual.
To uncover the areas where an individual needs help, you need to know them well enough to see something that is invisible to them. Through a combination of training and coaching at an individual level, you can speed their development and produce individual sales success.
Rotating Sales Training and Repeating Cycles
One mistake sales organizations make is believing they can train something once and cross it off the list. When you cycle through the skills listed above, your sales force will find something new the second time around.
It is unlikely that a person can be trained once and master a skill or competency. You want your sales team to be a sustainable competitive advantage, one that allows your organization to win at a higher rate and beat your competition for deals. Rotating and repeating sales training cycles is the best way to ensure your sales team is continually improving. Training should focus on both the skills and the competencies needed to succeed with a modern sales approach. This includes the ability to gain commitments, control the sales conversation, create new opportunities through cold outreach, tell stories, diagnose the client's situation, create a preference to buy from the salesperson, create win-win deals, and lead their clients.
While role-playing and meeting debriefs with the sales team are essential, individual salespeople require different training and development. Working one on one with your team members gives you the opportunity to help them focus on the skills they most need to develop their effectiveness.