How to Create a Sales Training Program that Sellers Actually Like
A sales rep schedules a meeting with a prospect, but then they receive a request to attend a training session for the exact same time. What should they do?
Sales training is critical. Reps must understand buyers’ needs and challenges and how to convey the value of what they’re selling.
But they also must win deals and hit quota.
The best solution: Implement a sales training program that allows for both.
Sales organizations “should empower sellers to take the call. There are ways to structure training to be asynchronous and in the flow of their daily work,” said Deniz Olcay, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Allego.
Olcay joined Katharine Wilson, Senior Manager, Global Solutions Onboarding Strategy, Salesforce, and David Dulany, Founder & CEO, Tenbound, for a recent Sales Hacker Live webinar, How Sellers REALLY Want to Learn, during which they all expressed a need for training to accommodate sellers’ challenges.
“It’s so difficult for sales reps to get in front of decision makers, so to ask a rep to change the meeting and attend training instead is asking a lot of them,” Olcay said.
That means saving live training for sessions that include interactive dialogue and scheduling them well in advance so reps don’t reserve the time for prospect meetings, he said.
“If the training is going to be one-sided, make it asynchronous so the seller can watch it at a later time,” Olcay said. “We want to protect sellers’ time and empower them to access training in a more convenient way that revolves around their selling schedule.”
In addition, the training must be worth it for sales reps to attend, Dulany said.
“Sellers are always going to have some excuse to not do training, especially if they’re performing really well, feel like they have it under control, and don’t see value in the training,” he said.
6 Sales Training Challenges and Solutions to Create a Sales Training Program that Works
Persuading sales reps to attend training sessions is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sales training hurdles. Several underlying conditions contribute to a seller’s reluctance, from Zoom fatigue to feeling like it’s not relevant. And with a significant portion of onboarding, training, and coaching still virtual, it’s even harder to create training programs that are compelling and effective.
Olcay, Wilson, and Dulany identified six sales training challenges that sales enablement teams often struggle with and offered solutions to make programs more interesting and effective.
1. Virtual Training Fatigue
Today’s sellers primarily work from home, they’re exhausted, they’re overwhelmed, and they’re trying to figure out where they want to spend their time, Wilson said. “You’re competing with literally everything for people’s attention,” she said.
To do virtual training well, organizations must redesign a lot of their content, Wilson said. What worked for in-person training will not work in a virtual environment. Training must be engaging and delivered in small segments. Don’t trap people at their desk for long periods of time.
“We need to remember that we’re all human beings who spend a lot of time sitting in a chair at a desk,” Wilson said.
Solution: Provide engaging training content that includes polls and quizzes. Limit training sessions to 60 minutes. Factor in times for people to stand up, turn off their computers, walk away, stretch, get a glass of water—whatever they need to do.
2. Peer Learning
Before the pandemic, a lot of learning was in the office—when everyone was working together and learning from one another. They could listen to one another’s phone calls and collaborate on prospecting emails.
“All of that essentially disappeared,” Dulany said. “So, the biggest challenge is replicating that in a remote setting and crowd-sourcing the learning.”
Solution: Use technology to simulate peer learning. This can include using a Conversation Intelligence tool to record sales calls and sharing top performers’ conversations with sales reps so they can hear what those sellers do well.
3. Providing Personalized Training
While it may be easier for sales enablement teams to create, one-size-fits-all training does not work, Olcay said. Sellers have different roles, skill levels, work experiences, and histories. Making an experienced sales rep attend a general training session is a waste of their time.
“We need to move more towards personalized smaller groups,” he said. “People are so much more willing to engage and talk and learn in smaller cohorts and you can keep it more relevant to their role and hopefully improve performance.”
Solution: Acknowledge your new hires’ history and design onboarding to match it. Provide content and resources specific to sellers’ needs. Use AI-powered tools to identify individuals’ skill levels and coach to their particular weaknesses.
4. Preventing Boredom
Who presents the training session is as important as what is taught. One way to capture the interest of both new and experienced sellers is to include top-performing sales reps in the sessions. Make them extended members of your sales enablement team, coaching newer reps and providing examples to the sales team.
“Sellers love to learn from their peers who are hitting their quota and achieving great results,” Olcay said. “Plus, then your top-performing reps aren’t bored with the training. They’re active participants.”
It’s also an opportunity for sales enablers to give reps an opportunity to show off and talk about themselves, Wilson said. “And they can help translate to the reps what the enablement managers are trying to get across—put it in their terms,” she said.
Solution: Create training sessions in which top-performing sales reps share their success stories, demonstrate what sales enablement is trying to teach, and answer new hires’ questions.
5. Rogue Learning
Sales reps will trust marketing and sales enablement if they can find information in their moment of need. If content is organized well and easily accessible, sellers will be able to locate the exact right asset on their own instead of wasting time searching for messaging, talk tracks, or product information.
If sales reps can’t find the information they need, though, they will create content themselves. And that’s a problem. It’s duplicative work that may result in content that is incorrect and off message.
“If your top performers can’t find the training and content they need, they will go out and figure out what it takes to get the job done,” Dulany said. “If you see sellers doing that, bring them into the sales enablement fold.”
Asking those sellers what they’re looking for will reveal any gaps in your sales enablement. Can they not find the content? Is the content not relevant? Take the opportunity to learn from the situation, Wilson said.
Solution: Talk with sellers about the content they need to learn from and engage buyers. Then create a centralized, easy-to-use sales content library that sellers can rely on in their moment of need.
6. Providing Continuous Learning
Sales onboarding and training is not one and done. Circumstances, sellers’ roles, and your company’s products and services change. So, learning must be continuous, Olcay said.
“The word onboarding sounds so definitive—there’s a start and an ending, and you’re ready to go. You don’t need anything ever again. But learning is continuous. That’s why I call it ever-boarding,” he said.
It’s important that the continuous learning be agile and experiential, Olcay added. “People learn by doing, and new hires will ramp up and produce results faster when they can replicate what your top performers do,” he said.
In the past, that type of training would include sales managers driving with reps to meetings and sitting in on the meetings. The drives provided an opportunity to talk about who they’re meeting with, the background, how to prepare, and how the meeting went.
Today, that experience can be replicated in a digital environment, Dulany said, allowing sales managers to reinforce and contextualize the training their sales reps receive.
Solution: Ask top-performing sellers to record their sales calls and create videos that address what’s happening in the field. Add those calls and videos to your sales content management system so sellers can easily access them in their moment of need. Use a Conversation Intelligence tool to record and analyze sales calls, allowing sales managers to provide personalized coaching advice.
Sales Training Program Success
For a sales training program to succeed, you must make it worth your reps’ time. Ensure it matches their individual needs and skill level, provides relevant information, is experiential, and can be easily accessed during the course of their day.
And make it entertaining. Use ice breakers, incorporate fun images, and include anecdotes and sellers’ stories from the field.
“Entertainment and education are related,” Olcay said. “The more you can make your learning fun, the more it’s going to stick and stand out.”
Watch the webinar How Sellers REALLY Want to Learn, and get advice on how to create a sales training program that energizes your sales reps and improves performance.