Why Your Sales Training Plan Might Be Irrelevant

Why Your Sales Training Plan Might Be Irrelevant
July 3, 2019

Sales training is supposed to deliver the knowledge and skills reps need to perform in their roles.

But if you’ve spent any time in sales, you know that sales training can feel more like trial-by-fire than a helpful introduction to a new company. That’s certainly how Liz Pulice, Brainshark’s VP of Sales Enablement, remembers it from years past.

“If anybody has participated in those two- or three-week long boot camps when you get started, I like to call those ‘Survivor,’” Pulice said during a Sales Enablement Soiree panel last month. “You were in competition with the rest of the [new hires] in your class, and you were there to learn the product. That was your goal. Some companies might fire you on Day 2 or 3 if you didn’t get the message.”

Times have changed. Buyers are more informed and demanding. Reps are under pressure to produce quickly. And companies are struggling to retain their top sales talent.

This new reality means your sales training plan might need to change, too. But what factors really matter for today’s sales teams? Let’s look at 3 big ones.

Factor 1: Is Sales Training Designed for Modern Reps?

Today’s salespeople want easy-to-consume information, instant access to the information they need, and the flexibility to work whenever and wherever they want. That’s why sales training content needs to be readily available to reps on-demand, via the devices they use every day.

“Our sales force has become more mobile. [Reps] are looking for more just-in-time delivery, and we really need to think about what they need in the context of the everyday job they do,” Pulice said.

Because busy reps also have a lot on their plates – from the pressure of hitting quota to the demands of their buyers – they may only have a short window to consume and retain what they’re learning. Training content needs to immediately capture their attention and easily convey the need-to-know details.

Sales enablement technology can make it easier to create engaging, bite-sized learning content for home office and geographically-dispersed reps – catering not only to younger generations of sellers, but also to the demands of the job.

Factor 2: Measuring Key Sales Activities

To ensure sellers are prepared to thrive in the field, your sales training plan should focus on the right measurements. But let’s start with two measurements that don’t tell the full story behind rep performance: course completion and quota attainment.

Course completion only answers one question: did reps consume the required training? It doesn’t indicate whether a new sales hire can actually apply key skills and knowledge in practice.

Quota attainment only determines whether or not reps produced the required result. It does not tell companies why the rep fell short. Hitting or missing “the number” is a lagging indicator that can only tell you what already happened – forcing sales organizations to be reactive, instead of proactive, when it’s time to course-correct.

Instead of focusing on these lagging indicators, start reviewing your sales and buying processes and mapping them to the sales activities reps must perform during each deal cycle. This helps determine where your reps should really spend their time, in order to drive revenue.

“We have a lot of data we didn’t have in the past. Many of us are using 5 to 10 different systems [to track] our sellers,” Pulice said. “How many of us are looking at that the data to say, ‘What are my reps doing on a daily basis?’ Use that info to have a better conversation with our sales management teams about the behavior we want to drive in the field. ‘Are we producing the results that we asked for?’”

Using your CRM system (in partnership with sales ops if needed), you can track whether reps are completing the right activities.

Read more: Which Sales Enablement Metrics Should You Be Measuring?

Factor 3: Assessing (Not Guessing) Sales Readiness

Once you’ve begun tracking key sales activities, determine which behaviors reps need to exhibit to execute those activities.

When it comes to prospecting, for instance, do reps have the cold-calling skills needed to set meetings with potential buyers? Do they understand buyer personas well enough to perform discovery and unearth pain points?

To answer questions like these, companies need to be assessing sales readiness. Traditionally, this type of assessment has taken place during high-intensity boot camps. But today, video coaching platforms can determine whether the rep is truly ready to deliver a compelling, consistent message to the customer.

This involves video coaching assessments, where a rep is asked to “stand and deliver” what they’ve learned from required training courses, and then receives feedback from a sales manager or coach on specific areas of improvement.

However, it also involves self-directed practice that allows reps to perfect a sales behavior – i.e., delivering an elevator pitch or handling a common objection– in a simulated environment. This encourages sales reps to prepare for the unexpected and build improvisation skills – which are critical when calls take unexpected turns.

“Our goal is practice,” Pulice said. “That’s the reason we’re doing role plays. Everyone is practicing together so we don’t do that in front of the customer, and we have the opportunity to correct.”

If practice isn't a part of your sales training plan, consider investing in technology that tracks whether reps are putting in the work needed to be prepared for every interaction.