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Would you be interested if I said I had the key to higher employee retention, improved performance, and better workplace morale? Professional development for sales teams can provide all of these benefits and more. 

Employees value professional development. Over ninety percent of surveyed professionals said they would be more likely to remain employed at a company that invested in their growth and development. When paired with the performance improvements gained from sales training, investing in professional development seems like a no-brainer… until you remember all the ineffective training programs you’ve implemented in the past. 

How can you do professional development for sales in a way that actually delivers? 

Say “goodbye” to struggling to get results from professional development for sales. This post walks you through five of my favorite tactics to help level up your team and see real gains from your sales training and development efforts. 

Challenges in Professional Development for Sales 

The salesperson or sales team that isn't getting better is getting worse. 

Sounds harsh, but when you consider the rapid changes in the sales environment over the past two decades, you’ll see it’s true. If your team’s mindsets and skillsets aren’t improving, they’re going to struggle to succeed, leaning on legacy tactics and strategies that drive modern customers away. 

As Toffler says, the twenty-first-century equivalent of the illiterate is a person who can’t learn, unlearn, and relearn. 

In modern sales, you need to be agile and capable of pivoting to match changing circumstances. Your reps must also focus on building their business acumen to become trusted advisors for their prospects and customers. 

RELATED READ: How Long Does It Take to Develop a Modern Sales Force

Professional development in sales is not without its challenges, however. Some of the most common challenges for sales training programs are:

  • Low engagement
  • Finding the time to train sales professionals
  • Knowledge retention/behavior shifts
  • Measuring the effectiveness of training

You can overcome these challenges. Successful professional development for sales is possible. This post will cover five tactics you need to help your sales team’s professional development efforts succeed. 

1. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Onboarding 

First things first: If you want your team to be successful, you need to bring in the right players. At the risk of being controversial, the right mindset is more valuable than the right experience.

Why? Because skills are easier to train than mindset. If you bring in someone hungry for high close rates, you’re better off training them in the nitty-gritty than you are taking someone with experience but a lackadaisical approach.

Once you have the right people in the door, you need to look at your onboarding processes. What does it look like when you onboard a new sales rep?

Consider the following questions:

  • What skills does your onboarding content focus on? What does that tell new reps about what is most important at your company?
  • What is the lag time between a new rep’s starting date and the date of their first cold call?
  • How do you enable a new rep to be conversational? How long does it take them to gain the ability to manage the sales conversation?

In short, the name of the game should be getting new reps up to speed as quickly and effectively as possible. This is much easier if you hire people who already have the right mindset. 

2. Embrace the Power of Coaching 

A conversation about professional development in sales should often include a conversation about sales coaching. Sales coaching provides reps with information, reinforcement, and relationships within the team.

Some of the strengths of implementing a coaching program for your sales team include:

  • Mentor-Mentee Relationships: Working one-on-one creates a relationship between the coach and the employee. As a result, your reps will feel more supported and be more comfortable asking questions. 
  • Trainee Engagement: It’s easy to check out when you’re sitting in a conference room watching a speaker. When you’re one-on-one with a coach, you have to be engaged. This increased engagement will increase knowledge retention and help your reps improve faster. 
  • Mindset Shift: Without the right mindset, training is meaningless. During coaching, a rep can be involved in their own improvement plans, voicing areas they want to improve and accepting criticism from their coach. This collaboration makes a mindset shift more likely.

Your coaching efforts should go beyond a structured coaching plan. Instead, every conversation with your reps should be a coaching conversation designed to help them improve and reach their potential. 

3. Incorporate Regular Sales Training 

We’ve talked about sales coaching already, but to really have effective professional development, you need the one-two punch of coaching and training. Sales coaching helps reinforce new behaviors and teach skills on a one-to-one basis. On the other hand, sales training can help establish new expectations and skills for your whole team at once. 

Sales training is not a “one-and-done” practice. Putting your team in a conference room and running through a few PowerPoint slides once is not enough to create a real behavior shift. Instead, you should regularly engage in modern sales training, helping your team constantly level-up their skills with new approaches and techniques. 

When choosing a sales training program, you need to look for the following elements:

  1. Modern Sales Approach: Does the program approach sales in a consultative manner or a way that will give your reps the dreaded “commission breath?” (Spoiler alert: You want the former).
  2. Issue Identification: Find a training program that helps you identify challenges on your team before you begin training.
  3. Program Customization: Don’t use cookie-cutter training. Find a program you can tailor to your team’s needs. 
  4. Cultural Change: Without a culture shift, any improvements you see from training will be temporary at best. 
  5. Proof of Success: Can you find testimonials and case studies indicating the success stories from this training program?

My Sales Accelerator offers all these features and more. To learn more about how the Sales Accelerator can help your team start crushing your targets, get in touch with my team today!

4. Leverage Data and Analytics 

If you're making decisions without the appropriate data, you might as well be making decisions by throwing a dart at a dart board. It would help if you made your professional development decisions based not on gut feeling but on data and analytics.

Your team should use a robust CRM tool to track and manage your leads, opportunities, and customers. The data you’re already tracking has the potential to show you exactly where you need to put your training and development efforts.

RELATED READ: The Data Lies and You Believe It

Some metrics you’ll want to examine when setting up your plans for development are:

  • New meetings booked
  • Cold call conversion rate
  • Second meeting conversion rate
  • Time to close
  • Prospect to Lead conversion rate
  • Lead to Opportunity conversion rate
  • Opportunity to Customer conversion rate

Remember, the metrics you choose to focus on will become the outcomes they strive to achieve.  Choose them carefully and focus on metrics that measure outcomes, not activity.  A rep who is measured on Call Volume can make 100 calls a day and not book a single meeting.  A rep who is measured on new meetings booked will have a very different focus.

5. Collaborate on Individual Goals 

You want to use professional development to improve your team’s performance as a whole. However, the best professional development plans help each individual achieve their potential. What is each of your reps’ top goals for self-improvement? 

Collaborate with your reps to set their goals. Involve individuals in conversations about the areas where they might need development and allow them to self-identify weaknesses and areas of opportunity. Check-in with team members to ensure they have the tools they need to meet their goals and to contribute meaningfully to team goals. 

Remember: Individual goals contribute to overall team success. Have team-wide professional development goals as well as individual rep goals to see a maximum impact from your training efforts. 

The Key to Effective Professional Development for Sales

On the whole, sales professionals are results-driven and self-motivated workers. Low engagement in professional development is only a risk when they feel like the training is a waste of their time. 

When you provide effective, valuable professional development opportunities that help sales reps reach their individual goals and targets, you’ll get more team buy-in and your training will be more effective.

The hit your targets and get the most out of sales training, your team needs a blueprint for success. I’ve developed a free resource, the Revenue Growth Blueprint, that lays out all the information you need to help your sales team win more deals. 

Get started by checking out the Revenue Growth Blueprint and start crushing your team’s targets today. 


Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 23, 2022

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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