Coming up with fresh, new sales training ideas that pair off with some of the most common issues facing your field sales team can be a challenge. You understand the importance of sales training – the development of sales techniques, increased revenue, time management skills, communication, territory management, reduced sales cycle – but still there are a few doubts hanging over your head:

How do you decide which areas need the most attention? How do you get your field sales team onboard with the idea of a whole days training? How do you make sure that what’s learned, sticks?

The good news is that field sales reps like to sell and are eager to learn how they can get better.

But equally, they are busy people. They don’t want (or have) the time for training that’s irrelevant and pulls them away from selling.

That’s why the sales training ideas presented in this post target specific areas of weakness in field sales teams and provide actionable feedback on how to improve them.

The two sales training ideas we are going to focus on in this post are:

  1. Qualifying prospects
  2. Communication skills

By keeping things tight around the key areas of your sales process you will maximize the focus of your sessions and increase the buy-in from the rest of your team.

Sales Training Ideas: Where to Focus Your Efforts

Before any field sales rep is able to being training there has to be an awareness of a gap between current and necessary knowledge/skills for a given task. Without it there will always be an unhelpful resistance to learning:

  • Why do I need training for this?
  • Why have you pulled me away from meetings to go over something that I feel is an actual strength of mine?
  • I don’t agree that I need to be here…

So to ensure there’s a mutual consent on the necessity of their participation I recommend you start by completing a gap analysis.

A gap analysis is simply an honest determination of the required skills, knowledge and behaviour for a certain activity and the “perceived” gap in desired competency. This needs to be self-determined by the individual field rep as well as the manager and can be done so by completing the following chart:

sales training ideas chart

Once completed you can sit together and go over the results. If you’ve highlighted an area they’re in disagreement with then it’s your chance to explain yourself, maybe due to the loss of an account, business deal or missed opportunity.

This way you are both clear on the justification of your decision and can clear the path for some training geared specifically to their needs.

Sales Training Ideas – Qualifying Prospects

We’d all love a sales funnel full of piping-hot leads but the reality is that’s just not the case. There are always going to be those that either need a little more work or need to be discarded completely.

And it’s those that need your specific attention.

Because the biggest threat facing field sales teams is pursuing bum leads. It consumes an enormous amount of time and energy for such little ROI.

To avoid such a wasted effort it’s important that your team can define exactly what is and what isn’t a qualified lead. Now there are two specific sales training ideas to help you and your team with this little problem.

Who is your ideal customer?

Before you start anything your field sales rep needs to understand the key attributes attributes of your ideal customer – the one which they should be dedicating their time towards selling. This would cover aspects such as:

  • Age
  • Demographic
  • Sex
  • Role
  • Industry

Once a clear picture of your ideal customer has been painted and clearly understood, it’s time to apply that knowledge to the lead qualification process. When they speak to a lead ask them to measure against your buyer persona. Now there are two popular sales training ideas for prospecting: SPIN Selling and the BANT method – both incredibly effective in their own right, but due to space constraints we shall focus on the latter:

Budget – Do they have the budget to afford your service?

Authority – Do they have the authority to make the key decisions?

Need – Are they a good fit for your product?

Time – What is the timeframe for implementation?

Once the prospect has passed through the following qualification criteria then they can either be entered into the pipeline (depending on your particular sales process) or assigned to a lead nurturing program by your marketing team.

When prospecting, also try teaching your field sales reps the general practitioner (GP) or doctor analogy.

Doctors are essentially medical consultants. When a patient is ill the doctor listens carefully as they describe the problem and the symptoms they are experiencing. If needed, the doctor will examine in closer detail before coming to a conclusion and diagnosing the illness.

Then and only then, will they prescribe the appropriate medication.

Effective sales prospecting is uncannily similar in this regard.

Sales reps should first listen to a prospects pain points, understand the key issues at hand and then decide whether or not their product or service is a good fit. If not, be honest – it’s just as important for a field sales rep to understand when to say no.

Remember, we were born with two ears and one mouth – we were meant to listen!

Reviewing the Pipeline

The second of the two sales training ideas for improving lead qualification is pipeline review.

Now most sales managers review pipeline opportunities when they are coming to a close, or in other words, when they are in the latter stages of the sales cycle. The risk here though is that many of the deals lining the sales rep’s pipeline could be ill-fit for purpose, or in other words, no good.

To combat this, try reviewing the pipeline together with them. Go through each of the opportunities and ask why they are in there.

So what have we entered in this week?”

Do you think they are good fit?

What stage of the cycle are they it?”

Ah they are similar to (x) company? I seem to remember that not really being a good fit, perhaps we should leave that one out for now…

When reviewing a pipeline together with your field sales reps you are training them to again question the prospects that are being entered.

Better sales pipeline management allows them to properly qualify, and perhaps more importantly disqualify those that aren’t a good fit before being input to the mobile CRM. Less time is therefore wasted on weaker leads which can be redirected towards prospecting or other revenue-generating activities.

