Any organization committed to staying competitive and winning business must invest in sales team training. Today’s sales reps must be experts in what they do to impress customers who are more informed than ever. Buyers no longer settle for basic product details and standard sales pitches. They want partners in the sales process— people who understand their needs.
The first step towards helping your salespeople create meaningful buyer engagements is planning a good sales training program that provides them with necessary and up-to-date skills and resources. But how can one create an effective training program that gives the reps ultimate control over their success? Organizations today are using web-based, AI-enabled platforms that can assess each individual rep’s strengths and weaknesses and provide a personalized path toward improving their skills.
Let’s take a closer look at how to plan out your sales training program schedule and how using a web-based, AI-Powered coaching platform can make the process efficient and effective.
Determine Objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
You’ll need to do some groundwork before crafting a new sales training program. Hold a meeting between executives, sales managers, and key players in the sales departments to examine the sales objectives.
Training programs aim to support particular sales objectives, such as speeding up the sales cycle, improving quotas, and achieving more wins. Start by outlining your reasons for creating the program, who you are creating it for, and how it will transform their roles into more manageable, rewarding, and successful ones.
Next, determine KPIs that support the main sales goals. Outlining the KPIs will help you determine whether your training program is working as intended. Examples of KPIs for the sales program include employee engagement and completion time. Also, your learning & development team can check sales training-based KPIs against sales goals and search for positive trends to ensure the training provides the help it’s meant to provide.
This step is the basis for creating a comprehensive sales training program because it allows companies to customize their training efforts for optimal ROI and less ramp time when you bring new hires on board.
Identify Performance Gaps
Evaluating weaknesses in your team at the individual and team levels offers essential clues about where you should focus training. For example, once you realize that some reps repeatedly fail to meet their quotas or the whole team has problems promoting a specific service, you can develop a training module and materials to close those gaps.
Here’s how to uncover the performance gaps.
Carry Out a Preliminary Analysis and Determine Your Organizational Priorities
Before establishing the hindrances to your sales rep’s potential, start by evaluating their current standing. Understand the current level of their skills and knowledge. This analysis helps reveal the existing barriers to growth which can help establish a realistic set of desired outcomes.
Identify the Performance Gaps
After conducting a preliminary analysis, you can identify what hinders each sales rep’s performance. This is a critical step if you are planning out an effective and successful sales training program. Unfortunately, since managers typically evaluate individuals based on what they can observe, identifying performance gaps in every sales rep is time-consuming and not particularly objective.
An AI-powered coaching platform is the solution in such cases as it can take such unique scenarios into account and use scientific metrics to evaluate each rep and identify where they really need help.
Typically, identifying the areas that need improvement involves:
Analyzing Periodic Reports
Looking at the monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or even annual managerial assessments can give crucial insights into how your sales department performs. You will be checking whether the team met its targets and the most commonly mentioned problems among sales reps. Also, following up with the team leader can give a different angle and allow you to understand performance issues from an internal perspective.
Surveys offer an excellent platform to establish performance issues that management couldn’t see. You’ll get highly valuable feedback coming directly from the sales reps you are trying to train to improve their efficiency and productivity.
Monitoring Sales Representatives
Observing your sales reps during their on-the-job hours is among the most effective ways to identify performance gaps. It helps you extract actionable data that you can use to develop a sales training solution targeting the exact scenario.
Common examples of sales performance gaps include:
- Failure to follow your sales process
Low-performing reps usually rush or skip some steps of the sales process. For instance, they may fail to follow up with leads more than once or give up too quickly.
- Poor listening skills
Top sales reps actively listen to their prospects and ask questions that get them to open up. But low performers often spend more of their time speaking. You can identify this gap by looking at the talk-to-listen ratios across your team.
- Poor speaking skills
Low performers tend to use verbal fillers in their communication. Filler words usually have a bad rap in sales and make an individual sound unconvincing. These low performers may also talk too fast, which may blow away their prospects as they can’t mentally keep up with the pace. Lastly, an off-putting tone is a common problem in a low-performing sales team. Top performers have a neutral pitch. They use moments of a high pitch to express friendliness and excitement and lessen it when conveying expertise and a sense of authority.
- Untrained soft skills
Facial expressions set the pace for the entire process. Poor soft skills are characteristic of low performers and send a negative message to the prospect. These include things like a forced smile, averted eye contact, a slumped posture, fidgeting, and crossed arms.
- Ineffective messaging
Effective messaging gives the customer a reason to buy your product or service. And for a sales rep to give the message effectively, they need to organize and personalize it. Low performers generalize what they say and fail to address a customer’s specific needs, challenges and pain points.
