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Business Sales

How Important is Sales Training to Your Company’s Success?

” I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Muhammad Ali

Do salespeople need training?

Every new sales job I’ve started required some type of training. Whether it was for a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software or product knowledge, training is an essential part of onboarding a new hire. So why do companies fear training new sales reps?

Consider other professions

-marketing
-psychology
-meteorology


Can we agree that sales training is essential? Most occupations require some kind of training. Applicants either need degrees or various levels of experience, either in time or education. Why would we think the profession of sales would be any different?


My experience is that many companies just expect someone they hire as a salesperson, having a sales background, should just know how to sell their product or service. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

My experience may be different than others, but here is what I’ve witnessed over the years.

A manager hires a new salesperson, and they bring them into their office the first day. They have them spend most of the day filling out HR forms that include documents for a non-compete, the pay plan, a 401K, health insurance, and a laptop promissory to care and feed with love.

Day two arrives, and the sales manager introduces the new hire to the rest of the team and assigns the territory. Going over the sales plan, the sales manager explains the new hire needs to be at goal by the end of month three. He will schedule a few days with them in the field, but something always comes up to cut that time short. And the new hire is left to many of his own devices to fail or succeed on their own.

Not all companies are like this

Fortunately, all companies are not like this. They understand the cost associated with a new salesperson. If you hire them, you are responsible for their success. Period. All of the top-performing companies know this and budget accordingly. They invest in training for all new hires, whether they are in sales or payroll. All new hires need training in the company, no matter the role they are hired to fill.

Why are some hesitant to train?

Let’s look at what might be required to train a new salesperson. A company would;
– Need to develop a standardized training program
– Need to hire/train the teachers to train
– Need training literature/folders/information
– Need a place to teach/a training room
– Need the time to train new personnel thoroughly
– Need to budget for all the above for success

What training is necessary?

hammer hitting nail

The requirements might be different for each company, but in thinking about the basics, I’ve come up with this list.
– CRM training
– Company sales philosophy
– Product knowledge
– Prospect Approach
– Prospects background
– Competitor knowledge
– Time management
– Territory management
– Appointment setting
– Prospect meetings/How to handle
– Implementation/Delivery
– Repeated questions/objections from prospects
– Anything specific to the industry/might include non-disclosures or privacy issues

Each of these has many moving parts that need covering with a new hire.

Let’s look at some basics for each of these.

Consider CRM training

A company’s CRM program is its lifeblood. It is where all their customer and prospect data stays. It is a living database filled with potential money. It is critical for the success of the individual and the company.

With that in mind, there are things that a new employee needs to understand. All databases need rules and parameters for data entry. If everyone enters information differently, it is difficult for the database to serve its primary function.

A DATABASE IF FOR MINING INFORMATION, NOT STORING IT!

I can’t tell you how many salespeople I’ve trained that didn’t know this. They never received this most significant fact in any training they ever received. If they understand the importance of this and how it affects their success, they are more likely to comply with the database rules and conditions set forth by management.

Consider Company sales philosophy

” There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or >you can inspire it.”

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

All new salespeople deserve to know why you are in business? Why you do what you do? It can’t all be about money and beating the competition.
It can even include your unique selling proposition, although this would typically go under your product knowledge training.

Consider Product Knowledge

Whether the company sells one product or many, there are questions someone new needs to know.
-What problem does it solve?
-How is it implemented?
-What are the time frames for implementation?
-Why your company?
Even the basics are helpful to someone that isn’t familiar with your company or its products.

Consider Competitor Knowledge

I don’t fret over or talk about competitors, but I like to know who they are. I like to be aware of their product line with enough knowledge to position mine in the right way.

This knowledge can be important with a prospect mentions they are also looking at XYZ Corporation. If I’m familiar, I can frame my product or services in a way to put it in a way the prospect will appreciate.

It also might let you find out where they are in the buying process. Have they just started, or are they about to make a decision? Knowing where they are in the process lets me know my chances. Whether to proceed or thank them and move on.

