Playbook for Organizing an Effective Sales Training Program

Every great sales team requires the most advanced sales and conversation skills training they can find – but sales managers cannot themselves provide 100% of the attention each employee needs to achieve their next level of performance. Instead, the sales team must obtain a reliable, on-demand training platform that provides contextual feedback and prescriptive methods for self-correcting ineffective communication habits.

As today's cutting-edge computational algorithms have made this a reality, sales teams and managers can use their time together to create a massively data-driven playbook unique to their organization and industry's requirements. Since only 35% of salespeople rely on their training as their primary source of improvement, most companies have a major unmet need for improved training methods. Is your company one of them?

Individualizing Talent Development

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In a perfect world, this would be a simple matter of holding meetings and perhaps handing out worksheets or giving presentations for the sales team to study. However, this only goes so far and can lead to many missed talents as those who learn by experience have little more to do than committing to long-term trial and error.

The challenge is that sales managers and coaches previously lacked the time and means to manually review hours of recorded sales calls or engage in endless role-playing scenarios – not to mention providing ultra-personalized feedback for every rep from the ground up. Company-wide data was there; the means to analyze it wasn't.

Not having a smooth sales training plan for applying sales data means that sales managers and training leaders wind up making educated guesses about their team's true talents. There quickly sets in a culture of thinking it's okay or even inevitable to lack objective measures besides pure sales rates – which, even if that's taken as a "good enough" measure for top performers, does little or nothing to help others in the team get there.

Essentially, it's been hard for sales department heads to give more than opinions, no matter how educated and specialized they are. They cannot thus point objectively to the areas where their sales reps need guidance – and the representatives don't often know either. It's understandable, considering how much harder they had to work with only educated guesswork and dogged determination to rely upon. Still, with today's technology, sales managers, trainers, and coaches all have no reason not to bolster their keen insights with advanced AI training tools that take into account all of the following:

  • Behavior analysis
  • Purpose-driven analytics
  • Skills assessment scores
  • Custom benchmarks for each employee
  • Observation-based habit improvements
  • Identification of behaviors that elicit the most favorable responses
  • Quantifiable communication strengths and weaknesses
  • Cohesion between training and sales systems
  • Predictive response & readiness
  • Active training environment
  • Contextual notifications

To put it concisely, your sales reps won't be sitting around during their sales training anymore.

Your organization can meet their needs almost anywhere and anytime they'd like by simply pulling up their individuated or group training protocols from the cloud. They also will be able to diminish their forgetting curve as the algorithm reminds them of key lesson takeaways at periodic intervals set for maximum retention rates.

Evaluating Message Content and Delivery

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Achieving even a small handful of the above-listed assets before would have required full-time staff work, and even then, it would have been just countless new moving parts to reduce the complexity. Though that's no longer the case technically, this almost total lack of training efficiency and objectivity has left an impression on sales departments that what they do must always be subjective.

It's not out of lack of desire, and sales managers have historically been remarkably eager to try new methods – whatever works, as long as their sales quotas are met, and the customers are happy. They simply require an advanced training platform to automate all of these factors, and even better, one that delves deeply into message-content evaluation in the broadest sense by tracking all of:

  • Visual delivery. Depending on how it's defined, non-verbal cues account for anywhere between 55% and 90% of communication. Teaching sales reps how to apply non-verbal communication effectively will drastically boost their communication skills.

  • Vocal impact. Understand how tone, inflection, and speech rate are coming across recipients.

  • Audience perceptions. As important as your message is, it's equally crucial to ensure that your sales reps' audience receives those messages as intended. They must learn how to interpret your audience's signals as well.

Using machine algorithms, software engineers can detect and categorize over 1,000 behaviors into precise and meaningful measurements. The result is that even the most socially challenged team members can keep up with changing interpersonal trends. The most socially intelligent team leaders will be able to apply this data at an even more advanced level in the ways that count most: sales conversion rates and the establishment of industry leadership.

Where it all begins is obtaining the right tool – from there, the playbook almost writes itself.

Reducing the Signal-to-Noise Ratio

In all this data-driven focus, it's easy to become fixated. That's perfectly okay from time to time, and it's easier than ever to pick it apart (after all, that's what the software engineers bringing these tools to market have dedicated themselves to doing). Yet the overarching goal is to make the data work for you, not conscript you to the data. In every sales training effort, the playbook you create must never lose sight of the goal: customer acquisition.

One of the most direct ways of doing this is to prioritize data that relates most directly to your record of successful sales, then reverse engineering it for what went right. Arguably, the most solid play in any sales-based communication program should be to improve sales acceleration by engaging buyers in more meaningful ways. As far as sales training methods go, there's a lot of noise, and many sales training professionals are caught between needing a cohesive training module but feeling lost in the shuffle.

