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Sales Training Is Not Always About Sales Techniques

by Johnny Bravo · 22 comments

Sales Training Is Not Always About Sales Skills doneAlthough it may seem simple, one aspect of effective sales training that companies seem to ignore (or be ignorant of) is that it’s not only about how you train your sales team, but what you train them on as well.

For example, a company that only trains on sales skills (prospecting, objection handling, closing, etc) will likely develop an under prepared sales team.

In my opinion there are multiple subjects that every sales person should be trained on in order to be as effective and successful as possible in the field.

A few ideas include…

    1. Product knowledge
    2. Contracts & Agreements
    3. Company Processes
    4. Industry Knowledge
    5. How Commissions Are Calculated
    6. Technology Training

And although this list is no where near comprehensive, it gives you an idea of the variety of topics that should be included in a training program to create a well rounded sales team.

Lets dive a little deeper into the value of each one of these to give you an idea of what I mean.

Product Knowledge

This is a pretty basic requirement for any training program.

It’s unlikely you’re going to have a successful sales team if they don’t know what they are selling or can’t talk intelligently to it.

With MRI Software I spent a substantial amount of time learning the products I will be selling as a software sales person. As robust as the system is, it requires a lot of time and study to learn. Unlike my customers, I have to learn EVERYTHING! They only need to focus on a select few modules that fit their business needs best.

Product knowledge is important because I need to be able to talk to every product we offer intelligently. And as much as I learned in the three months I was there training, I still learn something new everyday.

There is always more to learn because for any company that seeks to stay competitive, products change with time.

I enjoy weekly sales training that focuses on a variety of topics, most often centered around our product enhancements both current and upcoming.

Contracts & Agreements

Like mine, most companies offer long term agreements. It is important that each sales person understands what is included in those contracts. This includes not only the words used, but the meaning behind them and why that specific line is included in the contract.

Most importantly a sales team should be empowered with the knowledge of what sections they are able to negotiate on and which ones they can not.

Yes, a sales person is likely to learn a lot of this in the field, by trial and error, but why not set them up for success? This could potentially save an organization from expensive litigation a sales person misspoke.

Spend a day or two every quarter reviewing standard contracts & agreements to make sure the entire sales team knows what is OK and what isn’t in terms of negotiable points.

Company Processes

So what happens when there’s a complaint? Who does a sales person go to? What are the steps involved in providing exceptional customer services? Who’s position handles what responsibilities?

These are the questions a new sales person is likely to have. And they are definitely questions they should be ready to answer.

Again, these are processes that the sales team will learn through experience, but how much better will they be position for success if they can provide real conflict resolution quickly and effectively.

By knowing who to go to when, they’ll be well above the curve

Not to mention that they will be able to know who to talk to when instead of bothering everyone in a specific department.

Industry Knowledge

Did you know that in the property management industry there are different terms used to describe essentially the same thing.

Generally they are segmented between commercial real estate and residential real estate. Luckily my extensive sales training prepared me to speak intelligently no matter what side of the industry my customers are on.

For the average sales person, knowing as much as they can about the industry they are selling into is paramount to success. ~ Tweet This!

Because I’m in property management software sales, it’s important that I know about not only the real estate industry but also the software industry.

I work hard every day to learn who the players are, what trends are shaping up, and what decision makers in the industry are looking for.

But most importantly, what pains they have and if there is opportunity for me to help them.

And as I mentioned above, industry jargon is important to learn as well. Depending on whether you’re in the commercial or residential side you may call it a building or a community. Your leases might be called a tenant or a resident.

These are small but important things that your entire sales team should be trained on.

How Commissions Are Calculated

Yep that’s right. You should make sure that with 100% accuracy a sales person knows how much money they will make on a deal.

In addition they should understand how small changes will affect the price to the customer, the profit to the company, and the commissions they’ll get paid.

I wont lie, I’ve never been in a position to decide sales commission.  But from my experience in reviewing pricing and understanding commission structures a good idea is to have a zero based pricing structure.

That means that for every deal that’s on the table, you know at what price you will break even. Anything over that amount is pure profit.

How do I figure it being a break even point? Well because all expenses and costs are paid for including salary and commission as long as the product is sold at that minimum price. The break even point takes into consideration all bills and costs of goods sold.

This helps a sales person to take ownership of the deal and do their best to get a profitable price for the company.

Technology Training

Compared to the sales environment 20 years ago, heck even 10 years ago, there are a lot more tools available to sales rep.

Computers, Salesforce.com, iPhones, portable projection monitors, VPNs, VoIP phones, etc.

For older generations the learning curve may be a bit longer then younger employees who consider these items a norm to their daily lives.

Proper technology training for the sales team ensures that everyone is equipped to use all the tools available to them.

This is especially important for the main applications a sales person is likely to use such as Microsoft Office (Or Google Docs), e.g. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook.

