• Duane Cashin

3 Tips for More Effective Sales Training

One of my greatest passions is helping sales executives improve the efficacy of their sales training programs. Unfortunately, I find a lot of them in bad shape.

Companies routinely hire sales reps (often hurriedly) and then fumble through a few weeks of product training and shadowing (unfortunately often with reps that are not setting the best example). It’s all a bit haphazard, and it’s often designed to be “fun” and “easy” so as not to intimidate the new hire.

Again and again, this approach to sales training fails.

Companies experience excessive ramp-up time, dry pipelines, customer churn, inconsistent sales approaches and processes, and high employee turnover rates in the name of “not too difficult” training.

To vastly improve your sales team’s performance, you must go beyond easy sales calls and random basic training exercises.

Here are my top 3 tips to vastly increase new sales:

1. Lead by example.

Salespeople, especially rookie salespeople, need their leaders to model success for them. Research shows that employees work more proactively when they view their leaders as empowering and capable. In other words, your team is watching you. Set the example and show them the way!

A good approach is a strict practice regimen.

Sales reps should be role-playing calls weekly with a colleague and a coach. Face-to-face group practice sessions should also be implemented weekly. Newer and/or lower-performing sales reps should practice daily.

Lead by example by being the first to jump in the hot seat. Encourage your team to come up with curveball objections, and allow them to challenge you. Maintain your sense of humor, and always remember your team is watching you. If you project the image that you’re too good to practice, they will adopt that attitude as well.

By the same token, don’t exempt anyone from practice, not even your highest performers.

Everyone practices. Period. A true practice culture means no one is exempt. A great way to get your seasoned reps involved is to ask them to be a mentor and provide support for the newer reps.

The data agrees: A study published in Performance Improvement Quarterly reveals that a well-coached salesperson displays superior performance, with coaching accounting for 2.9% to 6.2% of the performance difference between employees.

I’ve seen similar results across multiple companies, and the positive impact on team morale is clearly visible.

2. Make practice harder than actual play.

If you follow sports at all, you’re likely familiar with the incredible accomplishments of NBA star Steph Curry -- 3 NBA Championships, 2 time MVP, 5-time 3-point leader, 3-time free-throw leader, just to name a few.

Curry himself credits his success to an insane practice schedule that looks nothing like a real basketball game but sharpens his skills nonetheless.

Have you ever tried to catch a tennis ball while dribbling a basketball, or dribble a “heavy” basketball and a regular one simultaneously? What about continuously bouncing a ball between your legs while also maintaining a regular dribble with your other hand? It all sounds impossible, but this is Steph’s daily practice, and it contributes to making him great.

It’s tempting to go easy on the new guy or toss softball scenarios to an underperforming rep, but you’re doing them (and yourself) no favors when you do that. In fact, you’re just wasting your time.

Practice should be harder than a real-life sales call so that salespeople are prepared for any objection a prospect offers up.

Have reps practice over the phone as well as face to face, and don’t help them when they get stuck. Don’t let them break out of their roles by feeding them answers. Ask follow-up questions until they find solutions themselves.

With this strategy, practice is essentially a type of exposure therapy that prepares your sales reps to handle the unexpected moments in calls and meetings without panicking.

3. Practice everything, not just the first cold call.

When I ask sales executives about their training programs, almost all of them report practicing initial sales calls, but very few report practicing the calls and meetings that follow. This is a huge mistake.

Ninety-five percent of all B2B deals are closed in the follow-up process. Second only to a dry pipeline, an ineffective follow-up process is often the reason for a lack of sales success.

Take the time to go over follow-up messages and the subsequent sales calls and meetings. Great sales teams excel in all types of interactions, so don’t limit practice to just the initial contact.

Commit to implementing a thorough practice program to help your salespeople hone their skills until they’re sharper than ever. We’re here to help.

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