The key to keeping your customers in any industry engaged is showing them they are not just the priority but, in fact, the entirety of your organization's focus. This cannot be faked and will only show if you leverage your training and analytics processes to create as many opportunities for live practice amongst your sales teams as possible. It may sound overly bold, but it could almost be considered a lifestyle.

At the same time, you don't want to lose sales opportunities by beginning to think of them as practice runs for your team. What happens all too often is that your sales reps are caught in a stark dichotomy between needing field experience but having only standard training modules at their disposal, which are overly generic and subjective.

Genuine Data for Authentic Connections

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What's needed is an approach that blurs the line between practice and performance using a platform that goes beyond modeling by using actual sales communication data – and mountains of it. Additionally, the ideal sales training platform will:

  • Be available on demand
  • Continually leverage historical sales data as far as possible
  • Create training simulations that automatically track and measure progress
  • Enable sales coaches to go from managing the entire session to monitoring progress instead
  • Connect insights gained during training to the most relevant skills development exercises
  • Reveal which strengths and weaknesses are most relevant for particular leads
  • Provide accurate feedback using live or modeled audiences
  • Measure and categorize that feedback

Companies across numerous industries are already conforming algorithmically powered sales-training programs to their unique purposes. As they push the capabilities of these platforms further, something innately human will emerge as the operative element, driving the need for ongoing customization and a healthy acceptance of the spontaneity of communication. The sales platform that embraces this (rather than tries to overcome it) will undoubtedly prove the most versatile and effective.

Reverse-Engineering Success

One of the first things most companies do when they get their hands on this technology is to analyze their top performers and try to distill their methods into replicable ones. It's a long-time study and nothing new – but what is new is the fact that doing so is by far more possible than ever.

This is where most sales training platforms fall short because they often focus almost exclusively on hard skills, which are (or used to be) much easier to measure. Collecting data that has historically been the easiest to acquire is inevitable. The issue, though, is that it’s been compiled to nearly exclude other vital points.

Consequently, it left a gap to fill to bring these more crucial but misunderstood qualities up to a greater level of understanding. All the more, it's the soft skills that truly make or break a sales rep, and therefore it's a considerable shortcoming to the industry to leave them out or even settle for vague, qualified understandings of them.

However difficult it may or may not have genuinely been (depending on who you ask), that hasn't stopped numerous companies and research organizations from studying them to significant effect. On the contrary, thanks to the nexus of computer science and behavior analytics, communication skills training and the characteristics that mark top performers can now be quantified much more quickly.

Meeting Unmet Needs With Newly Quantifiable Talent

To leave the point anything but vague and uncertain, consider these impressive findings on the power of soft skills in various industries:

That same research article (from military recruiter Bradley Morris) explains that another survey of over 64,000 managers stated that 60% believed new graduates lacked critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The low majority though it is, in the context of the other figures, it's clear that targeting soft skills in any industry – especially the sales industry – should be considered one of the most important efforts for any business.

Imagine, on the other hand, having a fully accessible soft-skills training environment right at your employees' fingertips whenever they want. Your company will stand out massively if you can nip the soft skills drain in the bud. Nothing will do this better than an entire sales training package that applies continual behavioral science and interrelational analysis advances.

Solid Solutions to Soft Skill Problems

Machine-learning environments are not just training grounds for oft-coveted soft skills – they are fully immersive learning environments that provide equally advanced learning tools. By tracking progress, communications training programs will demonstrate to the trainee exactly which efforts have been most influential in honing their social finesse and sales metrics.

The aim should be complete measurement, feedback, and training solution in a single software environment. All the better, it will prove more efficient if employees can access it at their convenience and at times, they are at their most alert and receptive states for learning and acquiring new talents. Compare this with the traditional alternative of scheduled training sessions, which in addition to their rigid format, have the further distinction of being broad and impersonal. It's simply unnecessary anymore.

From Onboarding to Upskilling

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A robust sales process training system powered by a single, company-wide platform will almost automatically refine your onboarding process, bringing new sales team members up to speed in as close to a live environment as possible. Simultaneously, sales trainers can quantify the communication skills the team will need to focus on most going forward.

Previously, creating a distinct training environment for every skill or experience level (let alone each individual) placed a significant burden on the sales trainers and coaches, who expended more resources on the training modules than peer-to-peer consultations. If they instead can leverage the same training platform for multiple (and all the better, every) training purposes, their lives would be much easier, and their sales reps would progress at a record pace.

The most cohesive training environment possible will also bring each sales-related department onto the same page. This approach would allow key sales management, sales training, and sales coaching staff to stay focused on the most operative sales goals facing the entire organization. The company earns more deals when sales reps and managers are more efficient.

