A Guide to Sales Training Design Best Practices

A Guide to Sales Training Design Best Practices
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Sales Training Design Best Practices Matter

Sales training design best practices matter a great deal.  Why go through the expense, effort, and time to provide business sales training for your sales force if it is does not improve sales performance?  After measuring over 800 sales training programs, we know that only 1-in-5 people will change their on-the-job behavior and performance from sales training alone. Follow the sales training design best practices below to make the training count.

12 Sales Training Design Best Practices
For sales training to change on-the-job behavior and performance, follow these tried-and-true sales training design best practices for before, during, and after your solution selling training.

Before Sales Training
Follow these four sales training design best practices to set the stage for sustainable behavior and performance change before sales training.

  1. Ensure Your Sales Strategy is Clear, Believable, and Implementable Enough
    Strategic sales clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing sales teams. Even the most skilled sales reps can miss quota when the sales strategy is unclear or at odds with the marketplace.  Before you invest the time and effort to upskill your sales team, ensure that leadership agrees upon your ideal target clients, unique value proposition, success metrics, and key strategies for success.

    The most successful sales reps are crystal clear about why their target customers buy what they sell, the value they bring, and how important buying decisions are made.  Make sure that your sales training design is rooted in your target clients and your unique value proposition

    Is your sales strategy clear, believable, and implementable enough to succeed?

  2. Confirm Your Sales Culture is Aligned with Your Sales Strategy
    We define sales culture as how and why things truly get done in order to market, sell, and serve clients. Because your sales strategy must go through your sales culture to be successfully implemented, your sales culture plays a major role in accelerating or undermining your sales success.    If your sales culture is not healthy enough, high performing enough, or is misaligned with your sales strategy, your sales training effectiveness will be diluted.

    If you want your sales training to be set up for success, make sure that your sales behaviors, practices, systems, values, and assumptions are aligned with your go-to-market sales strategy.  If there are sales strategy and culture gaps, make sure that you close them before you ask your sales team to change their behaviors.

    Is your sales culture aligned enough with your sales strategy?

  3. Identify the “Money Making” Sales Skills and Scenarios
    While most selling and buying processes are similar across companies and industries, each organization has a unique set of skills and situations that matter most to their unique sales strategy. For example, one high-tech client found that their “diagnosing skills” had the greatest correlation to success, while another client in the same industry found that their “negotiating skills” mattered most.

    Ensure that you understand the sales skills and scenarios that matter most to achieving sales success.  Invest the time to do a sales training needs assessment to properly obtain buy-in, align stakeholders, pinpoint gaps, customize content, predispose participants, guide coaching, and set baseline metrics.  For sales leaders consider a Leadership Simulation Assessment.  For sales managers, consider a People Manager Assessment Center.

    Do you know the “money making” skills and scenarios that matter most?

  4. Train Sales Leaders to Coach
    If you want your sales team to change on-the-job behavior and performance, then you need your sales leaders to not only understand what is being asked of their teams (i.e., put them through the same sales management training) but to also become effective sales coaches.  Sales professionals who receive consistent sales coaching from managers and mentors achieve 4-to-1 higher levels of sales performance.

    Invest the time in proven sales coaching training to provide sales leaders with the core coaching skills and tools necessary to lift the performance of their teams.

    Are your sales leaders ready to change the way you win?

During Sales Training
Once you have set your sales training up for success, follow these four sales training design best practices during your sales training.

  1. Use Credible Sales Training Facilitators
    In our opinion, the best sales training facilitators have “carried a bag” and are sales thought leaders, industry experts, and powerful relationship builders that know what it takes to truly help customers to succeed. Do not settle for a “sales trainer” who only knows the content and is a good teacher.  You need someone that has real-world experience, has led sales teams, and can be learner-centric enough to help participants take their sales skills to the next level.

    Does your sales training facilitator have the credibility, experience, and passion to help your sales team to raise the bar?

  2. Spend 70 Percent of the Time with Experiential Learning
    People learn new skills most effectively through practice and reflection. Make sure that your instructional design includes about 70 percent learning-by-doing.  For sales training, that means that participants should spend approximately 70 percent of their time practicing and getting feedback on the core sales skills and scenarios identified during the assessment phase and approximately 30 percent of their time learning about new sales skills, methods, and approaches.

    Does your instructional design focus on learning-by-doing?

  3. Use Sales Performance Tests
    Can workshop participants “do what you want them to be able to do” and do they “know what you want them to know?” Performance tests answer these two questions by measuring the performance (or application) of the identified sales skills in real-world situations. In a sales training workshop, one of the best ways to test potential on the job proficiency is through observation, scenarios, or simulations.

    For example, we designed a sales performance test that contained sales scenarios and role plays based upon the top five challenges faced by sales reps during a high stakes’ sales call. The performance test presented unpredictable, yet common, situations from different styles of buyers.  The sales rep’s performance was evaluated through an objective checklist that was created with sales leaders and current clients based upon research into their highest and lowest performing sellers.

    With practice, feedback, and coaching, each sales rep had to “pass” each scenario to be certified as completing the sales training.

    Could your sales team “pass the test?”

  4. Identify Barriers, Needs, and Next Steps
    To grow, people need to feel empowered to try, fail, and learn. At the end of every sales training workshop, we recommend having the participants identify their top barriers to success, plans to overcome them, and agree upon next steps to successfully utilize the new sales skills, processes, and behaviors.

    The information should be used to update overall strategies and approaches and to build individual development plans for each rep.

    Are your sales reps set up for success after the training session?

After Sales Training
After the completion of sales training, follow these four sales training design best practices to get the results that you seek.

  1. Model the New Way
    Make sure that sales leaders and managers are consistently modeling the new skills and behaviors.
  2. Reinforce the Sales Training
    Reinforce the sales training with targeted job aids, practice sessions, and consistent sales coaching.
  3. Hold People Accountable
    To encourage desired behavior changes, sales leaders need to monitor post-training behaviors and hold sales teams accountable. Monitor and reward desired sales behaviors and have clear consequences for those who do not play by the new rules.
  4. Measure Sales Skill Adoption and Impact
    Sales training measurement is important to determine if you are making an impact, to understand if people are using the new knowledge, skills and processes, to see if sales managers are involved, supportive, and reinforcing, and to provide feedback for coaching that is simple, relevant, and actionable.

    Are you measuring sales skill adoption and impact?

The Bottom Line
Based upon data form our sales leadership simulation assessments, they’re called Sales Training Design Best Practices for a reason — they work.  Are you doing all you can to see that your investment in sales training will pay off?

To learn more about setting your sales training up for success, download The 6 Top Reasons Business Sales Training Initiatives Fail

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