Americans are pulling back on spending. Sixty-nine percent of consumers plan to cut back on non-essential items in the next six months, according to a recent PwC survey, and sales teams are doubling down on outreach to try and close the gap.
But more time selling doesn’t necessarily mean more sales if your reps aren’t properly trained. In fact, the right sales training can make reps 43% more effective and productive. So how can managers make training more effective and engaging for their team? It’s all about style, consistency, and balance, says Scott Davis, an educator with over 20 years of experience training sales teams.
And while you may already have some sales training in place, if it doesn’t extend past hiring, it won’t be effective in the long term. A recent Gartner study found that sales reps forget 70% of the information they learn within a week of training, and 87% of reps will forget their training within a month.
“Your first 90 days is often information overload, as the majority of organizations have training plans that they want and need you to complete,” says Davis. “Of the training that is given, employees are only able to retain so much information, and if they feel it does not pertain to them, then often it is in one ear out the other.”
Sales training isn’t one-size-fits-all
Your sales training should adapt to the needs of your salespeople, and what worked for one team won’t work for every team. Some people learn best visually, others prefer a more hands-on approach to training, and some of your team may learn best through peer feedback.
“As leaders, we have to understand that different people have different learning styles,” says Davis. “While, yes, it's easier to say everyone has to watch this training video to get that checkmark, many will simply hit the next button and do the bare minimum to complete and get back to work.
Managers need to find the training style that fits the dynamics of their team and motivates them to learn.
For long-term success, consistency is key
To continue reaping the performance benefits of sales training, managers need to think long-term. One-off sessions don’t work when your product and customers are continually evolving. Instead of a one-and-done approach, managers need to create an ongoing program that keeps their team informed and engaged.
“The products and the market you serve changes frequently, and if you throw in the overall economy, then it's even more volatile,” says Davis. “You have to understand the market you are serving and how your product helps solve the issue of the day.”
And a well-trained and knowledgeable sales team can have a significant impact on your bottom line—sales training programs can increase ROI by a whopping 353%.
“When you are promoting a balanced training program, your sales team is more educated on the product, the market space, and they have a more well-rounded perspective of it,” says Davis. “This will make them, and ultimately the company, more successful.”
Continuous training is especially important for companies that have regular product or feature releases. Not knowing the latest product capabilities can cost your team deals, so managers should conduct sales training prior to each new release, according to Davis. “For big changes or new product releases, dedicated training is necessary and should be available for multiple sessions.”
Experiment until you find balance
How are your reps responding to training videos versus live sessions? Are they motivated by recognition or competition? Experimenting with different training styles will help you find the just-right fit for your team that balances learning styles and training goals.
“I use the term balanced here because any training program has to utilize multiple learning methods,” says Davis. “Some of my favorite methods are reading, interactive, audio/video, gamification, and hands-on training.”
Ultimately, when it comes to choosing a training program for your organization, Davis urges managers to listen to their team. “The bottom line is, a good training program is the one your team is energetic about and excited to participate in.”