A Comprehensive Guide to Building Sales Training Programs

 

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Start With The Basics

From a retail sales clerk to a sales associate at a Fortune 500 powerhouse, there are foundational skills that need to be mastered in order to be successful.

Many untrained salespeople focus on products or services, when they need to focus on benefits and solutions. By turning a product or service feature into a benefit, a salesperson puts themselves in the role of a problem solver and business partner. It’s up to the salesperson to answer the WIIFM (What’s In It For ME) questions a customer may present.

 

Sales Training Programs - Features and Benefits Chart

 

Effective sales training programs focus on helping sales teams define the benefits of products and services, so they can translate how those benefits address the unmet needs of the client, getting them one step closer to a purchase. 

In sales, overcoming objections is the name of the game. Effective sales training programs need to offer a wide variety of topics to help the sales team think on their feet when facing an objection, such as:

  • Doubt: Overcoming the “It sounds too good to be true” narrative
  • Misunderstanding: How silence can be used in your favor
  • Defeating Stalling: Asking the right questions
  • Indifference: Refocusing to address an unmet need
  • True Negative: Honesty is always the best policy

 

Dealing with Difficult Customers

If you ask most salespeople what they most enjoy about their jobs they’ll likely say: partnering with customers to solve their problems. But what happens when the customer is domineering - even a bit of a bully? Although these situations are uncomfortable, they’re also manageable. 

Smart companies include dealing with difficult customers in their sales training programs because it allows employees to feel empowered when faced with a confrontation. 

There are many reasons a customer may lose their cool. Perhaps they received a wrong order and it’s causing delays in production. They may be facing pressure from upper management to slash budgets. No matter the source of the problem, sales training programs can bolster the skills needed when facing an angry or confrontational client, including:

  • Remaining calm 
  • Active listening
  • Setting the tone
  • Expressing empathy 
  • Working toward a solution

Hoping that a salesperson will never encounter a difficult customer or bully is not a strategy for success or employee happiness. By incorporating skills that will help them deal with tough customers into sales training programs, employers arm their team members so they won’t be caught off guard. Better yet it allows them to control, then diffuse the situation in a way that will salvage or even deepen the relationship.

 

Organization and Recordkeeping

An often overlooked but crucial topic in sales training programs is the importance of good record keeping. Failure to keep up with the details from sales calls can result in disaster - orders not received, the wrong items going out, or follow-up calls being missed. 

When training around these skills, it’s important to offer guidance while maintaining flexibility. Salespeople should be given the flexibility to use a system that works best for them while still tracking records in a customer relationship management system, or CRM.

 

Sales Training Programs - Sales Recordkeeping Resume

 

For employees new to the workforce, it may even be necessary to include basic office skills in sales training programs, including preferred software usage, email, document, and other file management systems. They’ll benefit from learning that maintaining a logical recordkeeping system allows them to have the right information on hand when a customer or prospect calls.

 

ej4 Sales Training Programs - Sales Basics

 

 

Making the Sales Call

There’s a lot more to finding new clients than just picking up the phone and asking to speak to the person who does the buying for your product and service. It’s useful to train sales teams on sales prospecting, finding quality leads, and questioning techniques that lead clients all the way through the sales process.

If a salesperson isn’t prospecting - or looking for new clients - they won’t make their sales quotas. For salespeople, the purpose of prospecting is to create a pipeline of qualified customers. Training should focus on consultative selling techniques that help potential customers see that they need a company's products and services.

It's important that salespeople develop the skills to identify quality leads. Do they have the need, decision-making authority, and budget to purchase? If so, proceed. If not, it's likely time to move on.

Advanced questioning techniques help salespeople dig into the heart of a potential customer’s business. Training should include the art of asking open-ended questions that allow for a fact-finding dialogue that leads to a fuller understanding of a customer’s business and leads them toward a “yes”.

 

Sales Training Programs - Advanced Questioning Techniques

 

Building Relationships

Customer service should not just be about fixing problems; it should be about continuing and strengthening the relationship between your customer and your company.

As mentioned before, sales is about making new connections -- and part of that is understanding what makes each customer tick. A useful skill in sales training programs is teaching team members how to identify a prospect or customer’s personality type. 

In 1928, William Moulton Marston published a book called “Emotions of Normal People,” outlining the DISC personality system. In it, he defined four quadrants of personality that determine how people react in their everyday lives. Later, Walter Clarke took the theory further and created the DISC personality profile that is still in use today. 

Training that helps salespeople understand the different personality types enables them to tailor their selling technique to hit the customer’s sweet spot.

