Building and hiring the sales team is only the first step in enabling the sales team to be successful – much of the ongoing impact comes from training and onboarding the sales team. There are many flavors of training, though a lot of the general best practices around sales training focus on sales skills. Our perspective is that while training on general sales skills – cold calling, negotiating, objection-handling – is critically important, the differentiation between the great sales reps and those who struggle comes down to how well they hone their craft for the company’s product, industry, and customers. To enable sales training, we often focus on four components:
- Role play
- Connection to the customer
- Product knowledge
- Value-based selling
Sales training done in a classroom format can have only a limited impact on really moving the needle on helping to improve an individual rep. Often these settings tend to hinder custom training for the individual. Our perspective is that role play training is one of the best ways to drive frequent and impactful sales training.
A few principles as you are designing role play exercises:
- Create detailed prompts for the role play, including a page for the sales rep that tees up the conversation coming up, the background that they know, and the end goal of what they are trying to achieve.
- Similarly, create a prompt for the “customer” so that the other individual knows which objections to push on, what they would like to get out of the conversation, and where they should or should not give in to the sales rep. These are often carefully designed using real-life examples from the sales team but customized by the sales leader or sales trainer so that the role play a sales rep receives aligned to a key development area. For example, if a rep struggles with the end-stage of getting the contract signed, the role play should use that situation as the core example.
- The role play should replicate the setting in how the sales rep sells. If sales most often happen via virtual meeting or phone, have the rep go to another room and call into the sales training meeting and conduct the sales work virtually vs. in front of the whole room.
- After each role play, focus on feedback. Ask the rep to reflect on how things went, then ask the customer “role play” person how they received the sales rep’s engagement, and finally save time for the rest of the sales team to provide feedback, advice, and thoughts to the sales rep.
“One of the strongest assets a founder brings to a company is the incredible proximity that he or she feels to the end customer.”
Connection to the Customer
One of the strongest assets a founder brings to a company is the incredible proximity that he or she feels to the end customer. It isn’t easy to replicate at times as the sales team scale, particularly if sales occur via phone or webinar. Especially today, it isn’t surprising to find companies where a sales rep has never been to the customer’s office or site to see how the business operations work. As part of onboarding and training, incorporate in-person visits or several conversations with existing customers. During these conversations, you should cover how the customer’s business runs and how they use the software or service your company provides. This exercise is an incredible tool for sales reps to visualize what a prospective customer is going through on a day-to-day basis.
“Understanding the product design and how customers use it also translates into understanding how the product’s features connect to the value the product can generate for the customer.”
Know Your Product and Value
Another area that growing sales teams often struggle with is the depth of knowledge of the product itself, something a founder or early sales leader knows well. As a sales team grows, it isn’t surprising to see reps who can show the features of a product based on training but not truly understand the purpose of the product design and how the customer can use those key features and functionality. Understanding the product design and how customers use it also translates into understanding how the product’s features connect to the value the product can generate for the customer. This insight allows the conversation to focus on value generated vs. a demo that goes through bells and whistles.
We often use a regular product quiz with sales teams in sales training to ensure that they are well versed in the product at a level that a decision-maker may be. However, they don’t need to necessarily be experts in troubleshooting everything inside of the product itself. Role play will help the sales reps gain confidence around how key features create value for the customer and why the prospect on the other end of the call needs the product at their company.
Enabling your sales team to succeed is a critical component of an effective go-to-market function with training at the heart of it. Sales training enables both the onboarding of new sales team members and the continued improvement of the existing team. Ultimately, the most successful training will be the ones that bring the sales team as close to the product and customer as possible, while reinforcing the lessons from selling that the founders and most successful sales team members have gained over the years.
Have a question for Prital or our Growth Team?