Good storytelling ability is very important at this stage. It helps customers see the solution works and paints the salesperson as a trustworthy expert. But low performers rarely incorporate a story into their message.
- Bringing pricing discussions too early
Low performers usually jump on pitching way too early and easily surrender when the prospects ask about pricing. Therefore, they won’t get a good grasp on the potential customer’s challenges and needs. Top performers bring pricing discussions later in the conversation.
- Too much interrogation
Although a rep needs to ask many questions to the qualifying leads, it doesn’t mean throwing 20 questions to the prospects. Top performers know how to bring their quizzes naturally into the talk while still getting the required details.
- Failure to prepare adequately for calls
Reps may engage in a call without an objective or a backup strategy if things don’t go as expected. Some may even be completely unprepared, such that they don’t know who the lead is or why your solution would fit them best.
Craft Your Training Strategy
After evaluating the sales training needs of your sales team, including the current capabilities and the stumbling blocks to your sales potential, you can now formulate a training plan that boosts the performance of your team.
Note that an effective training program should revolve around every individual sales rep’s needs and performance challenges while also meeting the company’s macro-goals. Each salesperson has a different skill set and knowledge base, and your training strategy should take that into account.
Ensure Training Materials are Accessible
Effective sales training isn’t something that happens only during new product launches or during onboarding, but it’s an ongoing effort. You should set expectations that sales training is central to each rep’s work.
That said, you must also ensure training materials that emphasize best sales practices and crucial product details are easily accessible. Failure to ensure the materials and resources are easily accessible may make it difficult for your sales reps to engage, which can result in decreased performance in both training and on the field. Access to high-quality and regularly updated training materials will consistently improve and elevate the average performance levels of your entire team.
Sales reps need measurable data points about their performance to know where they are doing great and what things they should work on. This includes an individual’s vocal delivery, e.g., dependence on fillers, the perceived quality and character of their voice, and how they utter words. Another key KPI is the message content, i.e., the rep’s logical structure and flow of content. They’ll also need a report on the audience’s perception of their trustworthiness and credibility when speaking.
With this feedback, they can develop into communication experts and fully transform how they connect, convey and convince their audiences. However, traditional feedback approaches can only give subjective information based on the manager’s personal opinions, points of view, judgment, and emotions. But, an AI-powered coaching platform will give you an unbiased measured summary of the rep’s performance across different skillsets. Even better, your sales reps can access this information whenever they need it, not just once a year or when their managers get around it.
Why You Need a Web-Based, AI-Powered Coaching Platform
Creating an effective sales coaching program is not as easy as it may sound. You need to identify performance gaps in each rep, which can be time-consuming and subjective. Unfortunately, it is difficult to conduct this step, especially if you have a large or dispersed sales force.
In addition to identifying performance gaps, you must also accommodate individual needs. A sales training program must examine individual roles, performance, tenure, weaknesses, and strengths. That requires effort and time, which manager coaches cannot afford without support.
Fortunately, you can solve all these challenges and have a successful sales training program by using a web-based, AI-powered coaching platform. Such a platform provides an objective way to identify the performance gaps of your reps, even if you have the largest and most dispersed sales force.
Further, a web-based AI-powered platform provides a personalized path toward improving the skills of your sales reps. It should be able to tailor training for each sales rep considering their unique learning pace, learning styles, and skillsets.
When you choose a web-based, AI-enabled training platform that is accessible, robust, objective, and engaging, you can build training that gives reps ultimate control over their success.
Managers won’t have to schedule training and try to fit it into each rep’s schedule. Instead, the reps can integrate it into their workflow and receive customized training when it works best for them. Whether it’s a night-time tryout on objection handling prior to meeting a challenging customer or a quick practice of battle cards before a crucial sale call, AI-powered training is always available at any place and time the reps need it to maintain workflow.
As stated earlier, feedback is critical to the success of a sales training program. However, coaches may have biases due to their past experiences in sales. Even if they minimize the bias, they are still humans and tend to be inconsistent, picking up on varying signals at different times due to different emotions and points of attention. However, an AI-powered coaching platform works through algorithms and thus responds similarly to input all the time, giving consistent and unbiased feedback.
Craft an Effective Sales Training Program Today
Quantified is an AI-powered training platform that helps sales reps improve their conversation skills. We can objectively measure more than 1000 behaviors across 24 conversation skills and offer standardized scores and rankings at scale across the whole sales organization. Visit Quantified for more information about how our web-based, AI-powered coaching platform can help you plan out your sales training program schedule.