Consider Prospect Approach

My sales career began with little much direction. I had difficulty in the initial approach of a prospect. I wasn’t shy or bashful but didn’t have any idea how to approach and engage. I learned over time from tapes and books, but it would have sped my success with the first company.
-Do you encourage demos of the products?
-Is it a short or long sales cycle?
-Who is the right person/title to call on?
-How do you get ahead of the sales process?
-How does the company respond to RFPs? (Request for Proposal)
-What are extra services {if any} extended for new buyers?
-How can a new salesperson leverage superiors in your company when needed?

Red clock showing 7:32

Consider Time Management

Time management begins with company goals for their salespeople.

  • Are there prospecting goals?
  • Are there meeting goals?
  • What metrics are they measured by?
  • What activity is required?

Closed sales are a large part of the measure, but a new hire needs guidance to begin their journey.

Consider Territory Management

So much depends on the correct information with this one.
-How big is the territory?
-If large, how do they cover it efficiently?
-Are there current customers/prospects?
-What are the expectations for covering the territory?
-Can it be divided in a manner to drive fewer miles?
-If a walking territory, how do you proceed?
One company I worked for in Houston, Texas, divided the sales territory by Zip Codes. Based on business density, some areas contained one Zip Code, while others had many. It was a reasonable way to accomplish the division.

Walking size territories included Downtown Greenway Plaza. Others, even though only one Zip Code, required a lot of driving to cover. And then there was Beaumont, Texas, which was over an hour away. Planning and appointments were crucial for the salesperson in that territory.

Consider Prospect Backgrounds

Once a prospect is identified, what tools does the company have to assist the salesperson in background research? Are they on their own with LinkedIn and Google searches? That’s all right as long as you set parameters for the time spent.

I’ve witnessed salespeople spend hours researching. Is that necessary? I say it depends. Probably not. I like to know a couple of items about a company for appointment setting. Company structure. Potentially the name of a contact in the right position in the company. Sometimes that is the Purchasing Agent, a Director over the department you serve, or the COO/CEO.

There are many tools available for purchase by companies, so part of the training should cover these and how to use them properly.

Here are some items that might be beneficial throughout the selling process. I like the Who, What, When, How, Where method.
-Who started the company, and are they still there?
-Who currently runs the company?
-Who decides on the purchases of your products?
-Who gives final approval? An individual or a committee?
-Who is their current vendor?
-Who are they looking at besides you?
-What does the company do?
-What training will they need if they implement your product/service?
-What is the typical ramp up time for their employee training?
-When do they need the product/service?
-When is the budget available?
-How do they buy/make decisions on their purchases?
-How do they compare the products they are looking to purchase?
-Where are they in the decision process?
-Where is the location of the implementation?
Some answers present themselves as the process unfolds, but some are good to know going in. Research is good to the degree needed at each stage of the selling process.

Consider Appointment Setting

When I started, telephones and cold calls were the only way to get appointments. We didn’t even have cellular phones back then. Once cell phones arrived, it revolutionized the sales industry.

How does your company want prospecting to take place?

Today along with those two still being viable, there is Social Media, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and others. A salesperson can make contacts in a targeted manner with these tools, as well.

Some salespeople are starting blogs and showing their expertise through writing online. Prospects might not stumble across these, but in the prospecting phase, links to an article written that address their industry or unique situation can make a difference in getting that in-person meeting.

Consider Handling Prospect Meetings

Why are you there? Does your company have a basic agenda to keep initial meetings on track? How about talking points or questions needed to determine the viability of the prospect.

What issues are they having? Is the company a good fit for you and your company? If they are in the market, do they have the budget? If not, when will the new budget be approved? What is their implementation time requirements?

Don’t turn it into the inquisition, but you need to know if they are a prospect or not. Not every meeting reveals an opportunity you can help.

What criteria do you have to meet to place this prospect as real in the CRM? Sales Projections are one of the hardest lessons for a new hire to learn. Help them with this process until they understand that not everyone is a prospective customer.

What is your experience?

Does your company have a training process for positions in the company?
Did you receive training when you started?
If yes, was it helpful? Did they include product training? Did it include basic sales training?
If no, do you think it would have helped if they had a formal training program?
Let me know what you think. I would be interested to know if my experience was unique or typical.

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