Evolving Sales Training to Keep Pace With Change
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In a progressively competitive business landscape, outselling competitors requires agility and continuous evolution to keep up with market changes. Effective sales training has the ability to accelerate an organization’s growth in the market as it arms reps with the skills to transform prospects into clients and secure long-term loyalty.
Building impactful relationships is a requirement to ensure a business’ future success. Even with advances in technology and a shift to a digital selling environment, sales is still a people-centric field that emphasizes the importance of the buyer-seller relationship. When reps are able to bring value to their customers through informative and engaging conversations, they deepen the emotional bond customers feel toward an organization, paving the way for meaningful long-term partnerships.
Preparing reps to keep pace with rapid change in the market to deliver impactful interactions with customers stems from effective training. Here are key strategies to consider when evolving sales training programs to equip reps for long-term success at every stage of the sales cycle.
Adapt Training Formats to Changing Environments
As virtual and hybrid work environments continue to mature and become solidified at organizations, adapting to growing virtual practices is essential in preparing sellers for the competitive field. In order to build confidence in creating relationships through digital communications, it is first crucial for reps to become comfortable learning, practicing, and collaborating in a virtual training environment.
“As the constraints of how we work and how the consumer is engaging with businesses and goods is altering, we need to be very steadfast and anchored in why we’re doing what we’re doing and how we’re going to approach it,” said Myisha Procter, director of sales enablement at Custom Ink.
To ensure training programs remain flexible while also being designed intentionally to help reps prepare for new environments, consider these tips:
- Tailor content for virtual instruction: Rather than equivalently transitioning in-person training to be presentable online, virtual instruction needs to be molded appropriately to changing times. For example, editing and personalizing the format or approach of a particular training program to be more interactive can ensure that engagement isn’t diminished. Similarly, keeping sessions short can help maximize attention as well as increase accessibility for reps to revisit on-demand to refresh knowledge as needed.
- Gather feedback and refine curriculums by piloting new programs: In addition, incorporating feedback in training helps to ensure that it is maintaining its effectiveness and that it is being altered if it needs improvement. One way to include feedback is by building a training program that is first tested on a small sample group. Once qualitative and quantitative feedback is extracted from this smaller group, enablement practitioners can refine the program to optimize it for the broader sales team.
Leverage Sales Knowledge on Customer Expectations
As buyers are becoming progressively more self-sufficient, reps need the skills to continue to provide value in their buyer-seller interactions. This has been amplified due to a shift to more automated workflows and virtual interactions, strengthening the notion that it is key for sellers to provide valuable insights and information beyond what someone can find online. To arm reps with the deep knowledge they need to add value, incorporate the following in training curriculums:
- Utilize buyer insights: Elevating key buyer insights during sales training helps to re-skill and up-skill reps to personalize customer interactions and build meaningful relationships in the virtual selling environment. Additionally, customer insights provide them with an understanding of the inconspicuous elements that may drive the decisions of prospects. These insights can be incorporated into training through exercises such as listening to and assessing win/loss interviews, hearing from subject matter experts across different customer-facing teams, inviting customer guest speakers, or facilitating peer-to-peer sharing.
- Understand the information that is readily available: The utilization of buyer insights provides a thorough understanding of the seller’s audience, specifically the level of knowledge they already possess. A useful exercise during training can be to have reps utilize the tools that a typical buyer would to find information about the company or product. For example, what kind of information is available on review sites, social media, marketing materials, the company website, and more. This ensures that reps are bridging the gap between what prospects know and are curious about, helping to build trust and credibility that in turn impacts a buyer’s decision.
Embrace the Significance of Soft Skills
Training needs to prepare reps to engage appropriately with customers based on client desires and expectations. Not only should reps be able to adjust their selling strategies to the types of customers that they are interacting with, but they should also leverage their humanity to build meaningful relationships. As digital innovation continues in the year ahead, it will continue to be important for sales enablement to ensure training programs incorporate competencies related to these relationship-building skills.
“One of the things we’ve got to get very competent at in enabling our sales teams to do is to be able to develop and sustain trusting relationships,” said Darrell Amy, author of “Revenue Growth Engine”. “I believe trust gets you in the door. Loyalty keeps you there.”
Consider the following tips to help reinforce the importance of soft skills in the training process:
- Practice soft skills through role plays: Engaging with customers by incorporating soft skills provides value that cannot be replaced by technology. Role plays provide sellers with practice in employing these skills, ultimately allowing reps to build confidence in how they can maximize the effectiveness of their conversations. Some of these skills include and are not limited to active listening, adaptability, and transparency.
- Underscore the importance of empathy: One of the most crucial soft skills for reps throughout their selling journeys is empathy. By employing empathy from the beginning of a relationship with a prospect or client, reps are able to build trust and make their clients feel that they are more than “just a sale.” Additionally, it highlights their ability to adapt to a changing sales landscape in order to continue to appeal to customers most effectively. Continuously reinforce empathy in training by framing situations from the customer’s perspective.
Align Training With Clear Business Outcomes
Sales enablement practitioners need to ensure that reps are equipped with knowledge regarding the structural components of what they need to do, which skills are required to do it, and what mindset is necessary to execute it. Having this information in relation to specific business goals helps reps align their selling techniques to larger initiatives in order to ensure that enablement programs can help move the needle on business outcomes.
“The key thing is to start with the business outcome if you want your function to be seen as a business function as opposed to a sort of development of training,” said Sam Robinson, director of sales enablement at Sage. “Training is a component of what we do, but the reason we’re doing it is to affect the business performance.”
To do this, consider the following:
- Define performance goals before designing training: By starting with the end in mind, enablement can not only ensure that all activities are aligned to a specific outcome, but also that those outcomes and objectives are clear to both leaders and training participants from the beginning of the learning journey. Not only does this highlight the importance of training in accomplishing goals, but it also creates a culture of performance where expectations and standards are transparently communicated and achieved.
- Collaborate with cross-functional stakeholders: By involving stakeholders across revenue teams in the development of training goals, sales enablement practitioners can extract cross-functional expertise in order to better align sales training to key business outcomes. When these stakeholders can see how training helps drive impact against their priorities, they are also more likely to support training efforts long-term.
Sales training is an integral part of the growth of any business, especially in today’s competitive business environment. Solidifying knowledge and skills among sales reps helps to deliver unique and effective messages to prospects and clients, bridging the gap between buyers and sellers to create lasting customer relationships.
With applicable training, reps are armed to appropriately communicate in the field regardless of external pressures. They are able to anticipate market changes and customer needs, allowing them to seize opportunities to increase performance while contributing to the overall success of their company.