Empowering Consistent Performance With Sales Training
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As the market, buyer experience, and respective business goals evolve, reps need to be armed with training to empower effective selling behaviors to foster consistent wins. Training is a pivotal function of sales enablement that impacts both individual rep performance and collective business results through continuously improving behaviors to better engage customers.
From the time that new reps start at an organization all the way through their tenure, training and onboarding are critical mechanisms to support and engage reps throughout the entirety of their employee experience. Training programs are necessary to teach fundamental and ongoing skills, placing reps in the optimal position to master key behaviors and perform consistently across the different scenarios they might encounter.
To optimize sales training maturity, organizations can follow these five steps to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of training.
Provide Core Foundational Knowledge and Skills
Training programs can be pivotal to setting new and existing employees up for success with the baseline tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Because onboarding programs are one of the first experiences employees have at an organization, and training works to continuously build upon those skills, onboarding and training efforts should adequately prepare reps for the entirety of their role and help them master key sales behaviors for long-term success.
To do so effectively, a range of methods to communicate skills and input are needed to maximize reps’ retention of information. Successful training programs require clear content, engaging material, and continuous progress tracking throughout the process to motivate accountability in reps.
The core knowledge and skills learned in training serve as the foundation for sellers’ behaviors. Without establishing a strong base level of knowledge and skills, reps may struggle to perform consistently and efficiently, which might lead to negative implications for both reps and the organization as a whole through missed revenue targets.
When organizations craft successful training and onboarding programs, the impacts are felt throughout the entire organization. The Sales Enablement Maturity Report 2021 found that respondents who are highly effective in providing foundational knowledge in their onboarding and training programs see a 10-percentage-point increase in rep quota attainment on average compared to those who are only somewhat effective. By utilizing the most relevant and meaningful materials, and catering programming to the needs of reps, enablement can put reps in the optimal position to thrive.
“We need to make sure that we’re delivering content, information, tools, and training in ways that are both digestible and accessible to all different types of learners, all different types of levels,” said Hillary Anderson, mid market and small and midsize business global lead at Slack. “Then over their growth as a salesperson, they’re able to continuously learn and develop so that rather than just regurgitating, they’re actually applying and retaining.”
In doing so, keep in mind that with multiple employees comes varying learning preferences, knowledge bases, and skill levels. To successfully deliver effective training, programs must take into account the inherent differences of reps, and work to deliver the most effective and digestible content and materials catered to those specific needs.
Since effective training is a continuous process to sharpen skills, knowledge, and behaviors, organizations can greatly benefit from building a positive training culture. By placing training as a core value to organizations, reps, managers, and leaders can become more invested in the impacts of training programs. In doing so, reps become lifelong learners at their organization who consistently improve their selling behaviors.
Manage and Maintain Onboarding and Training Efforts
Training programs are most successful when they are managed and maintained to continuously build upon and refine content to ensure it is up to date with evolving market trends. For reps to adapt to change, training materials must be relevant and work to both hone basic behaviors and teach new skill sets as needed.
Mature training programs effectively arm reps with the tools to remain on the cutting edge of new products, services, sales plays, and processes as they are rolled out. Successful training does not solely rely on initial onboarding or basic knowledge. Instead, training serves as a continuous element to reinforce material long-term and teach reps new skills and information as needed.
“I’m trying to think through enablement as providing the right resources or information for our salespeople so that they are ready to add value to any interaction that they have with a customer,” said Brianna Woon, senior manager of global sales experience and enablement programs at Poly.
When training programs are well managed and maintained, they can substantially impact rep performance and business results. In fact, organizations that are highly effective in the management and maintenance of sales onboarding and training report an 8-percentage-point increase in average win rates compared to those that are only effective.
Utilize Data to Optimize Programs
To understand the effectiveness of training programs, organizations need to utilize data to gain clarity around the strengths and weaknesses of their efforts. Data is an essential feedback tool to craft the most effective training and onboarding programs, giving insight into where there might be gaps, what is working, and what needs improvement.
By utilizing data from training programs, organizations can gain insights into competency improvement, behavior changes, retention rates, and qualitative feedback on learning activities. Learning from these metrics can then prompt organizations to place focus on the areas that might need more attention and improvement. Additionally, utilizing data provides insights into the tangible impacts that training has on an organization’s success.
“In a successful [training] program, I want to be able to see a measurable impact on the business,” said Giorgia Ortiz, director of global sales enablement at Lever. “At the end of the day, the number of people that have been through an e-learning or the number of people that have sat through different webinars or trainings, those are important statistics to have, but they don’t mean anything if I can’t correlate those activities to real measurable business impact.”
Using data to demonstrate precisely how training and onboarding programs affect rep performance and revenue goals can encourage reps to take training seriously, and dedicate the needed time, effort, and focus to their learning. As noted in the Sales Enablement Maturity Report 2021, being highly effective when using data to improve sales onboarding and training programs is correlated with a 9-percentage-point increase in average win rates and 3-percentage-point decrease in average no-decision rates compared to those that qualify as being effective.
Align Training to Executive Leader’s Goals
To optimize training’s impact on a sales organization, the goals and objectives of executive leaders are fundamental in crafting training programs. By aligning with executive leadership on training strategies, enablement can ensure reps have the right tools to reach the business objectives of their leaders that their performance is ultimately measured against.
When training is aligned to the goals of the business, reps gain a clear focus and understand the purpose of their training, and leaders can gain confidence that training programs translate into tangible results. As a result of training programs that align to leader’s goals, enablement can drive improved sales performance, gain buy-in from executive leaders, and nurture alignment on strategy and business objectives.
Having mature training efforts in which executives are aligned on the strategy to support their business objectives can significantly enhance sales performance. Organizations that are highly effective in aligning with executive leaders on the efforts needed to achieve business goals report win rates that are 9 percentage points higher on average than those that are only effective in this area.
Correlate Training to Tangible Business Results
Finally, maximizing training maturity also relies on ensuring that training is correlated with driving tangible business results against core go-to-market initiatives. As training programs continue to prepare and engage reps throughout their employee experience, the driving business goals must serve as the backbone of training programs.
By keeping the desired outcomes of training in mind, reps will be able to apply and exercise their knowledge and skills in ways that benefit the organization as a whole. Additionally, correlating training to business results allows enablement teams to directly impact key goals that are in line with the trajectory of the organization’s go-to-market initiatives. Therefore, sales enablement can map training efforts to reflect the strategic priorities of the business. The result is greater influence on the collective success of the revenue organization.
Mature training programs prompt enablement teams to directly impact key business results that are aligned with the trajectory of the organization’s go-to-market initiatives. From there, enablement can map training programs to reflect the strategic priorities of the business, which in turn, can help practitioners clearly correlate their efforts to the business results that leaders across the business want to see.
Effective training and onboarding programs are key to enabling reps to make tangible impacts on their organization through skill mastery. While training and onboarding programs have fluctuated in the past year, these five pillars are crucial to successful programs, regardless of virtual or in-person settings.
By providing reps with foundational knowledge and skills, effectively maintaining training efforts, utilizing data to foster improvement, aligning to the goals of leaders, and correlating training material to driving business results, reps will be armed with the information, tools, and behaviors to succeed throughout the entirety of their time at an organization.