What Not To Train Sales People On

Sorry this is a trick question. I don’t know of anything that would not be valuable to train your sales team on.

All training is an investment in your company and your people. The better prepared they are the better they will be.

So remember to think of sales training in that regard and you’ll have a strong team in no time. But if you can think of anything, be sure to let me know in the comments below.

~Johnny Bravo

Image courtesy of basketman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeri March 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm

More and more often, it seems like some big-box companies are doing next to little to effectively train their sales force. Perhaps their employees could benefit from this post 😉

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Johnny Bravo March 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I hope so Jeri. And yes, I’ve been in more than one situation where sales training was very underdeveloped. Thanks for stopping by!

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Ariana March 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Very thorough post! And as a business owner myself, definitely something I need to look into in my business. I’m sure my sales approach could be much more effective, thank you! Pinning this valuable resource!

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Johnny Bravo March 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Thanks for pinning this post Ariana. As a thank you I just sent you an email (through your contact page) with a link to my eBook Top 9 Tips For Using LinkedIn Like A Sales Pro.

I know you can get it for free by signing up for my newsletter but I wanted to give you a thank you with something of value. Thanks for the comment.

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Karen March 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Wow this is great for sales training! One of my first jobs out of college was an assistant on a sales team. I was better with the back end/coordinating things than being out in the field.

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Johnny Bravo March 18, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Hi Karen, my first corporate job was as a sales assistant so I know what you mean. It’s quite a bit different being in support than in the field. Trust me if I didn’t have someone in the office supporting me I definitely wouldn’t be the sales pro I am today. Thanks for stopping by.

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Jon Jefferson March 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Great post. Too often people get so locked into a single aspect that they forget that they need to learn the other aspects to give better balance to their training.

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Johnny Bravo March 19, 2013 at 12:09 am

Hi Jon, absolutely. Variety is the spice of life after all. Thanks for the comment.

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Catarina March 19, 2013 at 4:00 am

So true that a sales person needs to know and be trained in almost everything under the sun.

Maybe the most important to get results is, as you say, “to make sure that with 100% accuracy a sales person knows how much money they will make on a deal”. If not they may not be motivated enough.

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Johnny Bravo April 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Hi Catarina, thanks for commenting. Money is a big motivator for every sales person, I know it is for me. Unfortunately overly complicated commission structures make it hard for the average sales pro to know how much thy’ll actually make on a deal. You’re right, not very motivating.

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Susan Cooper March 19, 2013 at 11:59 am

I loved this post. It sigs to me as an executive that would always encourage constant training and refreshers for our staff. Good solid training is key to helping an organization succeed. The key is to check back and do refreshers to ensure understanding and to identify any need for retraining. Bravo on a great post.

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Johnny Bravo March 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Thanks Susan. Happy you enjoyed it.

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Leora Wenger March 20, 2013 at 6:50 am

I have great admiration for some sales people – and much less for others. Perhaps it’s the ones that read your post and understand the product, the process and the customer.

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Johnny Bravo April 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm

I appreciate the kind words Leora. Sales people have gotten a bad rap sometimes. But you’re right, understanding your product, process, and customer will make a difference. Thanks for sharing. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Debra Yearwood March 20, 2013 at 7:45 am

I’ve always thought sales and communications were sister professions if not twins. The same principles apply to be successful in both. You have to be customer focused (know your audience) and you have to know your product/service/issue. I can’t imagine launching a communications campaign, whether its a profile raising exercise or a social change activity, without understanding the environment I was operating in (industry knowledge). It comes down to relationship management. The more you know as a sales person the better you’ll be at serving your customer and your organization. Great post!

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Johnny Bravo April 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm

So true Debra. Knowledge is power. Wonderful addition to the comments, thank you for stopping by.

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Mary Slagel March 21, 2013 at 11:27 am

I agree that it is important for everyone to understand the sales processes. For some reason my time working at Old Navy comes to mind. It was frustrating working on the floor with people who only understood one aspect of the entire store. For example, some people only knew about how to run the fitting rooms but did not know anything about how coupons or pricing worked, how shipments worked, or what different names of articles of clothing meant. Often times they would just tell the customer they didn’t know and send them away. It drove me nuts. I felt like I was constantly chasing customer’s around to answer the questions other sales associates had neglected. No customer wants to have their question ignored or spend time trying to find out the answer. When training a team, no matter what job it is for, everybody should have proper knowledge even if it isn’t necessarily an area they will be working much in.

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Johnny Bravo March 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Great point Mary. As a sales person if I were to see someone turn me away because they didn’t know how to do something, I don’t know how I would respond. I’d hope they’d at least try to find someone who did know.

But of course that could all be avoided if we trained everyone on all the details needed to do their job well.

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Robert Alan Yeatts Jr. April 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm

This is some great advice man. I’ve really enjoyed using the site. Thanks for everything!

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