Three Unexpected Benefits of Sales Training

Sales Management | Recruitment & Selection | Sales Training | Sales Leadership

Sales training is proven to help your team close more business deals, stay competitive, avoid discounting, win bigger deals, and boost productivity. A well-designed sales training program gives your team the skills, tools, and techniques they need to become top performers. And for most sales leaders, driving topline performance is more than enough justification to invest in training. But sales training can also provide your organization with hidden benefits.

 Here are three unexpected perks that sales training can deliver:

#1. More Accurate Sales Forecasts

Imagine asking each member of your sales team to describe how they plan for a call, ask discovery questions, or present value. Would the answers be consistent, or would they be all over the map? It’s not uncommon for sales organizations to lack consistency around fundamental sales concepts.

Sales training provides your team with a common sales language, a consistent way to talk about selling skills, coach, and onboard new reps. Pipeline reviews are critical areas where this common sales language can benefit your team. For example, when you are discussing a stalled sales opportunity with a sales rep, it’s essential that you and the rep have an agreement on the elements of a good discovery call to uncover buyer needs or how to qualify an opportunity effectively. This will allow you to coach your sales rep better and develop more accurate sales forecasts.

#2. Strategy for Building a Winning Team

For many sales organizations, hiring sales stars from either competitors or outside their industry is a go-to strategy for building a winning team. According to research by Boris Groysberg, a professor at the Harvard Business School, stardom is real in sales (e.g., top performers are up to six times more productive than bottom performers). Unfortunately, top talent and outstanding sales performance are not easily portable. Professor Groysberg’s research found that approximately 50% of sales success is based on factors such as a hot market, the product or brand, advantages in lead generation or other resources and capabilities, internal relationships, culture, and training– all of which are not transferable to the new sales organization.

The bottom line is that if you hire an expensive sales star, the odds are that they will not perform at the level that they did at their previous company.

According to Professor Groysberg, the only viable long-term strategy to gain a competitive advantage is to:  

Think of General Electric in the 1980s, a company where the best and brightest business school graduates went to learn how to manage. Many GE alumni are now CEOs of major corporations. A key component of GE’s success in developing its managerial talent was its legendary management training program, which helped GE attract the best and brightest candidates.

A great sales training program that helps develop homegrown stars can be a strategic differentiator for your sales organizations. To create an impactful, scalable sales training program, Professor Groysberg recommends starting by defining your buyer’s journey. How do they make purchase decisions? Then, consider what you expect your reps to do to exert influence in that buying journey. Your focus should be on specific selling skills and behaviors—e.g., consultative selling skills, selling higher in the organization, selling value, and negotiating.

Your training program should also equip your reps with a deep understanding of your solution and how it solves real-world business problems for your customers. This will enable your reps to position themselves as trusted advisors with customers.

#3. Avoids the Sales Management Time Trap

Frontline sales managers are always short on time. This isn’t surprising given sales managers' numerous responsibilities, including recruiting and hiring new sales professionals, day-to-day management tasks, sales coaching, and administrative duties.

Compounding this problem is the reality that most sales managers learn how to manage through on-the-job experience. Often, sales managers are former sales professionals who get promoted into management with little or no formal sales management training. They are sometimes better at selling than managing, which is the root cause of a problem we refer to as the sales management time trap.

These managers were previously successful salespeople who have difficulty understanding why struggling members of their team “don’t get it.” Out of frustration, these managers attempt to solve performance issues by either micro-managing or taking over specific selling tasks from their salespeople (i.e., “it will be easier if I just do it myself”). The problem with such an approach is that the work is flowing the wrong way - from the salesperson to the manager. As a result, the sales manager soon feels trapped by an overwhelming number of responsibilities, continually jumping from crisis to crisis.

Sales training gives your sales professionals the skills, tools, and processes they need to solve their problems better, requiring less help from their sales managers. This enables your managers to focus more on managing and less on putting out fires, resulting in less stressed sales managers and more productive sales teams.

Ultimately, sales training can directly improve sales results, but it also can indirectly improve performance through better forecasting, talent acquisition and retention, and sales management.

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About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.