4-Step Action Plan to Improve Sales Leadership Skills
Chief sales officers and other sales leaders across the B2B and B2C industries are struggling to find sales professionals with the skills to achieve organizational revenue goals. In fact, 67% of CSOs in a recent Gartner survey identified acquiring talent as one of their top challenges.
By and large, companies have identified two approaches for resolving this issue: investing in recruitment, which comes at a high cost for compensation packages without addressing core factors behind turnover and poor performance, or investing in training so that current employees and new hires learn the skills and sales behaviors that align with an organization’s branding.
Developing a learning and development system within your own organization can more concretely address talent concerns. An action plan to improve leadership skills can also improve company culture, reduce turnover, foster better client relationships, and increase sales.
But to access those benefits, your organization needs to have an action plan that makes it simple to move from nonexistent or intermittent training to frequent, data-backed assessments and training. In this guide, we’ll discuss:
- The value of improving sales and leadership skills within your organization
- The four main steps you should have in your action plan to improve leadership skills
- The role of modern AI-powered technology for engagement, assessment, and improvement
Every Organization Needs an Action Plan to Improve Leadership Skills
You can’t have an effective sales process when you don’t have a skilled sales team. Marketing and automated funnels can only do so much, especially in B2B markets or high-dollar product and service markets. First, consider what these skills really look like; a blurry idea of ‘sales skills’ or ‘soft skills’ won’t lead to concrete improvements. Instead, consider more specific attributes that all of your sales representatives and sales leaders should have, including:
- The confidence to take charge of a client interaction and speak to an audience with a clear message
- Experience staying on-brand and friendly while answering common questions or objections
- Ease with speaking to different types of buyers at all stages of the sale and post-sale cycle
- The ability to provide potentially complex or technical information while removing the possibility of misunderstandings
- Knowing the tactics and messages that lead to conversions or positive outcomes
Before you dive into an action plan, make sure you and other stakeholders know what ‘improved sales skills’ look like for your organization so you don’t have an unclear moving target.
The Value of Better Sales Leadership Skills
Looking at the list above, the value of more practiced skills and sales ability may already be obvious. Consider the impact better training can have with a look at some stats:
- 42% of sales reps don’t feel prepared before they make a sales call. They might have insufficient practice, know they don’t have all the information they should, or be worried about potential questions. Practice, informational resources, and experience can reduce that percentage.
- Companies can increase their win rates by 29% with effective sales coaching. More conversions and sales are at the heart of why any revenue process should be changed. But many training managers and sales managers don’t have the time to provide helpful one-on-one training, assess role-playing exercises, or gauge improvement. They become a bottleneck—but we’ll discuss how to address this later in the article.
- When prospects get stuck in the pipeline, 55% of the time, it’s because sales reps can’t provide enough value to move them along. Helpful answers, detailed explanations, and the practiced applications of sales tactics are the only answer.
- Finally, 80% of customers care about the experience just as much as the products themselves. If sales reps are off-brand, awkward, or unhelpful, you’ll lose a customer. But if the reps are well trained and confident, customers have a better experience.
Why You Should Provide Training and Development Instead of Hiring New Employees
While recruiting experienced salespeople is a potential solution, it’s an expensive one. Recruiting high-performing salespeople means you have to offer more in compensation to be competitive. They also won’t necessarily feel loyalty toward your organization.
Related: What Are Sales Training Simulations and How Can You Integrate Them Into Your Skills Training Program?
However, by investing in training and development opportunities, you can increase employee retention and engagement. Organizations that provide employee development see 34% more retention than other organizations. Those employees also have a 15% greater engagement rate.
That same training does more than build loyalty. It ensures your team sells and communicates in a way that aligns with your brand and organizational mission. That matters more than ever before in markets where customers want to feel connected to the companies they purchase from.
Follow These Steps to Improve Sales Leadership Skills in Your Organization
Once you decide that you want to systematically improve your team’s sales and sales leadership skills, it’s time to build an action plan to improve leadership skills that can foster that growth. Follow these steps to make it happen:
1. Measure Your Team’s Baseline Skills
Before you can provide training, you need to know each salesperson’s capabilities, leadership skills, and understanding of your brand. Assess their individual baseline skills so you can identify strengths, areas for improvement, and the most critical learning areas. This sets the foundation for more effective learning than general courses and seminars.