 

Sales Training Programs - DISC Training image

 

Sales Process and Selling Strategies

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all sales technique. Businesses should adopt and train staff on a sales methodology that enhances their strengths and addresses customer demands. Think of it as a playbook that guides and informs tactics throughout the sales process. 

Sales training programs that include different methodologies can enhance a sales team’s effectiveness. Some popular methodologies include cyclical selling, field, sales, and tiered selling.

 

Cyclical Selling

Changes in economic or seasonal conditions, and other factors, can impact sales cycles. Understanding these cyclical swings can help salespeople plan and design a better process for any industry. With proper training, a sales professional will understand what forces impact the sales cycles of the different industries they serve. 

Tools to help them plan their approach:

  • Short-term & long-term forecasting
  • Qualitative and quantitative forecasting
  • Multivariable analysis 

Once a sales forecasting method has been adopted, sales training should include a template for tracking the data and the details.

 

Field Sales

Field sales or outside sales is a type of selling strategy where representatives meet prospects face-to-face or outside of the office - for example real estate. It’s important to train outside salespeople to manage their time effectively. The tools of the trade to keep them on track include:

  • Logging sales meetings
  • Entering data into a CRM system
  • Prospecting and networking
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication

Research has shown that outside sales reps are more effective at closing big-ticket purchases, so training in effective sales techniques is imperative.

 

Tiered Selling

Tiered selling is a way to bundle features into multiple packages where each package is sold at a different price. This targets customers either with varying budgets or those who value features differently. Bundles are common for software as a service subscriptions, or credit cards. These tiers are often given names such as:

  • Basic, Standard, or Premium 
  • Good, Better, Best
  • Silver, Gold, Platinum

The benefits of this technique are it encourages existing customers to upgrade, while giving new customers an opportunity to trial the product with a lower cost of entry. Studies show that when faced with multiple options, customers make a quicker purchase decision and use the remaining time to focus on which option they are going to purchase.

 

Closing Strategies

No matter which selling methodology a business uses, closing strategies are essential for a salesperson to master, and therefore should be featured prominently in sales training programs. Customers will give both verbal and nonverbal buying signs, such as nodding and answering questions in the affirmative -- basic positive feedback. It’s imperative that each member of the sales team knows how to spot these signs and close the sale using one of the following techniques: 

  • Trial: incremental steps that lead to a final purchase
  • Direct appeal: ask the customer to sign the contract
  • Assumptive close: allow the customer to choose from a couple of options
  • Special concession or incentive: give a discount or gift for an immediate decision

With proper training, a salesperson’s closing should make the customer feel confident in their decision, so they don’t get struck by buyer’s remorse after the sale.

ej4 Sales Training Program - Image 2

 

Distance Selling Skills

In today’s climate, companies must use every communication method available to make the sale. Recently, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, companies put greater emphasis on phone selling and virtual presentations to replace face-to-face meetings. It’s not ideal to have to make the switch to distance selling without training, but many companies made it work.

 

Phone Selling

With phone sales, it’s important to set an objective before dialing the phone. Prospects are not inclined to listen to a lengthy sales pitch. Once a salesperson has established the purpose for the call, they must be trained to:

  • Ask appropriate questions for the prospect’s place in the sales process
  • Clarify understanding of prospect questions and comments
  • Allow the prospect to respond
  • Be prepared to face and overcome objections
  • Take notes
  • Close the sale and/or set next steps 

 

The Virtual Presentation

Virtual presentations may require more preparation than in-person presentations. In addition to creating interesting content, the presenter must master the technology used to deliver the information. In order for a salesperson to make the best use of their time, they require training to help them design engaging material that will grab the attention of their audience and get them to respond to a call to action. 

Knowing they won’t experience the same type of nonverbal cues as they would in-person, salespeople should encourage interaction through an online Q&A or chat for real-time feedback. 

Moving forward, as technology advances and companies find cost savings through these techniques, well-rounded sales training programs will include these valuable distance selling skills.

 

Conclusion

Partnering with ej4 allows you access to an entire Business Skills library that utilizes best practices in adult learning theory. You’ll find more information on the topics covered above, plus additional sales training topics that will give the novice skills to begin a successful career and help experienced team members reach the next level. In addition, ej4 offers a comprehensive library of soft skills training modules that can benefit anyone on your team.

  • Using Portable Media
  • Presentation Skills
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Working Virtually
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Negotiating

Check out the full list of topics here, or, sign up for a free 15-day trial of our LMS, Thinkzoom, to watch 1,000s of courses!

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Watch Full Sales Training Courses

The Elevator Pitch
Asking Great Sales Questions
Tough Customers: The Hesitator
Closing the Sale

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