Training for the Most Bottom-Line Metrics

On the other side of the transaction, imagine if the same sales training platform also had some utility for the success of the sales meetings. This would give your sales team a much higher top speed. One of the most significant speed bumps for sales reps is switching back and forth between different data sets or even separate software tools altogether – when their focus should be squarely on the communication at hand.

By harnessing the same analytical tools used during training to provide contextual analysis of the sales calls, your staff will be in their most natural element and focused on the strength of their connections. The quality of the conversations, and the rate of conversions, will become the prime focus.

The possibilities of this arrangement are limitless, and one of the most obvious uses would be to gauge signs of sales readiness with increased accuracy. Such data would accumulate over time, and the benefits would be bi-directional:

  1. Arm sales reps with crucial indicators that the lead shows signs of high purchase willingness.
  2. Obtain the most crucial data related to some of the essential business operations for use in future training sessions.

That's just one particular, but arguably most important, example of how a highly organized sales training program would practically revolutionize the entire sales process in the way that matters most: your business's profits.

Practical Performance

Without question, experiential training outmatches the alternatives because it is far more relevant to the actual scenarios in which the sales reps will find themselves. Since sales calls take place in a variety of ways, training methods selected for real-world practicality can certainly still vary, meaning the best analytical training program should enable any of:

  • Recording practice calls with platform-generated prompts
  • Uploading actual prerecorded calls for advanced behavioral studies
  • Assessing live calls in real-time with quickly generated assessment scores

Advanced AI-powered training systems provide the most experience-focused training routines possible. They will eventually replace traditional learning models, where students passively watch online courses and hope that witnessing staged scenarios will at least somewhat align with actual on-the-job experiences.

Training models of the past also only provided general feedback. Live performance situations alone can provide the specific feedback required to grow. Why practice imagined simulations when you could train in the most true-to-life setting possible?

Specific, Quantifiable Feedback

Careful assessment of actual video calls provides the exacting feedback that matters most. Advanced AI training systems can provide immediate contextual notifications to steer the conversation towards the desired outcome as effectively as possible. Not just after but during the training session, trainees should receive thorough but precise score assessments to reveal the communications skills that, when strengthened, will have the most measurably beneficial impact.

The session feedback is objective because it uses true-to-life responses by actual client leads or simulation partners who provide the software with genuine, real-time answers. Whether they are real-world clients is unimportant because the primary purpose is simply to generate human responses to what is said and how.

Customized for Relevancy

After the feedback process, each training participant should be given the most self-directed skills-development practices possible. The sales coaches can then help the trainee learn to interpret the data to understand better the purpose behind the platform's custom-tailored skills-condition protocols, determined from the voluminous data acquired during the interaction.

With laser-precision focus, the participants can return to the live-training sessions to test their progress and receive a new assessment. This will provide a developmental progress report that provides even more relevant and personalized feedback, including motivations to continue along with practices with the best effect. Over time, progress reports become further refined, providing only the most helpful input determined by that which most demonstrably leads to the targeted habit development.

The goal must always be rapid development of the most useful interpersonal skills according to one's role in the company. This also results in a self-reinforcing feedback loop of assessment, prescriptive adjustments, and performance improvements that lead to more closed deals. Increased sales result in more valuable assessment data, which a business can use just as before but even more thoroughly (not to mention radically scaled up organization-wide when the opportunity presents itself).

Scaling Up Successes

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Sales coaching leaders and managers can further leverage this feedback to learn where they should focus their own, more specialized talents to create maximum impact on a department-wide basis. Even to department managers and senior executives, data-driven analytics can be almost as easily applied to interdepartmental and organization-wide changes as to individual sales reps, at least in theory.

However truly effortless such scaling efforts will be to any given company, the rewards of doing so are enormous. Management can then direct the entire company according to the most unprecedented levels of evidence-based decision-making yet known to the world of sales and business.

Advanced Tools That Advance Communications

What modern sales forces need most are contextual and algorithmically powered solutions to automate as much of their training and client-facing communications processes as possible. Quantified is doing this today with a sales-driving, multi-functional platform that functions across a wide range of industries – wherever there's a sharp premium on the quality of communication.

Our advanced digital toolset analyzes more than 1,400 behaviors across 24 essential conversational skills, applying that data contextually to a standardized scoring and ranking system. The Quantified platform then creates simple but comprehensive benchmarks designed with the needs of top performers and ambitious up-and-comers in mind, and it can be applied at any scale across the entire organization.

Wherever communication improvements generate a more robust bottom line, advanced and automated communications algorithms are the next big thing. Explore the future of advanced communication skills training software by signing up for a free demo and customizing it for your company's particular needs.

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