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Effective Sales Training - Training your Salespeople

Teach reps how to close the deal effectively

Part educational, part motivational, sales training is an effective way to move your sales team "up to the next level," as training seminars often promise. But your sales team is more likely to get something out of targeted training sessions that speak to their needs. Otherwise sales training can lack relevance, meaning that it won't last much longer than the "smile sheet," as the post-seminar evaluation form is known.

Before making a decision on training for your sales team, ask yourself these questions:

Do you want to indoctrinate new hires in your sales department or improve the skills of your experienced sales staff?
Do you need to hire outside trainers or can you use in-house gurus?

Number 2 is a bit of a trick question. You should always be looking for fresh ideas from outside your organization and ways to share the knowledge of what works within your sales department. But sorting through the vast quantity of outside help — from free online courses to $10,000-a-day speakers — is a major undertaking. On the other hand, organizing your own in-house training program can be both time consuming and complicated. In both cases, poor results can have serious implications for sales, the lifeblood of your company. Here are some suggestions for getting your arms around the problem:

Get your team into the mind of the buyer
The basic sales approach has evolved from pushing a product to "identifying a buyer" and "consultative sales." In other words, getting inside the mind of a buyer and establishing a relationship as a trusted adviser. Sales teams need to be experts on the client, the market, the product and their own company's capabilities.

If your sales crew isn't oriented in that direction, consider a consultative sales training course that focuses on understanding a customer's needs and relationship building.

Educate new hires on best practices
A new hire can take months to start meeting sales targets; speeding up that learning curve is one form of education that pays for itself. To facilitate the process, use your top sellers as trainers by sending newbies on sales calls with veterans or letting rookies listen in on phone calls. In addition, give beginners scripts they can memorize and plenty of opportunities to practice through role-playing. It's also important to set benchmarks for presentation skills by allowing your seasoned sales reps to test novices.

If tapping into your existing sales reps' body of knowledge is difficult, consider turning your team into a learning organization that records and shares successful selling strategies.

Check out StreetSmarts, a database that taps the brains of your experienced sellers to give quick answers to questions for everybody in the organization.

Teach sales lessons that stick
Think about the personalities in your sales team and what kind of training would have a lasting impact. Some hired trainers are high-energy crowd-pleasers who build confidence, while others are nuts-and-bolts types who lead exercises in persuasive selling. But as a rule, salespeople are results-oriented — they want to walk away from a training session with practical solutions they can use. Your job is to find a trainer with the right presentation and methodology that your organization can use to get lasting results.

Get sales managers to keep training
Once the formal training sessions stop, the real learning begins. It's up to the sales manager to keep up the coaching and make the lessons sink in. Make sure managers are riding along or listening in on sales calls with reps and asking, "Based on what we learned, how could we handle this situation better?"

Measure results
As with any investment, you certainly want to know if your training bucks were well spent. Admittedly, getting this metric can be difficult. One simple solution is to check the numbers: Can you see an increase in average revenue and new accounts sold six months after a training seminar? Ultimately, the best way to look at ROI for sales training is over a long time frame and within the context of an ongoing program to improve your sales force.

By Jeff Copeland,
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