Many organizations struggle with this step because it takes time to review and provide feedback on individual assessments. Many sales leaders don’t have the time to engage in role-playing exercises or even review recorded exercises. This can create a significant hurdle from the start, but your organization can’t skip this step.
2. Identify the Areas for Improvement
Once you have baseline assessments, you can identify the areas where each rep should focus on improvements. This can include:
- Unique voice and branding concerns, such as if new hires or employees are unfamiliar with organization-specific tactics
- Critical points of failure, such as areas where an individual rep severely struggles and loses the client
- Advanced selling tactics and techniques that can streamline the conversion process and build great relationships
3. Provide Individualized Training and Assessment
Every sales rep’s performance is different, so their training should be as individualized as possible. There are two forms this individualization can take, and both are extremely valuable:
- Microlessons and course material based on the learner’s profile. This degree of personalization ensures employees aren’t forced to cover topics they already excel at or are given instruction that is too advanced for their needs. Employees can then have assessments that cover these unique learning areas to demonstrate improvement.
- Open-ended role-playing exercises. With the right technology or role-playing environment, salespeople can respond to customer interactions how they feel best based on their unique skill set. They can then receive extremely personalized feedback based on the accuracy of their information, their tone and friendliness, adherence to brand norms and style throughout the interaction, and the effectiveness of their performance.
Both of these approaches can provide real, measurable improvements. As your salespeople complete training exercises, they’ll receive fine-tuned information, personalized feedback, and meaningful opportunities to improve their skills.
4. Continually Measure, Revise, and Develop
For any action plan, it’s important to have a review stage. This is your team’s opportunity to:
- Review growth, both as a team and for each sales rep
- Identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies in the learning program
- See the effect of learning and development on revenue goals and customer responses
You can identify opportunities for improvement based on real results and ensure ongoing learning cycles are as effective as possible. One of the main struggles you may identify with your learning program at this stage is any manual or in-person elements. These can be addressed with the right training platforms.
The Role of AI in Your Training Action Plan
Artificial intelligence systems can eliminate both bottlenecks and generic learning paths in your action plan to improve leadership skills with a high-quality sales training simulator. One core difficulty many organizations grapple with is the manual, time-intensive nature of individualized learning plans. But an AI-powered training platform that can give sales reps role-playing simulations and personalized, self-directed learning avenues can remove this barrier. AI tools can:
Speed Up (and Standardize) Onboarding
The first step in your training action plan is developing the baseline skills profile. AI tools can assess each rep’s skills, gaps in knowledge, and performance across thousands of metrics. This transforms murky, unmeasurable soft skills and performance into a series of concrete numbers, which can be used to prioritize different skills and measure growth. It also means you can build baseline profiles for every sales role in your organization, from key account managers to sales leaders.
Related: How to Shorten Your Time to Productivity With Better Sales Training Onboarding
Provide Easy Access to Practice Via Role-Playing
The most critical bottleneck is practice. Salespeople need active practice to gain experience and be able to apply the right sales tactics smoothly. But they certainly shouldn’t practice on salespeople, and managers are often unavailable. An additional barrier is that salespeople don’t like in-person role-playing because it’s awkward and embarrassing. AI-based role-playing removes the need for an in-person counterpart and allows salespeople to practice new skills and tactics privately. They can then get real-time feedback from an AI coach and continually refine their approach.
Generate Instant Results and Feedback
It’s impossible to overestimate the power of instant results and feedback. Employees can use this to immediately identify (and practice!) alternative approaches. They can role-play customer scenarios again and again until they get it just right. Then they can upload their best recording to their manager for additional feedback. The value here is triple-fold:
- Employees get as much experience and feedback as they want.
- Managers can assess just one recording to get complete insight into each employee’s development.
- There’s a robust quantitative history of how sales reps improved in each measured category—showing leaders both a rep’s skill growth and willingness to put in the work to grow.
The First Step to Developing Your Action Plan Is Getting the Right Training Platform
Sales training is invaluable, but many organizations are held back by the time commitment good in-person training involves. It’s simply not possible to do the in-person training and role-playing necessary to push salespeople to their full potential. But that’s where AI-powered role-playing and sales skills assessments come in. At Quantified, each sales rep gets a virtual AI coach who can provide targeted feedback, an endless series of role-playing opportunities for realistic practice, and in-depth assessments with quantifiable results. Talk to us today to see what that can look like for your business.