Now this level of visibility and analysis of the sales pipeline is only possible with widespread adoption of the mobile sales management system.

A fickle matter when dealing with field sales teams.

Most traditional systems are heavy, unreliable and difficult to use out on the road and as a result are abandoned by field reps.

To save both you and your field team a bunch of time and effort (not to mention a sizeable financial investment) it’s definitely worth looking into a mobile CRM with high user adoption rates.

Sales Training Ideas – Communication Skills

Considering the amount of time field sales reps spend in front of clients you are going to want to dedicate a significant chunk of it developing their communication skills.

That doesn’t just mean improving their ability to structure and edit an email (which is an effective skill in itself) but more on how they hold themselves in a client’s presence.

According to a study by Dr. Albert Mehrabian 7% of face-to-face communication is read through words, 38% via vocal elements and 55% through body language. Which means over half of what we communicate is understood without us evening having to open our mouths.

So if you want your field sales team to inspire trust, exude confidence and build lasting relationships then you are going to have to work on their non-verbal communication skills.

What are some of the sales training ideas?

Now there are two ways of observing your field sales team’s body language in a sales situation:

The first, (time permitting) is accompanying your reps on a sales call. This preferred option gives you insight into how they actually interact on a daily basis with your customers.

The second option is via role play. Although still incredibly useful and one of the most widely used sales training ideas, role play can feel artificial and at times a little forced if not done correctly. But nevertheless, it still gives managers the ability to assess the non-verbal communication expressed by their field sales team.   

It starts with a smile

Did you know it can take as little as 5 seconds to decide we are going to like somebody or not? They say don’t judge a book by its cover but the research suggests that’s exactly what we do. And seeing as the age-old adage “I’ve never bought anything of someone I did not like” remains as true today as it ever has, it’s important your team make a positive first impression.

The best way to do that?

Get them to smile!

Smiling immediately generates a feeling of well-being around your sales rep. It sets a friendly tone for the remainder of the meeting and makes the attendees more likely to listen to what it is your rep has to say. What’s more it such a simple gesture to make when first meeting someone it really shouldn’t be ignored.

Another thing you’re going to want to assess either during role play or attending a live sales call is eye contact.

Again this might seem like such a small thing but the truth is, if your rep never makes eye-contact with their audience, they can come across as slightly nervous, disinterested, shy or lacking confidence. These are not traits associated with positive sales!

This of course doesn’t mean they should be holding contact until the customer is forced to look away – as that’s just a little weird – but try coaching a balance that delivers empathy and trust throughout their presentation.

The last non-verbal point to touch upon are physical gestures and posture.

Watch what your reps are doing closely and analyze:

  • How is their posture?
  • Are they speaking too fast?
  • Are they utilizing all the space in front of the board?
  • Do they seem confident?
  • Would you buy what they’re selling?

Exuding confidence during a pitch rubs off on a customer – “wow, if she’s as confident as this in her product/service well I guess I should be too, right?

Our actions speak a lot louder than our words.

Networking Sales Training Ideas

Now that our field sales team has made a good first impression and started to build professional working relationships with clients, it’s time to learn how to nurture them.

Effective networking can remove the tedious and sometimes reputation-damaging practice of cold calling. Eventually, when a large enough network has been established it will be able to feed your sales team with warm leads via a referral system.

And we all understand the value of leads referred by existing customers.

The most effective sales training ideas for networking I’ve come across to date are found in Jim Mikula’s Sales Training bible. It’s full of not only useful ideas but also actionable advice on putting them into practice.

His key principles for network training are:

  1. Giving
  2. Trust
  3. Invest
  4. Embrace
  5. Master
  6. Energize

Giving is about giving more than what you expect in return. If a client is having an issue with your product or service be on hand to resolve the situation. It doesn’t have to be in that exact moment but by just giving an expected timeframe on when they can expect it to be resolved, you’ll put their minds at ease.

Trust is about understanding the process of building a network takes time. It’s not possible to ask your customers straight-out for a referral or expect them to immediately provide them in return. Trust that the system works and eventually it you’ll reap its rewards.

Invest – take time to truly connect with your network. Get to know them on a more personal level beyond the daily interactions you have regards to work. This will help you create real, meaningful, lasting relationships with clients.

Embrace refers to bing inclusive and gracious of your network. Accept the challenge that comes with maintaining relationships and enjoy the ride!

Master for me is the most important of the six. In order for the rest to work you need to be known as the “master” of something in your network. The go-to source for information or help. The epicenter of your network, if you like.

Energize – finally bring a lot of energy to the table. The more positive energy that flows around you when talking/interacting with clients the more people will be attracted and drawn to what you have to say.

To sum things up it’s vital that whatever training you decide to organize with your team, make sure that first and foremost it’s focused on their specific needs. This will ensure you maximize the value of each of your sessions, whether one-to-one or in teams, as well maintaining focus on the pain points specific to your sales process. Also before diving into the sales training ideas that take your fancy, try studying the data from your mobile CRM – this will again ensure each and every session goes to award helping achieve you specific sales objectives.

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